Reviewed by David Savage
Yesterday, Saturday 11 July 2015, I took my mum and 3½ year old niece to visit SEA LIFE in London on the South Bank in Westminster. Situated in County Hall and opposite the London Eye and next door to the London Dungeons and the brand new Shrek’s Adventure!
I have a Merlin Annual Pass so was able to go in through the priority entrance which meant that we got into SEA LIFE in under 5 minutes, but we did arrive just past opening time to beat the queues. The staff on the ticket desk were all friendly and efficient. The Merlin Annual Pass will also get you discounted tickets for your guests if you phone and book in advance.
So after getting our tickets, having our bags searched and having our picture taken (you can buy these on the way out should you want to) we were ready to staff exploring the depths of SEA LIFE. My niece was desperate to see the sharks and the penguins. This is where our first and only problem was. To gain entrance to SEA LIFE aquarium there is a glass walkway in the floor that have the sharks swimming below, a great idea so that you can get a good look at the magnificent creatures, but my niece refused to walk across – I think it was more walking over glass than the sharks that was scaring her. So after carrying her across she was happy to start wandering around and looking at all the fish. Before you start wandering around please take note of the feeding times and talks that are displayed on entry if you are interested in seeing any of these, we were hoping to see the octopus feeding at 11am but my niece was too busy looking around and enjoying herself that it completely went out or our minds.
SEA LIFE London Aquarium has over 500 species in 16 different zones so there is plenty to see and you can walk through at your own pace, go as slow or as fast as you want. The zones are:
Shark Walk, Ray Lagoon, Ocean Tunnel, Seadragon Kingdom, Antarctic Adventure, Claws, Atlantic Depths, Dive Discovery, Pacific Wreck, Rainforests of the Word, Breed Rescue Protect, Tidal Reach, Rockpool, Nemo’s Kingdom, Thames Walk and Shark Reef Encounter.
As we walked around we saw sharks, lots of species of fish from small to large in a variety of different colours, jellyfish, rays, turtles, the reclusive and shy octopus, a crocodile, starfish, crabs, frogs and lots more. My niece happily went from each display seeing what she could “find”.
There is also a small interactive display at the Rockpool where you can put your hand in the water, after the friendly staff instruct you on how to touch the starfish and other inhabitants. While my niece was happy to put her hand in the water and feel the starfish and Sea Anemone she soon removed her hand when Sheldon the crab wandered over and she didn’t want to touch his shell. The staff here are again very friendly and instruct on the best ways to handle the sea life in the rock pool and give lots of information about the creatures and can answer any questions about the creatures. When finished there are hand washing facilities available.
We spent over 1½ hours walking around SEA LIFE London, and that was with an excited toddler wanting to see everything all at once and rushing from display to display. She even had her picture taken in a green room sitting on a bench and the finished picture shows her underwater riding Nemo. A bit expensive at £10 it is a great keepsake but you do also get the option to download it as well at home so you can share with your friends and family.
All the exhibits are labelled and give brief information about that species so is very educational for older children and adults, while for the younger children like my niece they just want to see the sea life. So of the exhibits have the glass at toddler level but some you will have to lift them up to see properly.
As we walked around we noticed that they were staff around should you require them and there were toilets and baby changing facilities on every floor. There are also lifts available so has full disabled access.
On exiting you walk through a fully stocked gift shop and then if want to you can purchase the pictures that were taken on entry. We chose to go for the full set which contained 3 photos in a book, a fourth smaller photo and 3 smaller ones that go into a keyring and fridge magnet (fridge magnet and keyring are supplied). The photo set costs £25 (£20 if you have a Merlin Annual Pass) and like the Nemo picture you will also be able to download all the photos at home so you can share with friends or family or print another if you require it. We did also purchase this this as it is great keepsake for my niece’s first visit to SEA LIFE.
There are no eating facilities in SEA LIFE itself but there are plenty of restaurants and cafés outside, or you can take a picnic and sit on the grass on the South Bank and watch the street performers.
We had a great time at SEA LIFE London Aquarium, an excellent family day out and will be visiting 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. Book online in advance and save up to 15% on ticket prices.
If you are interested in buying a Merlin Annual Pass prices start from £129pp for 12 months and gets you entry into 31 Merlin attractions throughout the UK including SEA LIFE London Aquarium, London Eye and the London Dungeons. For more information visit www.merlinannualpass.co.uk.
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