A few times in my life I’ve kept fish in my home. None of those times has it ever ended very well for the fish. I even had one Betta choose to end his own life by jumping out of the tank. Needless to say, I’ve given up keeping them as pets and am now happy just to admire them at my dentist’s office or, occasionally, in big aquariums.
When a coupon for the Sea Life London aquarium made its way onto my favorite cereal box, I bought two boxes just so we could go that weekend. The Sea Life London aquarium was the last of the London Merlin attractions (including Madame Tussauds, the London Eye, and the London Dungeon) we hadn’t yet seen. These attractions, while definitely not what I’d recommend if you’re coming to London for its history or museums, are great for families with kids. However, the thing that gets me about them is the price. It’s not cheap to get into any of these and if you’ve got more than one ticket to buy, it’s going to hurt a little. Thankfully, discount tickets aren’t hard to find – I even found one on a Kit-Kat wrapper one time! The particular discount we were using for Sea Life was a ‘buy 1 child ticket, get an adult free’ discount, which, seeing as we haven’t produced any offspring recently, meant Lexie got to bring a friend! We only paid £33 for all four of us to see the aquarium which is a deal, believe me.
The Sea Life London aquarium, as well as the other attractions in this group, is always busy. We walk by this area of South Bank regularly and the lines to get in are always stretching well outside the building. Most likely, the best time to visit would be during the week when schools are in session, but that obviously wasn’t an option for us. Instead, we did the next best thing – we went on a weekend, not on a school holiday, and went early. I prepared myself ahead of time for huge crowds and people shoving each other to get up close to the glass, but honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It was crowded, sure, but everyone was polite, even most of the kids, and we ended up having an unobstructed view of some pretty awesome fish.
While much smaller than I originally thought it would be, the Sea Life London aquarium is surprisingly well done. Everything is laid out quite well and it’s easy to find where to go to see the next thing without getting lost and backtracking through areas you’ve already been. Most of the tanks are large with plenty of room for people to gather around the glass for a good view. My only complaint is how very dark it was, darker than any other aquarium I’ve been to before, but that complaint has more to do with my desire to take good photos than anything else.
As you can probably already tell, this post is going to have a lot of pictures in it. What a challenge it was trying to take photos of moving subjects in such a dark environment! I was so frustrated in the beginning because all of my shots were turning out blurred and grainy, but once I learned to just relax, take my time, and patiently wait for the right moment to click the shutter, what I got were some pretty awesome shots, at least in my opinion. It helps that my subjects were so attractive.
The types and colors of these fish were just extraordinary! The Lionfish (top picture) is one of my favorite species of fish. We even ran into Dory and Nemo, who was bound and determined to play the worst game ever of hide-and-seek with me. There were plenty of exotic fish I’d never seen before, like that pink spikey thing with teeth. That’s the kind of thing that I thought only existed in my nightmares. Awww, look at the cute pink fish, I say as it opens its mouth and rips me to shreds…
The girls’ favorites were the seahorses, the petting section, and the giant tank that stretched up through all three levels of the aquarium where the big daddies were – the sharks. The sharks would swim past the glass so fast, clearly very busy with evil business, that I didn’t get a single shot I particularly liked. In the one semi-clear one I did get, I’m definitely getting the old stare-down. I feel very sorry for all the small fish swimming in that tank.
The girls loved the seahorses, but I, personally, found the seahorse exhibit to be a little, well, boring. Of all the tanks, the seahorses’ environment seemed the most bare (maybe this is what seahorses like?) and almost all of them were sleeping. But I agree with them on the petting section – that was cool. I’d never touched a soft starfish before or any of the other ocean dwellers we were allowed to touch in the tank. Some were freakishly squishy in a that-is-so-gross-but-also-pretty-awesome kind of way. We loved it.
My own favorites were a little harder to choose, because, as usual, I liked pretty much everything. But if I had to narrow it down, I’d say the crocodile was pretty high on my list – or is it an alligator? I lived in Florida for three years – I should know this. Like the seahorses, he was fast asleep when we came by. He was the only one of his kind in his area, but that’s almost certainly due to the fact that he’s clearly a mouth-breather.
First runner up was the sting rays. They are so much fun to watch because they hardly ever stop moving, and their faces – how they look like they’re either smiling or frowning all the time – both freak me out and/or kind of make me want to grin back at them. The only thing that bothered me here was that there was a sign in the room ordering people not to touch the rays, but you’ve got a wide open tank and a bunch of kids – how often do you think that sign is going to deter anyone? We saw a few kids getting rough and grabbing the string rays, and I was about to say something myself when their parents finally stepped in. It would definitely help to have an employee around to monitor things.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand – out of everything at the aquarium, my favorite would have to be the turtles. All of them, but especially the big sea turtles. Even though I only caught his face, I love that last photo above. And the one above it with the turtle covering his face like he’s trying to shield himself from my camera – those are two of my favorite shots from the whole day.
Before we left the Sea Life London aquarium, we timed it just right and caught the penguins during their feeding time. They’re just too cute for words. I can’t wait to one day see these guys in their natural habitat. I was actually surprised to see them at the aquarium at all seeing as, even though they can swim, they’re actually birds.
I do love seeing penguins, but I felt the same way about seeing them in captivity as I did the dolphins at Sea World – I would watch the dolphins build up speed from a distance and almost instantly they were at the side of glass where I was standing, forced to draw back and slow down before they ever really got their momentum going. It broke my heart to see that, and the same thing happened with the penguins. They just didn’t have enough room in their environment to be penguins. This is why I can’t go to zoos – I just don’t enjoy seeing big animals living in small spaces. This area would be much more suitable as a learning center or an extension to one of the other exhibits, in my opinion.
From beginning to end, not counting the half hour we spent in the queue, we were at the Sea Life London aquarium for just over two hours. That seems like a long time, but if you’re like us and want to explore all fourteen zones, you’ll likely need to set aside that much or more to adequately see it all. After being around so many cool-looking fish, I could feel the urge to set up our own tank creeping up on me again, but for the sake of their lives, I think I’d best leave the fish-keeping to the professionals.
Sea Life London: Website
Address: County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB
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