Walk through, over and under colourful aquatic worlds from the tropical to the Arctic at one of London’s busiest attractions
It’s not every day that you see sharks and penguins in London, but on the South Bank you can. Almost literally, too, if it wasn’t for the fact that Sea Life London Aquarium is closed on Christmas day. Thousands of tourists and local alike visit this old council building daily, which has been home to a remarkable watery wonderland since 1997.
Upon entering – over a glass window that peeks down to the Pacific waters display – you’ll follow a winding route through every attraction in the building. Wade into Shark Walk before reaching the Atlantic Depths (look out for sand eels and octopuses here) and then drifting into Tidal Reach, which houses creatures common to British waters. Life gets a little more exotic and vibrant as the display merges into the Ray Lagoon and the Dive Discovery tropical waters.
Along with rockpool displays of brightly coloured anemones and the gliding green sea turtles that swoop past overhead as you walk through the Ocean Tunnel, there’s a chance to get down deep with the sharks as you peer into the Pacific Wreck gallery and see if you can find Nemo among the clownfish in the Coral Reef zone.
Visit during off-peak hours if you can, in order to avoid the usual hordes and get a better glimpse of the wild inhabitants. Like the piranhas, for example, the poison dart frogs and Cuban crocs in the rainforest section. Also see if you can time your visit with a feeding, because that's when everything comes out of any hiding places they might have been lurking in.
There's also a new permanent exhibition called Ocean Invaders, in which you'll be able to learn more about the weird, wonderful and wobbly world of jellyfish. Visitors can discover the most dangerous species and even create their own digital jellyfish. Sea Life also carries out research and conservation work, and the Thames Walk experience (opened in summer 2015) reveals some of the insights into life in the waters that flow just outside the aquarium, and the work done to make them a cleaner environment in which fish can thrive. The Breed Rescue Project display invites budding marine biologists of all ages to find out more.
Head down solo, with your beau or in a group and get hold of one of the special package tickets, which allow entry to other London attractions, or a VIP ticket, which entitles you to a tour behind the scenes. The latter is a particularly cool option as you get to snoop around parts of the aquarium that the public aren't typically allowed into. And if you really want to get up close and personal with the sealife, the brave adventurers out there can book a ‘snorkelling with sharks’ experience and dive into the shark tank.
|Venue name:||SEA LIFE London Aquarium||Contact:|
Westminster Bridge Rd
|Opening hours:||Open Mon–Fri 10am–7pm (last entry 6pm); Sat–Sun 9am–7pm (last entry 6pm). Closed Dec 25. The aquarium opens for longer hours during school holidays, check website for details|
|Transport:||Tube: Westminster or Waterloo|
|Price:||From (adv online) £19.50, £14.50 under-16s, free under-threes. Tickets on the door will cost more|
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Average User Rating
3.4 / 5
- 5 star:11
- 4 star:27
- 3 star:21
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:10
WORST AQUARIUM EVER VISITED ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. ALSO TOTALLY NOT KIDS FRIENDLY.
It all started with a family weekend plan to keep our daughter entertained and do something different. This is my view of the facilities and the overall experience as a parent with a 19 month old child.
The main entrance is hardly buggy friendly as only equipped with stairs. The only way to use the non-stair entrance is to purchase the priority entrance pass, which costs extra!
Secondly, about a quarter of the attractions were closed due to renovation work being carried out. Yet, the full admission price was charged. Also no mention of the work being carried at the ticket desk.
Thirdly, the aquarium was extremely crowded causing long queues at almost every stop.
Forth, hardly any bathrooms and only ONE baby changing room. Amazing.
Last, but not least, the penguins are kept in an enclosure which I can only guess is meant to simulate their natural habitat the Antarctic, amongst other places. Although, it reminds one more of a mental institution with a lack of fresh air/wind, sky etc. The penguins appeared lifeless and not happy at all. London Zoo is doing a much better job at keeping penguins outside, with a large outdoor pool and lots of interaction with nature.
Overall, the facility is run down and lacks everything a world class aquarium in a city such as London SHOULD offer to its visitors.
So if you are considering a family-day out which involves long queues, horrendously high ticket fees, unfriendly staff, a crowded aquarium where you have to force yourself to the front to get your kid to see anything and by default have a strong bladder to overcome the lack of bathroom facilities and baby changing rooms then you should visit.
Otherwise, stay away!
The tiny penguin prison is the most depressing sight. No natural light, with penguins slipping about on a fibreglass ice berg. I don't understand how it's allowed. Go to London Zoo instead - large animal enclosures wirh penguins on a naturalistic beach.
Lots to see but unable to see most of it as they don't limit the number of people in there. Had my son's buggy with me - impossible. Only care about the takings, not about visitor experience. My daughter enjoyed the parts she did manage to see but will not be returning anytime soon. The ones outside of the city are much more user-friendly.