I took my son as part of his birthday present..being foolish, I didn't check current admission prices before setting off as I though it would cost around £20 for both of us and that would include bus fares.
I know this was a birthday treat but seriously!
I got to the admissions part just inside the rather dowdy looking building, and was truly taken aback by the cost..it was a good job I'd just won a million on the lottery or I wouldn't have been able to afford the outrageous prices charged to get in. (ok I'm joking about the lottery win)
I couldn't very well turn back as my son would've been disappointed, so we plundered on...and I must admit, the displays of marine life and surrounding rooms inc. a tropical-style reptile house, were truly wonderful.
I have always enjoyed aquariums, and of course, with the price being what it was I wouldn't have expected anything less than an amazing experience anyway.
Of course the staff at blue planet will say they have no option but to charge so much in order to keep the creatures on display well maintained. There are, by the way, also otters in a designated outside area which are definitely worth seeing. My son managed to take a short video of their antics.
The cafe is also outrageously priced..much too expensive and you would be much better off visiting the nearby macdonalds to save money.
Same can be said of the gift shop.
All in all, I realise I have come across as a bit of a skinflint in this review but really, I honestly don't know how the blue planet can justify such prices when you consider there are families of four visiting too.
The aquarium is very good, much better than the one in Rhyl. But make sure you take out your mortgage when you visit.
Once in the car park, you HAVE TO PAY to get back out. They keep it a secret. Brazen money making rip off.
I took my grandchildren here a few weeks ago and I was surprised by it in many ways both negative and positive!
One of the biggest surprises I encountered whilst we had a day out here was the price. I was surprised by how expensive it was to go. At £15 an adult it was very steep. I would expect to pay this sort of price if I was to spend an entire day somewhere but this aquarium really is just somewhere you would go for a couple of hours. It took us a while to get served too so had to queue up for some time which was not good when having 3 young children in tow all wanting to just get in and see the fish not stand around in a queue for a long time.
Once inside we went through into the aqarium and again I was surprised that there was no form of order- it was a big free for all which meant that it was difficult to see some tanks as it seemed like everyone had arrived all at once and we were in a big back lock. It means that we had to hang around for some time to wait for people to go and leave space for us. There also weren't many members of staff around which I was expecting. I thought that it would be useful to have some experts around who could point out certain features or things to do with the fish.
There certainly were plenty of fish to see there were many tanks all with plaques explaining what animals were inside and a little about them.
There was a huge tunnel which was really impressive. This was where you walked through a tank which had sharks and rays and puffer fish all around you. It was very impressive and my grandchildren were so amazed that we had to go through several times!
There were plenty of photo opportunities with many impressive looking fish.
The food court was pathetic and terrible. The food was literally just fast food and not even very nice at that. It was also very expensive and the amosphere was not very nice either. I would like to see this area improved as it could be so much better.
The gift shop was stuffed full of toys and gifts that were all very expensive but there was good variety and something for all budgets. Parking was good too there was plenty of room to park.
In conclusion I would give this 3 out of 5 stars because I think there were several areas where this was lacking and could be improved but my grandchildren had a nice few hours here.
I visited Blue Planet Aquarium for the umpteenth time last week, the second time I had been with me partner. It was a treat for his birthday and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, the tickets are pricey as lots of other people have complained in reviews but we already knew this before we visited so it wasn't a shock. We booked the tickets online which gave us a saving of £3.25 and the tickets came to less than £30 which I thought was very reasonable for the amount we got out of the visit.
Blue Planet is very easy to find, it's located near to Cheshire Oaks and there's plenty of signage leading to the car park. You have to pay for the car park, it is cheaper for Blue Planet visitors but I think that this could have been free considering the price of the tickets and other costs such as food etc. The entrance is smart but could do with some more décor to make it look that bit more special. Considering we visited in half term the queue to get in was very short and we were waiting no longer than 5 minutes. The aquarium is designed as if you're going into a ship and is very well laid out.
You follow a path round to different exhibits such as the Amazon and there's loads of different fish to see as well as insects, frogs and snakes. Our favourite sections are the rock pool where you can get really close to stingrays and also the underwater tunnel where you stand on a conveyer belt and sharks, stingrays and fish swim over your heads, there's loads to see in the tunnel and you can go through as many times as you want.
We went to a couple of the talks and feeding sessions including the stingray feed and the diver show. All of these are included in the ticket price and are really informative and fun. The staff have great knowledge as well as charisma and really add to the visit.
The restaurant is very reasonably priced, we both had meal deals which were about £5 each and included a drink. You can take your own lunch though and eat it in the theatre on the second floor. The restaurant looks kind of like a cafeteria but this means they can get more tables in and there are some tables which have portholes next to them so you can watch the fish and sharks while you eat!
Overall we had another really great day at Blue Planet Aquarium; we took about 4-5 hours to see everything so got our money's worth. I would recommend combining the visit with a trip to Cheshire Oaks designer outlet, the parking is free here and there's loads of shops and cafes well worth a visit.
I went to the Blue Planet with my partner and his Son last year shortly after the new Octopus arrived. We live around 3 minutes away from Cheshire Oaks and Blue Planet so it was only a short trip out.
My partner is a fish fanatic he loves fishing whether it be on beach,out at sea or a nice peaceful lake however even with the multitude of fish available to see at Blue Planet he found the trip expensive.
When you enter Blue Planet its as if you are entering a ship and i cant fault they design layout, its very well designed. You walk around a set path and there is always something too see around every corner.
The aspects i enjoyed most are the walk through where you are surrounded by fish above your head, a bit like walking through the mersey tunnel but see through. It is fascinating to see the sharks go over your head with the sting rays. There is a touch pool where you can stroke sting rays which is at a low enough height for children to reach in and touch which i think is a really good idea for the children and an experience for them.
As well as the Fish there is also a reptile and spider room which i can quite safely say petrified me (Huge fear of spiders) which did make a welcome change to the fish to see the snakes and other reptiles.
There is a cafe available within Blue Planet i didn't eat there myself as i find restaurants/cafes in places like this are expensive and I had packed lunch instead in the car.
I can appreciate the amount of fish there and the fact that children will enjoy it but at £15.50 an adult and 11.50 for a child under the age of 12 is very expensive. For just the three of us with no lunch was well over £40.00.
I think if they had an offer on where it was like Alton Towers Buy one get on free entry it wouldn't feel so bad. If you have the money to spend it would be an enjoyable day out.
I don't normally write travel reviews, but I visited the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire last month and I was less than impressed which is a huge shame.
I don't live far from Cheshire, so I only travelled for about 30 minutes to Blue Planet Aquarium, and we went as a treat for our 2 year old who had recently had an ear operation and needed cheering up. I am not really sure if it worked... here's my review.
**Where is it?**
The address for your sat nav is..
Annoyingly, having stupidly assumed parking was free (it is in the retail park just next to it, and it is at the popular Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet two minutes down the road), parking is £3 and not reimbursed against the price of your ticket.
I thought this was a bit of a liberty given it's not that cheap to get in to Blue Planet Aquarium and the parking is only a bit of tarmac, not particularly nice and either not enough or no mother and baby spaces (ie, it was fairly quiet and we couldn't see any).
Blue Planet Aquarium is quite expensive for tickets at £14.75 per adult and £10.75 for children, however our two year old wasn't quite tall enough so was classed as a baby and went free. Just as well I suppose, but I wouldn't want to pay the £50 cost for a two adult two child family ticket.
We had a £2 off per person voucher from the back of an NCP car park ticket which softened the blow of the entrance fee / parking charge a bit, but overall it was starting to feel like we were always opening our wallets even before seeing a fish!
On entering the rather unspectacular main entrance (it looks a bit like a leisure centre), there is the entrance to your left, and the gift shop area to your right. To be honest it could do with a refurb.
Down one flight of steps takes you to the start of the aquarium experience with different tanks of fish and signs telling you about them (there are some ducks, too, much to my daughter's delight!). You walk through different tunnels, some with fish, some with ambhibians and some with insects. It's very hot in these areas and quite dark, and my little girl was a bit apprehensive, so if you have a child who is scared of the dark, I'd be cautious. There are lots of fish to see, and my little girl though she was clinging to me did enjoy watching them.
One area is a huge pool with surrounding rock pools and shellfish, it's very nice to look at and gets very busy when there are coach and school trips.
The main attraction however at Blue Planet Aquarium is the moving walkway which goes through a perspex tunnel over which is a huge indoor pond full of small sharks, ray fish and bigger fishes. It's lots of fun to go through and you can go through as many times as you like and take some amazing photos.
The main problem we had is that with the rest of Blue Planet Aquarium, apart from the walkway, is quite delapidated, feels dank and dark and really could do with a really good clean and refurb.
Yuck, we didn't eat here because we expected it to be expensive so we ate in a cafe in Cheshire Oaks first. I'm glad we did - though prices were about average (a fiver for a burger and chips) it was the most run down, dirty space I've ever seen. The food looked the cheapest of the cheap and the whole place was very sad.
Worst of all, we went to the freezer to get an ice-cream as it's quite hot on the underground part of Blue Planet Aquarium and my little daughter picked up a sharp screw that had come loose from the freezer and fallen out. That is SO dangerous, I shudder to think what would have happened if she'd have put it in her mouth, thank goodness us parents watch our kids like hawks - but that danger just shouldn't have been there.
We paid £3 for two ice lollies which went straight in the bin - they were very close to their sell by date and tasted stale, I have never tasted a stale ice lolly before but Blue Planet Aquarium managed to sell them.
There was a toy arcade machine in there with loose hanging electrical wires which I had to keep my 2 year old away from, and the rest of the 'features' (ride on toys, seating) were sticky and old / broken.
I don't recommend going anywhere near the cafe.
**Loos / Baby Change**
I didn't use the baby change after seeing the very basic toilets with wet floors and sporadically available loo roll. We weren't in there long enough to warrant risking changing her.
After 45 minutes you've pretty much seen everything and after an hour my daughter was positively begging to leave, so I can't recommend Blue Planet Aquarium at all.
Everywhere you turn there is a charge, parking, expensive entrance fee (for the size of the attraction), over priced soft toys in the gift shop, machines to slot money into everywhere. Even the staff looked ashamed when we asked if we could reimburse the parking (which you can do in most shopping centres for goodness sake!) and were told no.
The entirety of Blue Planet Aquarium is dirty, needs a good hoover / scrub and a refurb for the peeling paint, areas of dodgy looking damp and so on. It even smells fusty. As for the cafe, less said the better - if you don't want your child picking up screws which have fallen from the broken freezer or electrocuting themselves, stay well clear.
Overall we really were not impressed in fact we left quite annoyed at the price of it, it's only a small attraction, my daughter has genuinely been happier visiting a large Pets At Home store with it's huge aquarium and hey, it has bunny rabbits too! If the entry had been about £7 and free for under 5s then maybe just maybe Blue Planet Aquarium would be worth a look but at the prices it charges it just can't compete with similar attractions.
There is a new aquarium opening soon - Sea Life Centre in Barton Square in the Trafford Centre - free parking and lots of nice restaurants on it's doorstep, and you can usually find a 2 for 1 on the net. I will be visiting there - but I'll never visit Blue Planet Aquarium. It's overpriced, it's dirty and it's dangerous. The only (small) saving grace is the underwater tunnel which my little girl loved for the five minutes it takes but overall I just cannot recommend it and won't be visiting again.
Despite living 20 minutes away from Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port I have never ever been there so when our son turned 2 we decided to take him there for the morning.
~*~Where is it?~*~
Blue Planet Aquarium is located right next to Cheshire Oaks Outlet Factory in Ellesmere Port and just off Junction 10 of the M53.
It is well signposted and easy to find.
You can prebook online to save or pay when you arrive;
Adult £15.50/ £13.50 online
Child under 12 yrs £11.50/ £9.50 online
Concession £13.50/ £12.25 online
Family 2 Adults, 2 Children £52.00 / £46.00 online
Groovy Grandparent 2 Senior Citizens, 2 Children £48.00/ £43.50 online
Children under 90cm are admitted free of charge.
Booking online you will however get charged an additional £1.50 per transaction.
Open weekdays 10am - 5pm and weekends 10am - 6pm.
Closed on Christmas Day.
We decided to purchase on the day as we were visiting during term time in the week so when we arrived there were only a few people in the aquarium.
When we arrived we walked over a small bridge into the attractions
Coral Cave - A wide selection of fish and a place where my toddler could get up close to the glass to take a look, he was actually very good as he just stood and looked at the various fish in the tank.
Amazing Amphibians - A selection of frogs to view and read up on. Due to the height of the tanks we had to lift our son up to take a look but he was amazed to see the brightly coloured frogs as they crawled up the front of the glass to the top of the tank.
Aqua Theatre - Although we did not see any shows during our visit our son enjoyed sitting in the aqua theatre and watching the sharks and fish pass the window. He could get up close to the glass and be really close to the sharks and fish which he absolutely loved. At the back of the room there were a set of electronic scales where you could compare your weight to the weight of the sharks contained behind the glass.
Underwater Tunnel - This was fun as there was a pathway as well as a moving walkway which was ideal for little legs to take a rest as you are transported through the tunnel and able to get closer to the various sharks and fish on display. For me it brought back memories of snorkelling in the Maldives when we swam with the triggerfish and the reef sharks. Our son loved the Sand Sharks as they were quite often compared by him to Bruce.
Reef Magic was another firm favourite from our son as he loves "Finding Nemo" so he was quickly able to recognise Dory and Nemo and decided to shout it all over the aquarium, there were plenty to see and the large displays are ideal for when it is packed to still get a good view.
The Rock Pool Area was a little too old for our son and for me I just did not fancy getting my hands wet! Here you could really get up close to rays.
There is a restaurant at the Aquarium however the prices seems a little high. With a burger, fries and drink costing over £6.
There are light snacks available such as crisps, chocolate, muffins and cookies and various hot and cold drinks if you just want a light snack to keep you going.
We had decided to go and eat elsewhere and take advantage of the numerous restaurants just a few minutes drive away.
The restaurant was very clean however and there was plenty of tables and chairs to sit on.
There are numerous ramps throughout the attraction making it easy to use for wheelchair users and parents with prams and buggy.
There is a large baby changing room with the facility for two babies to be changed at any one time. Again the facilities were spotless.
There are also facilities for heating baby food and milk at the restaurant.
~*~My Final Word~*~
We spent just under 2 hours at the aquarium and we would have struggled to have gotten a bit more from there. I was a little disappointed that when we purchased our tickets we were not informed of any feeding times or activities taking place so we just took our time taking in the attractions.
It was nice to visit on a quiet day as we were able to spend plenty of time uninterrupted at the attraction without feeling like we had to move on, which was nice for my son to really take in the fish and especially the sharks.
The restaurant was quiet so he was able to walk freely about with his dad and enjoy riding on the rides that were strategically placed by the toilets!
There is a lift taking you from the restaurant up to the entrance/exit.
I do think that the price is a lot and that the discount for booking online is not really that great and we would not visit here a lot but for a one off visit it was nice but I think that we exhausted the attractions fairly quickly and after visiting an aquarium in Cape Town where there was an interactive area for children where they were able to draw while they visited was a nice feature as this didn't really offer all that much for younger children and it could definately be made a bit more fun to keep them interested.
I found that the attraction lacked something and although I enjoyed my visit I doubt I will be returning any time soon.
The Blue Planet Aquarium is an Aquarium situated in Cheshire, more accurately in Ellesmere Port. If you have ever visited Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet village, it is literally around the corner from there. It is the largest aquarium in the North West and was once the largest in the UK. It has been open since 1998. I have visited the aquarium twice, most recently this week. I tried to visit several years ago but the queues were so horrendous we decided to give it a swerve. That is one thing I would say, it can take ages to queue up in busy periods such as the children's school holidays and the majority of the queuing is outside, albeit under a canopy, it can be freezing cold.
==Things to see and do==
The aquarium is like a bit of a maze, it is easy to get around and you don't get lost, but it does feel like Ikea in that it is hard to know where you've come from and not that easy to find your bearings (maybe that is just me). There are lots of great exhibits and you move through the displays which are "themed" so you would have a Scottish Glen to start with, then you move through to the Amazon then on to Lakes and Ponds, then down to "The Coast" (the largest area) before ending in "Venom". Venom is definitely a new attraction for me, but I don't think I'd been since 2006. There are complimentary animals along with the fish and sealife such as posionous frogs, spiders, snakes etc. They do warn you before you go into "venom" that there are spiders and snakes in glass displays so don't worry about going around and having to look out for them if you are phobic of them.
Largely as you would expect in an aquarium, the focus is on fish. We found ourselves comparing it to Vancouver Aquarium which we went to last year which had seals, penguins and beluga whales and Blue Planet had none of these animals (we weren't really expecting it to, I think Vancouver aquarium was just at the top of its game) and a lot of the fish and sealife were quite small. There were some tanks full of massive fish though which were quite exciting to see, catfish which were over a metre in length!
I liked that there were posters up explaining about how Blue Planet helps with conservation and breeding programmes for particular species. The information boards for each species were also quite good and informative without being boring. Hard to read them in "Amazon" due to the dim light and I've got very good eyesight. Also, some good large print summary boards around the place for kids who can't be bothered reading the detailed stuff.
There was a touching pool which the kids were loving where you can touch the stingrays - I thought that was pretty good and lots of people enjoyed that (not so sure how the rays felt about it!).
The piece de resistance is the Shark tank walkway and this is probably the thing that makes the attraction a bit special. There are 2 walk ways where the tanks are above your head - they were OK this week as it was quiet but last time it was busy they got very packed and hot and stuffy. Definitely try and pick a quiet day! In the massive tank are various sharks, massive sting rays and other enormous fish. It is quite magical to see them swimming over you, particularly the sting rays as their "face" is on the underside of their belly so it was cool to see them up close. Some of the sharks were huge too, not small little things that you might expect, some were over 2m in length with mean looking teeth! You can book special diving days to dive with the sharks for around £200 if you aren't diver qualified or £130 if you already can dive. I'm not sure I'd fancy it but think my husband would love it. Also junior shark dives are now on offer but I didn't see a price for those. These have to be booked in advance I think.
Kids birthday parties were also on offer as were "pictures of your day" which included a photo taken of you at the beginning of the day super imposed onto loads of different backgrounds. At £12 for a few dodgy photos, we decided to leave it! That sort of thing was probably quite impressive but now with photoshop it is so commonplace I'm surprised they even offer that sort of service, anything to make a few quid I imagine!
Although I'm not disabled, the disabled access looked pretty good to me, lots of space to move around and a lift to take you from one level to another. There was lots of room in the cafe too but probably because it was quite quiet - I imagine it would be packed out on a busy day. You can't eat your own food in there but there are picnic benches outside which might be OK if it isn't raining. Parking was fine too as the car park is huge and free.
There is also an annual pass available for unlimited visits but again I didn't see the price of that. There was a shop with kids toys and pick n mix in as I mentioned and a small games arcade thing with mini rides and video games. We didn't visit either so can't comment on prices.
==Value for Money?==
Firstly, BOOK YOUR TICKETS ONLINE IN ADVANCE. It saves around £2.50 per person (despite the £1.50 "booking admin fee" which feels like a total rip off. You can do this up to an hour before your visit. Also if you book online then change your mind, the ticket is valid for 6 months. Adult prices online are £13 (£15.50 pay on the door), a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) can expect to pay £52 on the door (£43.50 if bought online). I personally think that whilst the attraction is good and I did enjoy it, it is a very expensive attraction when it doesn't cover a full day out. We took our time looking around the exhibits and were in there just over an hour. Of course there is a show which you can see which would probably extend the visit by half an hour and if you have small children I imagine you would take a bit longer around the exhibits. You could also have lunch there (I didn't see the prices but I imagine they would be quite expensive) and there is a shop with toys for the kids to buy. I would imagine if you pushed it and eeked out the visit, you could spend a maximum of 3 hours there. When you consider that somewhere like Chester Zoo is £17 and has a full day out, I think £13 for the aquarium is quite expensive.
As we don't visit very often and we went as 2 adults, I think £27.50 was fine for the time we spent there. Something like £16-£18 (for 2) is probably more of a realistic price to get me to visit more regularly. We will go again in the future I'm sure but it isn't a place to visit on an annual basis as there just isn't enough to do and see for that kind of level of visiting - particularly once you take the price into account. It is a decent aquarium, I do feel it is slightly overpriced but it is a nice half a day attraction. The fish/sharks were great, the "additional" animals lacked a wow factor, the spiders and snakes were very small.
You will find the Blue Planet Aquarium off Jct 10 M53, follow the signs for Cheshire Oaks. They open at 10.00 which is quite odd, when most attractions open around the 9am mark. Tickets are quite expensive with a family ticket costing £50.50 for 2 adults/2 children, however, if you buy online you can save yourself £6.50 as the family ticket will cost you £44.00. They do have plenty of free parking with plenty of disability parking also, lift access on each floor, ramps throughout the entire attraction therefore making wheelchair/pushchair access relatively easy. As expected they do have a souvenir shop, restaurant (very expensive though) and an outside play area with seating. You can attend with a group and get a discount providing there is 15 or more of you and they do host children's parties also.
There are 5 themed areas with 35 exhibits to view. As expected with it being an aquarium, you have all of the fish to look at, varying in size, colour and species, they have an amphibian section which hosts an array of various frogs. It boasts an aqua tunnel, 70m long with moving walkway where you can view the sharks and again various fish from underneath. Heading straight to the Aqua theatre you can watch one of their shows, the presenter of the show will engage with the divers, and will provide you with all the information you could need on the creatures within their tank. Children can come and sit up front so they can see properly. They do have shallow pools where you are allowed to touch the Rays and Dogfish. Moving on the attraction hosts a venom section which is home to their spiders, snakes and jellyfish. They have a viewing tunnel called tarantula tower which you can crawl into, stand up in and view the spiders (great if you like the eight legged creatures). They do offer the opportunity to do a shark dive, again this is very pricey and needs to be booked in advance, with the additional cost of hiring their kit.
For the price we paid, I expected to be able to spend the whole day at the Blue Planet Aquarium and must admit that I was disappointed when we had been around the entire attraction within a couple of hours. You could go around again, but to be honest if you have seen them once, you may not want to. Would I recommend this attraction to a family or friend, in a word 'no', I say this primarily because of the costs and how much time you can realistically spend there. I would prefer to go to the Zoo
I have been to so many different aquariums, abroad and in the U.K but Blue Planet Aquarium is deffinately the best one i have been to. It is located in Cheshire, and is near cheshire oaks. I always make a day of it going to chester, as i live in manchester, it is not too far to travel to chester, but the aquarium itself isnt a full day out, so we usually go to cheshire oaks the same day too.
Blue Planet Aquarium is actually the most expensive one i have been to. Tickets are not cheap, at £14.75 per adult and £10.75 for children. I dont know why they charge so much, it does get busy in school holidays and weekends, so they have more than enough visitors, no need to be so expensive. I would go here more often if they put the price down a bit.
There are different offers on prices of tickets for young children or families, you can visit there website for more information instead of me typing it all out on here!! Just go to www.blueplanetaquarium.com
You will discover an amazing range of fish and other sea creatures at this aquarium. There are not just fish, there are sea horses, frogs, sting rays and even sharks!
The best bit about this aquarium is the amazing tunnel they have made. It is called the Aquatunnel and is 70m long! There is a slow moving conveyor belt that you stand on and it takes you through the tunnel slowly, with enough time for everyone to see all the sharks and fish, instead of when it is busy people crowd round things and you cant see. With this conveyor belt people cant do that, as you cant stop to look at things, but it goes slow enough for you to have a good look.
In the aquatunnel you can see the sharks swimming about your head! You can see them really close up, and you also see the divers in there feeding them.
When you are going round the aquarium, there are big noticeboards telling you lots of facts and information about each species of fish. These are not too long or boring to read.
There is a pool full of stingrays that you can actually put your hand in and touch the sting rays! They really let you get up close to them. If you just put your hand flat on top of the water, they just slide past you.
You also get the chance to swim with the sharks if you want to, the website lists the prices of doing this, i certainly wouldnt want to get in that tank full of sharks! But if you do, i bet this would be an amazing experience. There is also a huge window in the tank, with a big seating area, where they let you watch them feed the sharks through out the day.
We went round the aquarium in about an hour and a half. We didnt eat or drink in the restaurant as it was quite expensive.
Blue Planet is not just an aquarium for leisure, i remember going here when i was at college and they had big class rooms where we had a lecture on different types of fish.
Blue Planet is open daily from 10am, and closes between 5 and 6pm depending whether it is a weekend or school holidays. It is open every day of the year except christmas day.
I would highly recommend this aquarium, it is the best i have been to, but it is not a cheap day out! Once you have been once, you wont want to spend that money to go again!
I have been to the Blue Planet Aquarium twice, once for leisure and the other time was with my university for one of our assignments. The attraction is located in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.
Blue Planet is open daily from 10am, which I find is a little bit of a strange time to open, why not 9am! They close at 5pm outside of school holidays and 6pm during school holidays. Tickets were around £14.00 at the time when we went, which isnt exactly cheap is it.
Inside the aquarium, you can see all kinds of fish and sea life species. The most interesting ones to me have got to be the sharks and the big strange ones that I had never seen before. As you walk around the aquarium, there are various different tanks you can look into. One of the tanks is one that you can walk through while the fish and sea creatures swim above you in a transparent glass tank. Another feature they have here is a kind of fish that you can actually touch. Im not really into that kind of thing, so I didnt bother touching them.
Something that Blue Planet offers and would be interesting to do, if I could swim is swimming with sharks. When I was there the first time, I saw some people doing it and thought it would be really interesting.
This attraction has many facilities such as: parking, toilets, baby changing facilities, restaurant, gift shop and lift and ramp access. I found the restaurant in this attraction rather expensive and just to taste average.
Overall the Blue Planet is ok, but you could probably ever go just the one time. Its not interesting enough and for the price you pay, it certainly is disappointing. Even if you like to watch fish, which I do, theres not enough variety in things to do as you walk around. The price really does put a dempener on your visit and for sure you can visit much better attrations and be better entertained for that amount of money.
The Blue Planet Aquarium, one of Britain's largest is located in Cheshire near the town of Ellesmere Port. It is extremely easy to find as it's signposted from Junction 10 of the M53 motorway. The aquarium boasts a huge car park so there should be no problem finding a place.
Upon arrival, visitors may be slightly disappointed with the exterior. The building looks like a giant shed, hardly the best setting for what's billed as one of the most spectacular underwater attractions in the country. It's perhaps telling that no pictures of the aquarium appear on their website.
This is an expensive attraction. Adult tickets are £14.50 and a family ticket costs £48 (two adults, two children). Kids under 95cm tall get in for free, however.
Thankfully, things improve once inside the aquarium. In my opinion, the attraction has been carefully designed and 'flows' from one exhibit to the next. The displays start with mountain streams, travel to lowland rivers, on to mangrove swamps and estuaries, and finally to the open ocean; quite an elegant way to present an aquatic attraction.
The Blue Planet has been open about ten years now so is quite a modern building. The materials of construction are hard wearing and clean looking, so the building does not look worn, even after 10 years of use.
The first exhibit, rivers and streams, contains fish from British waters. Here huge three foot long pike live next to their natural prey including perch, carp and trout. This exhibit is cleverly designed to be viewable both from the side and from above with the use of walkways. The effect is of a side-on slice of a river with water flowing from left to right.
Although the water was crystal clear, there were several fish that clearly looked ill. Fish do get sick, but I think that in public aquaria, these should be removed to a hospital tank to recover.
As with all of the exhibits, the amount of information concerning the fish and their habitats was extensive and beautifully presented (a display showing the life cycle of salmon, from eggs to adulthood, with actual eggs and young to be viewed is typical of the Blue Planet's attention to detail). If your kids are anything like my nieces, you will not be given time to read everything, however!
Each exhibit is separate from the others and are connected with corridors and walkways. This gives the illusion of space, in what's actually quite a crowded building.
The Amazonian exhibit is another superbly designed set piece. Here, the largest freshwater fish in the world inhabit one huge tank. These include the impressive red-tailed catfish that grows to over five feet long. Seeing these and other giant fish from inches away is awesome.
This section has lots of other interesting displays including a massive tank containing a shoal of red-bellied piranha (really don't fancy being the one to clean that tank out!). This tank is cleverly shown with Amazonian plants above the water and a nicely designed underwater scene for the piranha to swim around.
Here, too are amphibians that inhabit the area including the poison dart frogs whose skin exudes a deadly toxin (used by the native Amazonians to coat their blowpipe darts).
The displays move through lowland lakes (a Lake Malawi tank, with stunningly colourful and active cichlids, just like I keep at home), and estuarine mangrove swamps, on to the open ocean.
In the coral bay exhibit, children are encouraged to get their hands wet and pick up some of the inhabitants of the tank. This is nicely done and allows the kids to really get involved. Thankfully, there are hand washing facilities next to this exhibit to allow the kids to clean their hands before proceeding.
The highlight of the aquarium is the open ocean tank and its massive acrylic tunnel and moving walkway. This is truly impressive. The tunnel is 70m long and transports the visitor into the world of massive rays and 10 foot sharks. The tank is so big that shoals of fish exhibit natural behaviour, moving around in packs as they would in the open ocean.
The kids will love this. The sand tiger sharks can pass within inches to the side or overhead as you move along the tunnel. The water is so clear that the whole of the massive tank is visible. Carefully placed rocks hold huge eels that can be seen looking curiously at the people moving past their homes.
Once at the end of the walkway, it's a quick walk back to the start to go through again (we always go through at least twice).
For the kids, there's another reason to love this part of the aquarium. The Blue Planet's divers feed the fish and put on a show for the kids several times a day in front of a huge window into the tank (must be 15 foot square, at least). For adults, it's not much fun, but very interactive for the children (who inevitably get to shout "he's behind you"!).
There's no restrictions on how fast or slow visitors go around, or how many shows they watch. We find that a visit through the aquarium takes around two hours. After this, it's time to visit the café, which is not too expensive and of reasonable quality. We then visit the shop, which of course has a fishy theme.
Toys, books, and DVD's are all on sale, some items are actually of quite good quality (there's plenty of 'tat', too). The massive balloons are shaped like dolphins and other creatures, but they're not cheap.
Close to the shop is the otter enclosure where it's possible to get really close to these charming, engaging little creatures.
The Blue Planet offers other services, too. Birthday parties can be arranged here, for an interesting venue, as well as corporate days. One interesting birthday gift is swimming with the sharks. Full diving instruction is given if needed and the diver then gets to swim in the shark's environment. Not wanting to put anyone off, however, but two staff have received bites from sharks here over the past few years!
Living close to the Blue Planet, I've visited about half a dozen times. This attraction is indoors, so makes an excellent wet weather day trip. It is expensive, however, since it only takes about half a day to see everything, have a meal, and browse the shop. There is nothing else like it in the area, is quite educational, so can be recommended.
On bank holiday Monday my husband and I had planned to take our 17 month old toddler on a picnic at one of our favourite spots. However the weather had different ideas. It was wet and miserable and so we needed to find somewhere indoors that he would enjoy. An aquarium was the first idea that came to mind however we had already visited our local Sealife Centre at the beginning of the year. I looked online for an alternative aquarium, perhaps a little further afield, and very quickly came across the Blue Planet Aquarium in Chester.
Blue Planet Aquarium have a website at www.blueplanetaquarium.com detailing entry costs and features. Rather unusually however the website does not state an address, only directions and a post code. Luckily these were sufficient enough to be able to locate the aquarium with our Sat Nav.
Upon arriving at Blue Planet we were confronted with a rather large queue for entry. This was thankfully quite deceiving as it moved rather quickly and we were inside within 10 minutes or so.
My husband and I paid £14.50 each for entry and our little boy got in free being under 95cm. This is a rather unusual way to determine free entry and I would have simply expected it to be for all under two's or under three's. There are a number of concessions available for families, senior citizens etc. All details are listed under the ticket section on the aquarium's website. Tickets can also be purchased online 24 hours before your visit.
Blue Planet has numerous attractions including the Aquatunnel, a long glass tunnel with various sea creatures swimming around as you walk through, and the Aquatheatre which is set up just like a cinema with the screen being a large fish tank which hosts a number of shows.
Other features include a Canadian otter enclosure and an Amazing Amphibians section. My little boy was a little too young to easily spot the frogs and other creature within their habitats however.
The aquarium has a good variety of sea creatures and attractions alike. It was relatively easy to navigate, though it was rather crowded and we often found ourselves being moved along against our will.
There are rather cunningly two gift shops within Blue Planet, one smaller one selling balloons and confectionary in the middle, which you must pass through to reach some of the other attractions and one at the end. The gift shop at the end was the largest and sold quite random unrelated products. The first thing that my son picked up in this shop was a monkey which was identical to one we had bought for him at Monkey Forest just a few weeks previous.
My son thoroughly enjoyed his unexpected trip to Blue Planet Aquarium in Chester, however I cannot help but compare it to the Sealife Centre in Birmingham. I am far more favourable towards the Sealife Centre as it appears more spacious, it does not get overcrowded, it is set out on a number of different levels and is overall more attractively presented.
Towards the end of the summer, I was hoping to do something a little different with my young son. Having swung on the swings, mamboed at music group and giggled at granny for an hour, I decided we needed a change - and then I had a flash of inspiration. The Blue Planet Aquarium!
I had driven past the Blue Planet Aquarium on numerous occasions but had never actually visited the place. Situated at the end of junction 10 just off the M53 motorway, the Blue Planet is in a prime location, not only for locals, but also for tourists visiting Cheshire.
To be honest, the first thing that sprung to mind when we arrived in the car park was: "Is that it?" The car park itself certainly has ample spaces, together with additional spaces for disabled drivers and coaches. However, my first impression of the exterior of the Blue Planet building itself was not very encouraging. It put me in mind of a large rectangular shed. But oh, how wrong I was. I quickly changed my opinion of the place once inside and would add that it put me in mind of the Tardis. Plain and bland on the outside, but a fantastic adventure going on inside.
On entering the Blue Planet, as with all tourist attractions, our first port of call was the pay desk. After handing over our hard earned pennies (more on that later!) we were presented with our tickets and invited through into the main foyer. And here is where our journey began.
***Starting Our Journey***
Basically, the Blue Planet comprises two floors: ground floor and lower ground floor. Both floors are divided into sections covering all the various species of aquatic life - or to you and me - fish!
Our journey began on the ground floor and took us across a wooden walkway into the Freshwater Rivers and Streams section. Here, we could get up close and personal to the likes of pike, carp, perch, bream and brook trout. The tanks in which the fish are kept are as close to their natural habitat as possible in an aquarium environment, and many are open top tanks which enable you to view the fish both from the outside and from above. Many of the fish even came up to the surface of the water, I assume anticipating food. I would add that this does not apply to the piranhas, which I mention later in the review.
The next exhibit we came to was the Amazon. This comprises a tropical river exhibit representing the Amazon River, where we saw an Arapaima which, according to the information at the Blue Planet, measures 4.25 metres long. Apparently, this is the largest of its breed in the UK and, after seeing it, I can well believe it! Also present were Redtail Catfish, Red-Bellied Piranha, Black Pacu and a Granulated Dora.
Moving along, we came to the Lake Milawi exhibit. Apparently, this tank holds approximately 100 species of Chichlid. In addition to the Chichlids, we saw the Nile Perch, the Giraffe Catfish and the Vundu.
Not all the exhibits in the Blue Planet are fish. There is a fairly small exhibit of amphibians which includes the Blue Dart Frog. The Blue Planet undertook a breeding program of the Blue Dart Frog which apparently has been very successful. We also saw the Green Dart Frog, the Roccoco Toad, the Golden Dart Frog, the Regina Frog and the Red-Eye Tree Frog. The colours of these frogs were absolutely outstanding and, although we were able to take photographs, they do not do the vibrant colours justice.
We continued our journey down to the lower ground floor, which is where the majority of the exhibits are found.
The rocky shoreline exhibit consists of individual rock pools which it at waist-height to adults. However, there is an important reason for this. The pools contain Plaice, Tub Gurnard, Spidercrab, Spotted Dogfish and the Thornback Ray. Unlike many aquariums, here, you can actually stroke the Ray Fish. There are signs surrounding the pools which advise you to seek consent from one of the assistants. We noticed that this was especially appealing to the younger visitors who, probably for most of them, was the first time they had been this close to a fish. At the side of this exhibit, there are a couple of hand basins and soap dispensers for you to wash your hands after touching the fish. Personally, I would have thought that visitors should be advised to wash their hands BEFORE touching the fish as bacteria can so easily be transferred into the water, as well as out of it. But that is just my opinion. They obviously know what they are doing there.
Coral Bay was next on our route where we saw some very vivid coloured species. The exhibit has been created to represent the warm waters found in the Seychelles and the Maldives. Amongst the fish on display were the Redknobbed Starfish, the Clownfish (my personal favourite amongst this exhibit due to its vibrant colouring. I nearly bought a couple of these last year when setting up a tropical tank at home), Turret Fish, Batfish which apparently lie motionless in order to look like a dead leaf when faced with danger, together with the Blue Spotted Sting-Ray.
***And now for the highlight of our visit...***
We had now almost completed our circuit of the Blue Planet but there was still one thing that we had not seen, and which I had been looking forward to throughout our trip - THE AQUATUNNEL.
The Aquatunnel is an underwater tunnel measuring 70 metres long. Here, you walk along whilst the fish swim around you and over your head. It is probably (and hopefully) the only time that I will ever come this close to a real life shark. We saw many varieties of fish swimming around us in the tunnel, and there was even a 'happy birthday Katy and Sarah' sign submerged in the water which had obviously been placed there for a couple of unsuspecting visitors. I can only assume this is a little optional extra which can be arranged with the Blue Planet prior to your visit.
When going through the tunnel, you have the option of walking on your own two feet, or as we did, you can just stand on a slow moving walkway whilst you take in all that is around you.
As I mentioned at the start of this section, for me, this really was the highlight of our trip. We took our 2 year old son who was mesmerised by the whole thing.
The final stage of our tour took us to the Aquatheatre, which I found particularly interesting. Situated next to the Aquatunnel, this set-back section comprises about six rows of twelve seats. To the front, there is a very small stage which lies directly in front of a large glass window, behind which swim the fish you see swimming around you in the Aquatunnel. The 'showtimes' go on throughout the day and last approximately 20 minutes. At the start of the show, two members of the Blue Planet staff come on stage. One staff member gives a brief talk on the types of fish we would be looking at, and the other staff member then introduces two divers who appear inside the 'tank'. You are taken through the various pieces of diving equipment the divers are wearing, and the divers give a quick demonstration as to its use.
The next stage of the show, and in my opinion the most interesting, demonstrates how the fish are fed. The divers, having left the tank to collect a bucket of food, return to the tank closely followed by the hungry fish. Only certain species of fish were being fed on the day that we visited. The sharks are apparently only fed four times a week so we had missed that one!
As I mentioned, this really is an interesting part of the trip and is well worth waiting to see.
As well as fish, the Blue Planet also has an outdoor otter enclosure. This covers quite a large area and the otters have plenty of room to roam around and swim. We visited the Blue Planet on a wet and windy day so we only went outside to look at the otters for a couple of minutes, but I can imagine it is a very popular exhibit in the nice weather.
The Blue Planet certainly caters for all kinds of visitors, particularly disabled or those with difficulties walking any great distance. There is a lift to both floors, and wheelchairs may also be hired at a price of £10 which is refunded on return of the chair. Ramps are situated through the building. There is the usual gift shop which, from what I saw, sold quite a wide variety of goods, and this is situated on the first floor by the exit. On the lower ground floors, there is a fairly large restaurant, together with toilets and baby changing facilities. Finally, for the more adventurous, there is a dive shop, but this appeared to be closed on the day we visited so I am unable to comment on that.
Basically, this is a kid's play area. Apparently, this was designed in association with Little Tykes UK who, for those of you not familiar with kiddy related things, manufacture toys and ride-ons etc. I was a little too old to try out the various monkey bars and bouncy whales for the purpose of this review, but I must admit it did look good fun. Maybe next time!!
***Fancy Diving with the Sharks?***
Yes,for a small fee, you can actually take to the shark infested waters and enjoy a swim. If you wish to take advantage of this, it does need to be booked separately and you must be a minimum age of 16 years. I could not find any information at the aquarium on how much each session costs, but there is contact information on the Blue Planet's website (details at the end of this review).
***Bring Your Friends***
If you wish to arrange a group tour of the Blue Planet, you may be offered a discount if there are more than 15 people in your party. For example, at the time of writing this review, an adult ticket price works out at approximately £6 less than a standard ticket. Certainly worth doing if you can gather enough people to go with you.
***It's Party Time***
The Blue Planet offers parties for those occasions where you want something a little different. I think it's ideal for children and a lot more enjoyable than sitting in McDonalds for a birthday treat. Unfortunately, your booking does need to be for a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 20. Included in the price is free adoption of an animal. I assume you are now allowed to take it home with you! They also include face painting, a guided tour around the aquarium and food in the restaurant. At present, the tariff for a child's party is £10.95 per child and at least one adult is required to supervise, at a price of £5.50 per adult.
***Adopt an Animal***
The Blue Planet allows you to adopt some of the animals at the aquarium. You can take your pick as to which you would like to adopt, and according to staff there, this seems very popular with the younger visitors.
Well, they seem to hold conferences everywhere nowadays, and the Blue Planet is no exception. We did notice a couple of 'meeting rooms' around the edge of the restaurant which I assume were the function rooms. I am unable to comment personally on these as we did not actually go into any of the rooms.
A number of Blue Planet staff have recently founded a voluntary group called the Blue Planet Aquarists. The aim of the group is to encourage the protection, maintenance and restoration of ecosystems and marine organisms. The group eventually hopes to encourage members of the public to join them.
***Prices and Booking Information***
Now although I really enjoyed my visit to the Blue Planet, I actually think that the entrance prices were quite expensive. At the time of our visit, we paid £20.50 for two adults. Having just checked on the Blue Planet's website, these prices still remain the same. Standard charges are as follows:-
Adult = £10.25
Child (age 3-15 years, under 3s go free) = £7.75
Concession (OAPs, students etc) = £7.75
Family (2 adults and 2 children) = £35.00
Groovy Grandparent Ticket (cool!)
(2 senior citizens and 2 children, 3-15yrs) = £30.00
You can also become a member where you will pay:-
Adult = £34.50
Child (age 3-15 years) = £24.00
Concession (OAPs, students etc) = £24.00
1 Adult & 2 Children = £75.00
2 Adults & 2 Children = £100.00
Tickets can be purchased online via the website given at the end of my review.
The Blue Planet is open daily at 10.00 am. Closing times are 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and 6.00 pm Saturday and Sunday in school term times, and in school holidays, it is open until 6.00 pm daily. Unlike a lot of attractions, it is actually open on Christmas Eve but closes at 4.00 pm. It also opens on New Years Day but visitors are advised to check direct with Blue Planet nearer the time as to opening and closing times.
***How to get there***
It's quite straight forward whichever direction you are coming from.
If you are travelling via the M53, just take junction 10. Travelling from the M6, join the M56 at J20, then head towards Ellesmere Port and turn onto the M53 at junction 15. Follow the brown tourist information signs for Blue Planet and Cheshire Oaks.
If you are lucky enough to have satnav, just type in either the postcode CH65 9LF or Kinsey Road. It should get you there.
There are plenty of regular bus services from Liverpool, Chester, Ellesmere Port and North Wales to Blue Planet. From Liverpool take the No 1 bus from Sir Thomas Street. From Chester take the No 1 or No 4 bus from the Central Bus Station.
If travelling by train, the nearest railway station is Ellesmere Port, about 2 miles away. Services run to here from Chester and Liverpool Lime Street Underground Station (Wirral Line).
Blue Planet Aquarium
Tel. 0151 3578804
***And finally, would I recommend?***
Most definitely. I have lived within 15 miles of this place for years and this was my first visit. It's an amazing attraction which is both fun and educational and it's certainly the first time I have ever looked a shark in the eye! As I mentioned, I do think the prices are a little high if you are on a budget, but saying that, it's not the kind of place you would be visiting on a weekly basis. As they say, and if you will pardon the aquatic pun, it's nice to push the boat out every now and then!
Thanks for reading.
(Also on Ciao - matthewsmum)