Reviewed by Gemma Whates
The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is situated in a really great part of London along the beautiful South Bank and just getting to the front door is an adventure in itself! It’s overlooking the River Thames and busy with street entertainment, children’s carousels and more. I went along with my husband and two year old son – who was extremely excited by the time we got to the front door!
When we arrived, the queue moved quickly and we were given our tickets and guide book. The guide book is great, it talks you through the aquarium with fun facts and pictures and has some activities that kids can do along the way. There are also money off vouchers to spend in the shop or to save on your next visit.
It’s a spectacular entrance as you walk over a glass floor and get your first glimpse of the adventure to come. You then take a lift down and into the aquarium. It’s really well spaced and didn’t feel too busy at all even though we arrived at the same time as a school group.
Once inside it’s spectacular! The adventure is split in to 14 different themed zones including a huge area of Rays, a really breath-taking Ocean Tunnel, Nemo’s Coral Caves (that bit went down very well with my son), Rainforests of the World, Penguins and Claws. There is so much to see and each section is really different from the last. It took us around two hours to get round but we could have done it quicker or lingered longer but that was just about right with a toddler.
One thing to note was how passionate, friendly and knowledgeable the staff were from the front door to the exit. Everyone we encountered really enhanced our experience. At ‘Tidal Reach’ there is an interactive rock pool with star fish and a crab. We had a turn at stroking the star fish and the staff member there explained to us a little but about them. It was great to be able to experience that.
The Ocean Tunnel was another highlight with two huge turtles, we couldn’t quite believe our eyes when we saw them! The whole experience felt really immersive and like you had the chance to get close to the fish. The design meant my son could get close too.
It’s incredibly engaging for children as it’s very visual. The Rainforests of the World and Claws sections were really great in that respect. My husband was fascinated by The River Thames Story, which shows you what happens at different parts of the Thames and the history behind it. There was so much for both adults and children to do and learn. We also saw a ray talk and feed which was great, there are various feeds and talks throughout the day and you can find out more about what will be on when you visit on the website.
There was a section of LEGO towards the end of the aquarium where my son could build a LEGO fish and place it on display. He really enjoyed that and the staff member there was also fantastic, playing with my son while we took a look at the fish around. He was very proud of leaving his model on display (it didn’t look much like a fish!) and it gave him an extra burst of energy.
The experience ends through the gift shop which has a really nice selection of gifts for all budgets and you are back out right by the Thames. We couldn’t recommend it enough. If you had a photo taken at the start you could collect it at the end. There is also the chance to star in your very own aquarium video half way round and we enjoyed that too.
We will be back. The staff are fantastic, the passion really came through. My son had an amazing time and we did too. There is really something for all ages. The fish on display are incredible and really breath-taking, there are more than 40 sharks from 12 different species and there is even a crocodile and penguins. It didn’t feel too busy (we went on a Friday) and what we loved most was how close you could get to the fish, it really felt interactive. We can’t wait to visit again!
SEA LIFE London Aquarium is open Monday – Sunday: 10.00-19.00 (last entry 18.00) and is located along the South Bank on Westminster Bridge Road. Tickets bought on the day are priced at adults £23.50 and children £16.95.Under 3s go free and you can get a discount by booking online.
For more information or to book tickets online visit www.visitsealife.com/london.
SEA LIFE London Aquarium, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB