Reviewed by David Savage
Yesterday (Saturday 25 November 2017) I decided to visit SEA LIFE at the intu Trafford Centre in Manchester with 5-year-old twins. SEA LIFE is a self-guided aquarium experience where you will see everything from clown fish to turtles and sharks in 15 different themed areas.
As we are Merlin Standard Annual Pass holders (which give 12 months access to Merlin attractions – some restrictions apply) we didn’t have to join the main queue to purchase tickets and entered through the pass holders and pre-booked tickets queue, which is much faster (although the queues for either option were quite short on the day we visited as I think we beat the rush as it was getting busier as we were leaving).
Once you have purchased tickets or, as in our case, had our passes scanned you join a short queue to have photos taken, which you can purchase on your way out and choose from a variety of different themed SEA LIFE backdrops. The two members of staff taking the photos were really friendly and both engaged well with the children (one staff member was even telling the children facts about sea animals and dinosaurs while in the queue, which was great to see).
Photos taken we now headed off for our tour and first stop, as always as it is the way into the aquarium, is Turtle Beach. The children have seen these talk many times and still love it (the older they are getting the more they seem to be apricating it). The talk lasts approx. 5 minutes and a member of staff gives a talk about the life of sea turtles using video and 3D projections onto the sandy floor. Later in the tour you will be able to see Ernie the giant sea turtle swimming around, and since our last visit a second sea turtle has been added – you can also purchase a VIP Turtle Feeding Experience at £50 for up to 2 people).
As we wound our way through the well laid out aquarium we saw flagtail fish in the 360-degree circular tank, spiny lionfish, poisonous and deadly porcupine fish (pufferfish), jellyfish (on this occasion there weren’t as many or as big but the kids like being able to press the buttons to change the colour of the lighting in the tank), sharks, turtles, seahorses and stingrays. We also visited the Jurassic Ranger and were able to touch fossils and shark teeth. Our last stop was the Rockpool where you can touch live shrimp, crabs and starfish (as long as you are gentle, but there is a member of staff there to show you how and give information about the creatures – just remember to wash your hands at the washing station afterwards).
While walking around the aquarium, the children wanted a break and SEA LIFE Manchester have a small soft play area for the younger ones and some seating while the adults can get hot or cold drinks from the machines.
On leaving, through the gift shop, you can view and purchase your photos if required.
Overall, we had a great time at SEA LIFE Manchester. We enjoyed all the sea creatures, especially the turtles and sharks. The children loved stamping their Dive Log Books (given at entry) to get a SEA LIFE badge from the gift shop once they have stamped all 9 pages in the book.
Any staff we encountered were all friendly, polite and seemed to be enjoying their jobs. Our visit lasted about 90 minutes (we have been on many occasions, so the children do rush through some bits) but you can spend probably 1½ to 2 hours inside (more if you read all the information boards and listen to the talks).
We love SEA LIFE and it is great for a family outing, especially now the weather is getting colder and wetter and you need something to do indoors.
Tickets cost £19.50 for adults (£15.50 if booked online in advance) and £15.50 for children aged 3-17 years (£11.50 if booked online in advance).
A Merlin Annual Pass starts from £139pp.
For more information or to book tickets online visit www.visitsealife.com/manchester.
SEA LIFE Manchester, Barton Square, intu Trafford Centre, Manchester, M17 8AS