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Blue Reef Aquarium (England)

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19 Reviews

Several locations in England: Southsea (Portsmouth), Tynemouth on Newcastle's coast (Tyne and Wear) and in Newquay (Cornwall).

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    19 Reviews
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      22.09.2014 13:48
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      A fairly pricey treat but it is an enjoyable day out

      I visited the Tynemouth Blue Reef Aquarium this summer with my husband and our 2 boys aged 5 and 6.

      We were travelling from a few miles away but there was plenty of parking in a car park at the back of the aquarium. We did have to pay for this.

      Admission is quite pricey, but we were able to get a few pounds off through the use of an online discount voucher that we found. I think the aquariums offer such discounts quite regularly.

      Once you have paid, all of the members of your group get their hands stamped. This is handy as it means that if you finish the circular tour of the place and want to go back through to look at part of the attraction again you can do this.

      There are plenty of creatures to look at to keep everybody happy. As well as lots of different fish there are also otters, seals, sea lions and monkeys.

      There are shows and displays on every day (though not sure about weekdays during term time) and we chose to watch the seal show and also the sea lion show. These are very entertaining and informative and the creatures seem to be happy and well cared for. You can also have a photo taken of a sea lion kissing you for an extra charge - I think it was about £8 but we didn't do this.

      There is a fairly large cafe and a nice shop. I was quite pleased that you don't have to go into the shop if you don't want to. It's to the side of the reception area, and not part of the attraction - so you can avoid it if you don't want your kids to pester you for souvenirs! There is also a snack stand outside (during the summer anyway) next to a small play park area. On the day we visited there was also a bouncy castle, which was £1 for unlimited bouncing.

      This attraction is very close to the beach and also to a crazy golf course. It is also very near to public transport links such as a metro station.

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      15.10.2013 20:16

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      A fun day out, if a little pricey

      I've visited Tynemouth Aquarium twice in the past year or so with my little boy, and both times he's thoroughly enjoyed it. From start to finish you can expect to see plenty to keep the little one's happy and there is more than enough to explore.

      ==What's there==

      All manner of fish and marine life are housed here. The big hitters of course are the Seals (which have a couple of live feeding shows per day), Otters (which sleep quite alot), Clownfish (prepare for screams of NEEEEMOOOO) and monkeys. Packed around these main features are various tanks, as well as the walk-through tunnel at the end (where sharks swim around). The seals of course are the main attraction, primarily because you can see them from various parts of their home. There are viewing screens in their tank, as well as access to above water level.

      ==Price==

      An adult ticket is £9.50 and a 3-12 year old will set you back £7 (both £1 cheaper if pre-booked online). So you're talking a standard 2 adult 1 child visit will set you back £26. Obviously the more people you're taking, the bigger the price, but also you'd feel more aggrieved for spending it. The twice I've been it's only set me back £9.50 (1 adult and 1 under 3) so i've felt that I'm getting my money's worth. If I was spending upwards of £20-£30 on an hour long visit, I'd feel less so.

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      14.04.2013 23:42
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      An interesting day out no matter the weather.

      Bluereef Aquarium is found on the seafront in Portsmouth (opens at 10am). They do have a number of other Aquariums located across the country. It is very similar to what you would find at one of Merlin's sealife attractions without the huge payout.

      It is very easy to travel to by car, hovercraft or bus, the train station is about a mile and a half away. There is plenty of parking although it can be very busy during the summer months. Parking is paid at a parking metre and is free for blue badge holders.

      The Bluereef Aquarium is very disabled/buggy friendly. As you enter the Aquarium you are greeted by friendly, helpful staff. It is here that you pay for your entry, they also stamp your hand so that can come& go all day which is useful as there a number of places that you could go out to eat.

      Prices

      Adult- £9.75
      Child 3-12yrs £7.50
      Seniors/students- £8.75
      Family of four- £32.50

      ( please check prices as the tunnel tank has been drained due to the need for emergency maintenance so they are offering a 20% discount off the above prices)

      If you live close by it would be better value to buy an annual pass as you would only need to visit three times to make it worth while. Also with the annual pass you receive 10% off in the shop.

      If you have small children it would worth asking to hire a stool. It is a £1 deposit and very handy to have with you. It is here that you can pick up information on times of feeds although they do announce when they are about to start in case you forget a leaflet. Also during the school holidays there are often topic weeks. This Easter holidays was Yuck! Week which my son and his friend loved. By the entrance is also a buggy park where you can leave your buggy if you don't want to take it around with you.

      There are a number of large tanks around the Aquarium the Rays being very fun as they often splash water over the side. Little ones will love climbing up the steps to a platform that overlooks the Rays. I love that the Aquarium has thought about its little guests because often it is easy for them to see the fishy residents.

      Seeing the Sharks swim close to the glass can be very exciting and there are plenty of places to view them so no worries if it is a busy day. You will see a number of jelly fish, seahorses , finding nemo (clown fish) and . . .I could go on & on! There is also a tunnel tank where you walk through and can see the fish all above you. At present this is empty so check before you go if you would find it disappointing not to see it full. Half way round you will also find some reptiles and the otters who are cute but very smelly!

      There is a lot for children to do apart from viewing the fishy residents. Throughout the Aquarium you will find boards for children to do rubbings (ask at desk for crayons& paper), quiz questions on the walls with wooden flaps to lift and just before the gift shop there is a large blackboard with lots of chalk for your little ones to use. My sons favourite part of the Aquarium is the outside play area. By the Otters there is a door to a large outside area. Here you will find a little splash park with fountains shooting up jets of water, boulders to climb on, play sand and little plastic seesaws. There are also picnic benches here so if it is a nice day it would be well worth bringing lunch. Also by the Otters is where you will find the toilet facilities with a large baby changing area and disabled toilets.

      Near the gift shop there is a room where you can often go and listen to a talk. Last week my son got to touch a starfish and a spider crab. There is often colouring sheets and crayons in here.

      A word of warning and the part which annoys me is the gift shop. It is a lovely little gift shop but you have to walk through it to exit which when you you have a five year old is no fun! There is also a £1 a go children's ride and a Hurricane experience booth £2.

      The Aquarium does have a cafe but it is located out the front so you will need to exit to reach this. Also next to it is a fish and chip shop. Although you are only a fifteen minute walk from a Brewers Fayre located at the funfair. There is often an ice-cream van parked up near the D-day museum. Of course if it is a nice day you might want to have a picnic which there lots of places for such as on the common opposite or on the beach.

      The Aquarium has an awful lot to offer and well worth a visit if in Portsmouth. My final tip would be to visit on a sunny day as I find it is often quieter and you can make full use of the outside play area.

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      18.02.2013 21:33
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      Blue Reef Aquarium Southsea

      The Blue Reef Aquarium
      = = = = = = = = = = =
      There are currently 5 Blue Reef Aquariums in the country. I recently visited the Portsmouth on which is easy to get to via car, bus or train. The aquarium isn't as big or well known as Sea Life Centre's but they do claim to have some beautiful displays showing various animals and their home life. There are over 40 displays which show fascinating marine life from around the world. The aquarium is family friendly which means it's suitable for people with wheelchairs and pushchairs, and with multi-level displays it means the smallest members of the family can enjoy the Aquarium too. There is a small cafe and gift shop also in the aquarium where you can enjoy a wide range of snacks, drinks and meals. The gift shop contains marine themed gifts, educational toys, cards, posters and more. The Aquarium looked very small from outside; how-ever we wanted to visit it anyway so we went here on the Sunday morning just after they opened so it wasn't too busy.

      Under water Tunnel - This was my favourite part of the Aquarium as you walk through a long tunnel with fish swimming over your head and around you. It's fascinating and beautiful looking at the corals and exotic fish such as angelfish, puffer fish and other brightly coloured fish that grab your attention. This area is quite bright and it's a beautiful place to take photographs. I could have spent longer in here watching the different fish swim over my head and around the sides of the tunnel.

      Solent Seas - This area contains lots of different species found here in UK waters. This area contains large open top tanks which include large rays and sea bream and bass. It advises you not to ouch any of the fish which may come to the surface of the water, which found a lot of the rays, did. These are beautiful animals and I loved watching them swim around the open topped tank.

      Blue Reef Nursery - The nursery provides the perfect environment for many species including clownfish and seahorses. This area is very small and although I didn't see any seahorses, we did see some small fish in their egg sacks which was quite amazing to watch as you can see them moving about. There is plenty of information about the animals in this section as well and how they help to look after the baby fish and animals.

      Predators - This section includes some of the most interesting fish and animals such as sharks, stinging jellyfish, venomous lionfish and the giant pacific octopus. I found this area quite fascinating and I particularly loved watching the lionfish and the jellyfish which I think are beautiful creatures.

      Fascinating Frogs - This area contains small tanks with lots of plants in which contain some of deadliest and most beautiful members of the amphibian family. In this area you will see the highly toxic poison dart frog and the giant cane toad. I also think these are beautiful creatures and I love how bright and colourful the frogs are. Although some of the frogs are quite bright they can be hard to find in amongst the greenery and plants.

      The Amazing Octopus - An Octopus has three hearts, blue blood and the ability to change both in shape and in colour, which is why it has terrified mankind to centuries. This is the most intelligent inhabitant in the ocean that are capable of solving complex puzzles and tests of memories. The octopus is kept in a large round tank which means you can see all the way round the tank. This was good as wherever the octopus may be you can see it.

      Otter Holt - Otter are the most enchanting and graceful aquatic mammals in the world and are adapted to life above and below the water. They have a freshwater indoor display which has natural themed surroundings for the family of Asian short claw otters. This area is quite large and has perfect viewing areas in which you can see the otters running about, playing with each other and eating. I think these animals are really cute and I could have spent much longer watching them run about on the rocks and pieces of wood.

      Sharks & Rays - These are the top predators in most food chains are the only threat is from other sharks or man. The rays are beautiful creatures and are often hard to spot as they are adapted to life by lying flat on the seabed which also makes them camouflaged as well. These are beautiful and graceful creatures are truly fascinating to watch. They only have one shark which is kept in a large tank along with rays and other fish such as large eels.

      Reverting Reptiles - This section is very small and although it states it has constricting snakes the only reptiles in this area we could see were iguana's, baby crocodiles, snapping turtles, poison frogs and giant toads. There definitely weren't any snakes and if there were we would have seen them.
      Blue Reef Beach Club - This is the aquariums newest attraction which overlooks Solent. It had its very own 50-tonne sandy beach and rock pool sandpit alongside an outdoor splash area which is complete with giant water nozzles, showers and sprays. This area is great for the children; how-ever not so good if the weather isn't particularly great.

      Feeding displays and other things go on throughout the day in the Aquarium and you can find out the times of these things by asking for a leaflet at the reception when you pay for your entry fee. A staff member may also come around the aquarium to inform you of the things that are going on during your visit here. There is plenty of information about each animal located next to the tank they are in. This information is very useful and children can learn fascinating facts about the creatures.

      Overall Opinion
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      The Aquarium is good value as when you enter you will get given a stamp on your hand which entitles you to go away and come back to the Aquarium later in the day so you can have entry all day to the aquarium so long as you show the stamp on your hand. The range of displays and information is good and is also very interesting as you learn new things about the animals and creatures in the aquarium. Some of the creatures such as the rays and jellyfish are fascinating and beautiful to watch. Children can easily see into the tanks as a lot of them are quite low down so children can enjoy watching the fish swim around in the tank. I would probably go back here again in a few years' time when visiting Portsmouth again. I could also recommend this to others as well to visit as its good value and you get to see a good range of different fish and animals.


      Admission Prices
      = = = = = = = =
      Adult - £9.75
      Child (3-4yrs, must be accompanied by an adult) - £7.50
      Seniors & Students - £8.75
      Family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children) - £32.50
      Family of 5 (2 adults & 3 children) - £39.25

      Tickets cannot be purchased online and must be purchased at the venue on arrival.

      Other Information
      = = = = = = = = =
      Getting there - I was staying at a hotel nearby with my boyfriend so this was within walking distance for us. You can catch a bus straight to the Aquarium from the Harbour Station. Alternatively it's a short walk from Southsea Centre. There is also parking available nearby for those driving.

      Blue Reef Aquarium, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, Hampshire PO5 3PB
      Tel: 023 9287 5222


      (review may also appear on ciao)

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        22.01.2012 20:48
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        Under the sea... not quite!

        I was stuck on ideas about what to do for my daughters second birthday last November. For her first birthday we had the normal party at home but it was so much hassle, I wanted to go for a relatively stress free approach. I decided I would take her out for the day on her actual birthday, and let her friends come round to play the day after. With not being able to drive last year I had to find somewhere to go on a bus route, so decided on the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay.

        Blue Reef have four aquariums around the UK, Newquay, Portsmouth, Hastings and Tynemouth. I'll be reviewing the Newquay aquarium.

        ----- Getting there -----

        The Blue Reef Aquarium is situated in the middle of Newquay, right on Towan beach. Being in the centre of Newquay there isn't actually any parking around the Aquarium but there are lots of various car parks for the town. We went by bus and it was a 5 minute walk down hill until we got there, of course that meant a tiresome push of the buggy on the way back! The train station is around a 10 minute walk away. Towan beach is signposted around Newquay so is easily found.

        ----- Opening times and admission -----

        Newquay Blue Reef Aquarium is open daily from 10am, between November and February the last admission time is 4pm, and between March and October it is 5pm.

        * Adult - £9.75
        * Child (3-14) - £7.50
        * Seniors and students - £8.75


        Family tickets are also available, 2 adults and 2 children for £32.50 or 2 adults and 3 children £39.25.

        ----- Around the aquarium -----

        The main entrance to the aquarium is quite spacious with toilets to the right and a disabled toilet with baby changing facilities. Although cramped once the change table is down, I did manage to change my daughters bum with ease.

        There is one pay till, which I imagine would be quite busy during peak season being in Newquay town centre. The lady seemed friendly enough and told me that I could leave my daughters buggy in the 'pram park' next to the till. This was incredibly helpful as I knew my daughter wouldn't want to be in her buggy around the aquarium and meant that I didn't have to lug it around with us.

        The aquarium was quite quiet when we went in November, with only seeing a couple of other people during the whole course of the walk through which meant we could take as little or as long as we wanted without getting in anybodies way. The walkways were wide enough to fit a couple of pushchairs side by side, so in summer months I think it could get cramped with lots of tourists having a visit.

        The displays and tanks were all clean and well looked after. Each tank had a little display showing information about the different creatures in each one. The first few tanks had open tops and glass walls making it easy for small and big visitors to see what was lurking inside. One tank contained mini crocs and it has to be one of my highlights of the aquarium with them watching my daughter run from one side of the tank to the other and them following her back and forwards.

        After we went past the first few open tanks we went through some of the plastic door hangings (like you'd find at the butchers and such) into a dark room with lots of different shape and size windows. It was dark and recreating being deep at sea, here we found lots of different sea creatures including lobsters and an octopus. The viewing windows made it hard for my daughter to see everything as some were quite high up. Some were small round windows, again, I think during busy months it would be hard to get a look in.

        This underwater display finished then we went through the underwater tunnel. A walk way underneath a big tank. This walkway had a sort of shelf around the edge so that younger visitors could have a good look inside. This tank contained the most exciting creatures with sharks, shoals of fish and a giant tortoise. The tunnel wasn't as long as I'd expected and after we went round a small corner in the tunnel we was at the end. At the end of the tunnel there are some steps that take you up and around the tank. At the top of these steps there is a viewing platform made completely from glass so you can look down at the tank below.

        That's the end of the aquarium, through some doors is the gift shop and café. We didn't stop to have a look in the café but it seemed spacious. The gift shop is full of the normal things you'd expect to find in this nature of gift shops, lots of lovely little sea creature teddies, sweeties and the likes. My daughter loved the foil balloons and since it was her birthday I decided she could have one, she opted for the pink dolphin, I took it to the till and found out it cost £3... How much?! So the gifts are a little on the pricey side, but that's to be expected. Between the gift shop and the café are the steps to go back down to the main reception.

        Blue Reef aquarium has many talks and feeds on throughout the day with different creatures, we didn't actually see one but there is roughly one every few hours. Blue Reef claim the aquarium is accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs, but I couldn't see a lift anywhere and with the steps up and around the big tank at the end, and the steps to leave the café and gift shop I'd imagine it would be difficult to say the least. If you are planning on visiting I would ring up and ask how accessible it really is.

        Taking photos around the aquarium is quite difficult as the flash has to be turned off so it doesn't stun the sea creatures, most of our photo's turn out blurry!

        ----- Overall -----

        We tottered our way around very slowly and still only spent an hour and a half at the aquarium so it isn't really the place to go if you want a whole day out there. If it was summer months I would imagine it would take longer after waiting to see into some of the displays.

        On the whole the tanks were nice and clean and most of them were easy to see for people of all sizes, however the few windows that can't be seen by younger children is a bit of a disappointment. The viewing platform above the big tank was a definite highlight for us, my daughter got so excited!

        Blue Reef is a nice place to go for a couple of hours out, but the price for a couple hours is quite high. I'm lucky as I only had to pay for me, if I had to pay a child price as well I think it would have been too expensive.

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          21.09.2011 19:14
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          Lovely display of sea creatures !

          The Blue Reef Aquarium and IMAX 3D Cinema in Bristol

          I was visiting Bristol for a work-related training. During my stay there, I wanted to take my daughter to visit local attractions. Through word of mouth, I learnt that Bristol Blue Reef Aquarium was an excellent place to visit. So, me my daughter and husband, decided to visit the Blue Reef Aquarium.

          Prices

          The price of the ticket was £13.50 for an adult ticket and £9.20 for a ticket for my daughter. In total, it cost me, my husband and daughter £36.20 to visit the aquarium and it was definitely worth its money! Child tickets are for children aged between 3 and 14 and they must attend the aquarium with supervision of an adult. I paid for my ticket via visa card. The price of the ticket also includes a visit to the IMAX 3D Cinema inside the Aquarium.

          Is it worth visiting?

          The Blue Reef Aquarium is definitely worth visiting and me, my husband and daughter really enjoyed our visit. As we entered the aquarium we got our ticket from the ticket desk. The staff were helpful and friendly as they issued our tickets. They also gave us a small piece of card stating the times of the IMAX 3D cinema show times and other events that were going on at the aquarium. On the side of the entrance desk, there was an aquarium shop where you could buy souvenirs. We decided that we would go to the shop last after we had seen the whole aquarium,.

          As we got into the aquarium in the afternoon, we decided we would head to the IMAX 3D Cinema first, in order to avoid missing the show. The IMAX 3D Cinema inside the Bristol Blue Reef Aquarium was very interesting. This is included in the standard ticket and you do not have to pay extra to attend the IMAX 3D Cinema. We were not allowed to take the pushchair inside the cinema for health and safety reasons, so we took our valuables with us and left the pushchair outside the cinema. We were given 3D glasses and we seated ourselves on the seats and it was very comfortable. The short movie/documentary they showed us was wonderful and it felt very real because it was in 3D. The documentary was about sea life and show all the different types of creatures under the sea. My daughter really enjoyed watching the 3D show.

          After the 3D show, we proceeded to walk through the aquarium. The Bristol blue reef aquarium has a wide range of sea life creatures and compared to other aquariums that I have visited, there is an extensive range of wild life to see! I have included pictures of the Ray and another fish that we saw at the aquarium. My daughter really loved the Ray and I think the Ray liked my daughter as it kept coming near the window of the glass to look at my daughter! My daughter was also amazed by the seahorses! The other sea creatures we saw are Blue Reef babies, Coral Reef fish, Black Tip Reef Shark etc. There is a whole range of colourful and different shaped fishes! There were more than forty living displays of sea life! There was one interesting fish tank where you could crawl underneath it and its was shaped so that you could stand in the middle of it and it would appear in photos as if you were inside the fish tank. There was a bit of a rush for this and everyone wanted to crawl under the tank so I couldn't stand around and take photos of myself in the tank for too long! There are several themed events being help at the Bristol Aquarium and in the future I hope to take my daughter there for themed event rather than a standard visit to the aquarium.

          Transport Links

          We drove to Bristol by car from London and our journey took us about three hours. It was quite a straightforward drive with the tom-tom. After arriving in Bristol we parked in a local car park and had to pay roughly £5 to par there for a few hours. By train, the nearest station is Bristol Temple Station and it is a twenty minute walk from the station. The aquarium is open from 10am every day. The postcode to use on you tom-tom or route-finder is BS1 5LL. The address of the aquarium is Blue Reef Aquarium, Anchor Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TT.

          Family Friendly

          The Blue Reef Aquarium is definitely family friendly. The aisles are wide and I was able to glide my pushchair throughout the aquarium. A baby changing facility was also available. As mentioned earlier, we not allowed to take the pushchair inside the cinema but this was for health and safety reasons (incase the fire exits were blocked).

          Conclusion

          I would definitely recommend the Blue Reef Aquarium in Bristol. The other Blue Reef aquarium branches are in Newquay, Portsmouth, Hastings and Tynemouth and I hope to visit these aquariums one day. My daughter really enjoyed viewing the fishes and other sea creatures. I will return there again in a few years on my next visit to Bristol.

          I hope you enjoyed reading my review. I will also be posting this review on other sites such as Ciao under my same username Angela150

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            13.09.2011 14:42
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            aquarium in Tynemouth

            My children have always been fascinated by marine life and really enjoy visiting aquariums. During the summer holiday I decided to treat them to a visit to the Blue reef aquarium in Tynemouth. I had heard mixed reviews form friends about this venue but decided it was worth a visit.


            Getting there.
            ************
            The aquarium is really easy to find! By car you will need to take the A1058 signposted to Tynemouth. The aquarium is well signposted and is situated on the attractive sea front just before you get to Cullercoats.Whitley bay is a bit further along the coast road and is also worth a visit!

            There is a metro station at Cullercoats and then it's about a 10 minute walk to the aquarium. There are also busses that run from Newcastle to the aquarium. There are plenty of parking bays along the sea front including disabled parking bays right outside the aquarium entrance.

            Prices and opening times.
            **********************
            The aquarium is open daily all year from 9.30 am-6 pm.

            An adult ticket costs £8.30 and a child ticket from 3-14 costs £5.95. Under 3's are free.

            It is possible to buy a family ticket- £26.50 for 2 adults and 2 children or £31.50 for a family of 5.

            Is it worth the outlay?
            *******************
            My first impressions of the aquarium was how small it appeared. I had been expected a much larger building. However not to be deterred we ventured in. There are toilets opposite the entrance desk including a baby change area and a toilet for disabled visitors.

            The aquarium is split into sections with the various oceans and seas of the planet featured. There is a North Sea display showing what is lurking under our local waters and another showing the beautiful Mediterranean.

            One of the highlights for my children was the huge ocean tank with a walk through tunnel. The tank displays the barrier reef and has tropical fish, sharks and stingrays to name a few .We spent quite some time observing the inhabitants at close range.

            Another highlight was watching the fascinating otters. They are housed in a spacious Holt and when we visited were very active. It is possible to watch the otters feeding time, although we sadly managed to miss out on this experience as I misread the information board!

            Most of the displays are inside, making this a good place to visit when the weather is poor. The one exception is the seals cove. This is a large area with a walkway allowing you to observe the seals both out of the water and underneath it. We did manage to watch the seals being fed; although space was a bit limited as the aquarium was very busy.

            In addition to marine life there is an Amazon display. This was another highlight for all of us and contained some adorable miniature monkeys. We all enjoyed watching their antics for ages! There are also poison dart frogs and various other frogs and toads.

            There were staff on hand to answer questions and there are educational talks throughout the day. The times for these are posted on the board at the admissions desk.

            The aquarium also has events on offer such as a shark day. These are listed on the blue reef aquarium web site.

            The café.
            ********
            There is a small café serving light refreshments and meals. Like most cafes within an attraction the prices were steep! We had packed a picnic and decided to eat on the beach following our visit. I can't comment on the quality of the food but it looked ok from what I could see. There is also a small gift shop selling overpriced marine themed gifts.

            The pros.
            ********
            I really like the way all the tanks have been designed to allow even the smallest people to be able to view well. The walkways are both pushchair and wheelchair friendly. All the displays are well explained with and the staff were friendly and informative.

            The otters and seals appear to have plenty of space and were great fun to watch. The walkthrough tunnel was also really enjoyable; especially watching the sharks swim overhead!

            There is a lovely stretch of sandy beach to explore opposite the aquarium making this a really good day out for all the family.

            The cons.
            ********
            This is a fairly small aquarium and I think the entrance price is very steep. I really object to family tickets consisting of 2 adults and 2 children! What about single parents? On a busy day some of the displays can feel a bit cramped especially the seal cove at feeding time!

            Overall we all enjoyed our day out although it really doesn't take that long to see all that is on offer and I think you would struggle to spend a whole day at this aquarium. I am not sure we will be in any hurry to return, although we would be interested to experience one of the events days.

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              15.06.2011 22:21
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              Blue Reef won't leave you feelibe blue

              I've always loved fish (live ones, not with chips!) and been amazed at the variety of life the sea contains. As such, I'm also a bit of a sucker for aquariums, sea life centres and if there's one nearby, I just have to go and visit it When I heard that the Blue Reef Aquarium was in Tynemouth, I was in that car before Mrs SWSt knew what was happening!

              The aquarium is very easy to find, mainly because Tynemouth is not actually that large, so it's quite tricky to get lost there. Ironically, when you arrive on the main road into Tynemouth, you turn away from the town centre and head out on the road which runs along the coast. The aquarium (which is well signed) is just a couple of minutes down the road.

              Although some parking is available at the centre, there is also ample free on-street parking down some of the side streets just a few minutes' walk from the centre. This is where we parked and our car was fine.

              The aquarium is housed in a large purpose-built building. The foyer inside is a little bit sterile and rather reminded me of old-style swimming baths. Space in this lobby is fairly limited, mainly consisting of a gift shop (selling the usual zoo and aquarium type tat) a cafe (OK for basics, but not that much on offer food-wise) and the ticket kiosk. There's also a small display of fish so you can see a few for free to whet your appetite before making your way through into the main aquarium.

              The aquarium itself is massive. I have no idea how many tanks there are, but Mrs SWSt and I spent well over two and a half hours there. There appear to be little corridors lined with tanks leading off in all direction (although everything is well signed, so it's impossible to get lost).

              Tanks are very well laid out and spaced out sufficiently so that you can get close enough to peer inside and get a really good look, without feeling that you are blocking someone else's view or stopping them from getting past.

              Pretty much every tank has an information board displaying details of the fish inside, their preferred foods, behaviour and any notable features. These were really well written and interesting to read. They were also very well pitched, containing enough detail for adults to find them interesting but short enough for kids to read without getting bored. A smattering of "interesting facts" were also aimed at children, revealing surprising things about some of the fish, (in fact these were just as much fun for adults to read!). If kids did get bored of staring into the tanks, there are a number of "rubbings" scattered around the place, where kids can make outline drawings of different fish on pen and paper.

              What astounded me was the sheer amount of variety of creatures on display. Once you've been to a number of aquaria, you start to see the same thing in the same layout - tanks of fish which are common to British waters then those native to more tropical climes etc. As well as these, Blue Reef also had lots of other creatures that were a bit different: an outside tank contained several seals, there was an otter pool, an amphibian section containing spiders and frogs and even a small Amazon area housing some amazingly cute pygmy marmosets and other furry creatures.

              This level of variety means you get so much more than just fish and. Everyone will have their favourite creature of course (mine was the pygmy marmosets), but you're never quite sure what you're going to see around the next corner. Whilst it has some features common to most aquariums (ray tank, shark tunnel etc.), Blue Reef also offers something a little different.

              Particularly fascinating was a large octopus in a tank of its own. This really seemed to enjoy showing off, and swam around the tank, giving a stunning view of its tentacles, suckers and bulbous head. It's unlikely that many of us will ever have the chance to study such a beautiful creature this close in the wild and it really helps you to appreciate how incredible it is.

              At regular intervals throughout the day, you see some of the creatures being fed and hear a talk about them. The timings for these are very clearly listed on a number of boards around the aquarium, giving you chance to plan your visit around these if you want to. Loud speaker announcements are also made 10 minutes or so before a talk to give you time to make your way to the relevant area.

              Normally I wouldn't bother with this sort of thing, but we just happened to be by the otter pool as one was starting and so stayed to watch and listen. Overall, it was really interesting and well delivered, containing exactly the right balance of information about otters generally and about the four living at Tynemouth specifically. The only criticism was that the person delivering it could have done with a microphone. Although she delivered her talk in a loud, clear voice, the constant chatter of other people going past or the excited shrieks of kids did mean that she was occasionally drowned out by the background noise.

              Blue Reef can get very, very busy. We went in early July - just before the main school holidays, but it was still pretty packed. Although there wasn't much of a queue to get the tickets once we were inside it was full of schoolchildren on a school trip. At times, moving around or getting to see into the tanks close-up could be a problem, as there were lots of other people trying to do the same. It was also very noisy. The aquarium is housed in an enclosed space with a low roof and sounds echo around quite a lot. Much though I enjoyed it, I did leave with a pounding headache caused mostly by the noise. I would imagine that, during the main tourist season, these issues are magnified.

              Cost-wise, Blue Reef offers very good value for money. 2010 admission prices are: Adults £8.30 (concessions £7.20) and Children £5.95. For the amount of animals you get to see and the length of time you could spend in there, I have no complaints about that price. Mrs SWSt and I spent well over two hours in there and could easily have spent much longer.

              Blue Reef Aquarium is definitely well worth a visit. It offers a deeply interesting and well though-out view of all sorts of marine life and will delight both children and adults.

              Basic Information
              -------------------------
              Blue Reef Aquarium
              Grand Parade,
              Tynemouth
              Tyne & Wear
              NE30 4JF
              Tel 01912581031
              http://www.bluereefaquarium.co.uk/tynemouth.htm

              © Copyright SWSt 2011

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              22.05.2011 22:35
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              a great way to pass the time

              ***This review is based solely on Newquay aquarium.***

              As many of you will know I have recently come back from Cornwall. This is one of the places we took the kids for the day.

              Newquay blue reef aquarium is situated above Towan beach at the bottom of Newquay.

              The website claims......
              'Situated on Towan Beach in the centre of Newquay, opposite the famous island, the Blue Reef Aquarium is a stunning visit.
              Be amazed by the local marine species from the Cornish coast to hundreds of tropical species in the gigantic ocean display complete with underwater tunnel.'

              Well I wouldn't call it gigantic........


              Upon arrival you are given a ticket which is valid all day and a list of feeding times and also an opportunity to buy the guide book priced at £2.99 which I was conned into by my 4 year old. The staff were all friendly and pleasant although we did feel rushed in places like the shop and restaurant. In the reception there is also a penny press and ride on submarine.

              ***It is very warm inside the aquarium we ending up having to remove layers of clothing***

              ***Cost***
              To be honest for what it was I found it very expensive at
              -adult-£9.50
              -child-£7.30 (3-14)
              -family-£30
              I thought that due to the size of the aquarium the entrance cost was steep, as I paid for 3 adults and 1 child it did start to mount with also the restaurant and gifts. This was however my only problem with the aquarium.

              ***Opening times***
              10am until 5pm daily during holiday season. Last admissions are an hour before closing.

              ***Accessible?***
              There are 2 lifts one upto the gift store and one to the tunnel and there is a ramp into the building. The gift shop is VERY small and difficult to navigate with a pushchair.

              ***What kinds of fish are there***
              It would be easier to ask what's not there!!! At the start of the tour you have the British species such as Bass and Pollock leading on to the sea-horses and crabs. Then into a large tank room containing of all things a alligator and other small fish and turtles. Through the corridors to the octopus and tropical fishes I did get particularly excited at this point when I saw a puffer-fish!!! Then onto the greatest bit the under water tunnel which was amazing and a definite crowd pleaser-the only problem is that it is rather small!! It contains giant turtles sharks and sting rays amongst other things. We then took the life up to the top of the tank and other smaller tanks containing clown fish etc and then out into the gift store and restaurant area.

              ***What will my children learn?***
              There are touch screen computers in every room around the aquarium which tells them about all the fish/species in that room and some interesting facts etc.

              ***Gift shop***
              One word expensive!!! No real surprise there though. I managed to spend the best part of £20 on 2 snow globes, 4 tiny plastic shells, a colouring book and a magnet. I was admittedly shocked at the price of the plastic fish at £6 each or £12 for a teddy- I nearly passed out!!! I do admit though that they do have a great selection of gifts ranging from eco-bags and candles to the usual tacky plastic toys. Its just so small that you really cant navigate around it with a buggy, and therefore ending up buying anything the kids see just to get out of there. As I mentioned there is also a penny press in the reception which my kids loved doing and this was cheap 50p a go.

              ***Restaurant***
              This is located on the top floor overlooking some of the exhibits and reception. Again expensive but I found it worth it. The food was lovely and fresh. We paid around £25-£30 for 3 lots of lasagne and chips and 2 lots of chips and nuggets. The meals were all of decent portion size with salad on the side. The dining area looked clean and tidy and we couldn't see any mess. The staff were friendly and polite. The children were also given little activity packs containing a colouring book and crayons with their meal. The restaurant overlooks the beach and sea with amazing views.

              ***Overall impressions***
              Despite the entry cost and the prices in the gift shop and restaurant I would recommend a visit I will be going again)as it's a definite crowd pleaser, yes it is small but it does pack a lot in!! The main reasons for me are these-
              The range of fish and animals.
              The food there is great as is the quality of most of the gifts.
              Its location is great above the beach it passes an hour or two.
              It teaches children via the interactive computers dotted around.

              I am only awarding 4 stars, it loses one because of the price of admission i know thats petty but when you are paying for the amount of people i was it is expensive.

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                15.09.2010 15:21
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                Worth while if you want a hassle free party

                I recently took a group of 7 year old children to the blue reef aquarium in Bristol, it was a party booking and whilst expensive, in comparison to the cost it would have been to go as a family it was relatively affordable.
                The staff at the aquarium were absolutely great and the girl who took us round was brilliant. Whilst other kids were racing around looking briefly in each tank before racing off to the next display our guide pointed out something interesting in each tank, asked the children questions and got them to look for particular items.
                Without the guide Im afraid to say we would have not been able to keep the childrens attention and the visit to the aquarium, which is very small, would have been brief considering the rather expensive entry prices.
                The food set up for the party was good - the party food is limited to pizza/nuggets/ fishfingers etc with fruit and a drink - and individual orders are taken on the day rather than pre-ordering weeks before. The kids loved the aquarium fish mascot who came to visit our table and it caused quite a stir around the eating area which made the party children feel special.
                I had been carefully advised on a good party time in order to get round the aquarium and eat in time to watch the IMAX film and we were taken into reserved seating just as the film was about to start - very VIP. However whilst the kids loved the 3D glasses the novelty of the 3D film wore off quickly as they didnt find the film itself very engaging.
                By coincidence I happened to meet a friend who was visiting the aquarium on the same day and and their experience was not as positive as ours. Whilst her children enjoyed looking in all the tanks they had very quickly got round the aquarium, they didnt enjoy the film and the parents who were trying to get what they felt would be their moneys worth out of the visit were tired of being asked if it was time to go to the aquarium shop yet.
                Overall the party was expensive (there is a minimum number of children in a party) but it was an easy party to organise and our guide was the best that we could have asked for. Would I go again - probably not as it just isnt big enough for the entry prices that they are asking.

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                10.06.2010 13:05
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                A great day trip for all the family

                After a recent interview in the centre of Bristol, I had some time to kill and decided to treat myself to something different. I love animals and find fish fascinating as well as relaxing so thought that the recently opened Blue Reef Aquarium would be an interesting idea.

                Blue Reef Aquarium is situated in the centre of Bristol on Millennium Square, very easy to find with good bus routes, and if you are driving to the Aquarium there is adequate parking at Millennium square.

                Upon entering the aquarium I was greeted by a member of staff who was very enthusiastic about their job, which was a nice start as he informed me all about the different things that we going on that day, including feeding times and IMAX film showings.

                As you enter the first part of the aquarium you find yourself in a sunken boat, where you can view the first of the fish. The themes change as you go through the venue including the rain forest, the Amazon, and the Bristol Harbour side. All of these have different fish included in them which is an interesting way for this to be presented, especially for children who from what I saw seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the themes, especially when they could climb and look through the portholes making it seem that they were in with the amazing collection of fish.

                Around halfway through the Aquarium you find yourself in a large section with questions on the wall, this is a section to stave off any boredom with your children. There are around 10 questions for children to answer which are all based around the fish they will have already seen on their trip around the aquarium. As well as the quiz game there is also a collection of tables where children can colour in some fish pictures which are then collected and put up on the walls, which I think is a really nice idea.

                I was in the Aquarium for around 3 hours and in that time there was plenty to do and see. I am one of those people who reads all of the information on everything though, so for those who don't and just like to look at the fish I imagine your trip could be a bit shorter.

                My favourite part of the trip was either the jellyfish which for some reason I found really relaxing to watch, or a personal favourite the rays of which the aquarium has a few varieties.

                I also managed to learn a thing or two about fish that I never knew before such as the fact that the puffer fish can only inflate itself between four and ten times in it's lifetime or it will die, this is due to the fact that to inflate it uses a massive amount of energy.

                Included in the admission price is a showing of an IMAX 3d film, I took advantage of this as the one showing was whales and dolphins and as a dolphin lover it was definitely worth it. The only downside to the IMAX showing is that it was a little longer than I thought it would be, and I did see quite a few people leaving early especially those with children as I image for them sitting still and quiet for that length of time could be a challenge.

                The blue reef aquarium in Bristol hosts a few events and these running in the next few weeks are world ocean day, a special fathers day as well as pirates weekend in July. The aquarium also hosts children's birthday parties these come in three different themes including Pirates, sharks and mermaids, definitely one to please all of the children out there.

                Blue Reef aquarium also has it's own restaurant and shop although I didn't use either on this particular trip. The restaurant has a range of drinks, snacks and meals.

                OPENING TIMES -
                10 - 5 weekdays
                10 - 6 weekends & school holidays
                The aquarium is closed on Christmas day only.

                ADMISSION PRICES -
                Adult - £13.50
                Child (3 -14) - £9.20
                Seniors & students - £11.50
                Family of four (2 adults & 2 children) - £43.40

                For more information and to get a £1 off voucher for a trip check out the website at www.bluereefaquarium.co.uk

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                  09.04.2010 14:18
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                  The most recent Blue Reef Aquarium

                  The Blue Reef Aquarium in Bristol is the most recent one to open, the four others being located in Portsmouth, Hastings, Newquay and Tynemouth. I have to admit that the adult admission charge of £13.50 initially sounded high to me, but we were in Bristol on a wet afternoon and it seemed a good way to spend some time.

                  The first section of the aquarium that visitors enter has very low lighting and a series of tanks of various sizes. I was particularly fascinated by the jellyfish floating slowly and gracefully, and the pipefish that are almost camouflaged amongst the water weeds. Some of the tanks go right down to floor level, making it easy for young children to get a good view of the fish.

                  Emerging from this area, you continue in a light, spacious area that is also hot and humid. Rocks, small trees and a water feature add atmosphere to the pools and tanks here. There is a gradual slope to climb, but it is easily negotiable by pushchairs and presumably wheelchairs too. You can watch ray fish hide on the bottom of an open tank and then come right up to the surface to greet you.

                  Although this is a beautiful part of the aquarium, it's a relief to get away from the heat and humidity as you enter another low-lit, cooler area. As well as a series of small tanks with fish and sea anemones, this has a huge open tank that you can look down into and watch small sharks, ray fish and other species weaving in and out of the coral. Some of the smaller tanks have deep concave windows so that you can peer right in and see what's happening right at the top or the bottom. To one side is an eerie area that resembles a mangrove swamp, but I couldn't detect any fish swimming in its waters.

                  There are toilets in this area as well as a number of small tables and chairs where young children can sit for a while and have a look at the worksheets that are provided here. This probably marks the halfway point of the visit, so it is a good place for families to stop and have a break. Don't miss the seahorses - you can actually crawl under the tank and get into a domed area in the centre of the tank for an inside view. The angelfish are beautiful too, and it is hard to believe that the little red-bellied piranhas can be so lethal.

                  Soon it's back to the hot, humid area, and down the wooden slope to the open tank where the turtles are a star attraction. Sometimes they enjoy sitting on the rocks at the edge of the tank, basking in the light, but they also love swimming among the fish and are likely to come right up to the surface, just like the ray fish. Again, there is plenty for young children to see here at a low level.

                  Out of the humid heat and this time into a tunnel with stunning coral reefs and gorgeously coloured fish on either side and above you. Everyone wants to stop and watch for a few minutes, so it is likely to be crowded here. Then you move into the final low-lit area, where you can see a leopard eel, slender crawfish and rainbow fish amongst others. The visit ends with a huge wall-to-ceiling tank containing more coral reefs and several of the smaller, most colourful species of fish.

                  We arrived at the aquarium at about quarter to three and just as we started our visit there was announcement that the final 3D film showing of the day was about to take place in the IMAX cinema. We decided against going to see this, so I can't comment on how interesting it is. The announcer said that pushchairs could not be taken into the cinema but that there was a special place to leave them outside. The Blue Reef website also states that feeding displays take place in the aquarium, but there was no sign of any during our visit. They may take place earlier in the day.

                  I enjoyed visiting the aquarium more than I expected to and could appreciate why the ticket price is high. We spent about an hour and a half there, but had we watched a film and visited the cafe we would obviously have stayed longer. Our local Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth is much smaller than this and the adult ticket price is £9.50, but the Bristol Aquarium is obviously far superior. There are of course discounted tickets for children, students and seniors as well as family tickets.

                  The aquarium is situated close to the harbourside, bordering on Millenium Square. We took a taxi from Temple Meads station as it was pouring with rain, but it is a walkable distance, perhaps twenty minutes. The Blue Reef is open every day of the year except Christmas day from 10am. The aquarium has easy access for pushchairs and wheelchairs, and baby-changing facilities are available. The cafe serves meals, snacks and drinks and there is a gift shop selling educational toys are well as souvenirs related to marine life. For families with children it is an experience that is both enjoyable and educational, and it is an ideal way to spend time in Bristol if the weather is bad. My grown-up children and their partners found it fascinating, and I was definitely impressed.

                  Blue Reef Bristol Aquarium & IMAX Cinema
                  Anchor Road
                  Harbourside
                  Bristol
                  BS1 5TT

                  www.bluereefaquarium.co.uk

                  Also posted on other sites.

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                    13.10.2009 16:22
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                    Definitely worth a visit

                    Blue Reef Aquarium - Tynemouth

                    I live in the Tynemouth area so this place is easy to get to for me. It also has ample parking and is easy to find if you are not local. (Follow the A19 taking the A1058 (Coast Road) signposted to Tynemouth. Follow signs towards Tynemouth seafront and there it is, opposite the Longsands - if you go on a nice day, why not take a bucket and spade and visit the Longsands too, this stretch of beach will not fail to impress).

                    The Blue Reef Aquarium boasts over 40 species including sharks, seahorses, various fish, giant Pacific octopus, poison dart frogs, turtles, terrapins and a family of friendly and fun asian otters. The shark tunnel is great and allows you to walk underneath while these mighty creatures swim above.

                    They also have seal cove, where you can see the fab and friendly seals - try to get there for feeding time if you can, they put on a great show which will be loved by children and adults alike.

                    This place isn't massive but it has a lot to see. There is also a cafe and gift shop and the facilities are clean and convenient. It caters well for children and has lots of information in a child-friendly format as you go round, so it manages to be educational and fun at the same time.

                    Admission Prices
                    Adult £7.75
                    Child 3 - 14 years £5.75
                    (must be accompanied by an adult)
                    Seniors & Students £6.75
                    Family of 4 £24.00
                    (2 adults and 2 children)
                    Family of 5 £27.50
                    (2 adults and 3 children)

                    To recap, the aquarium offers a fun and informative day out for chilrren and adults alike, definitely worth a visit.

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                    06.08.2009 15:32
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                    I only ever contemplate this in very bad weather!

                    There are four Blue Reef Aquariums located in the UK:
                    ~ Newquay
                    ~ Porstmouth
                    ~ Hastings
                    ~ Tynemouth

                    The latter one is approx 10 minutes drive from where I live. Formerly known as the Sea Life Centre, I've visited a few times on very wet days to amuse the nieces and nephews.

                    - Admission Prices -

                    This isn't cheap!
                    Adult - £7.75
                    Child (aged 3-14) - £5.75
                    Senior & Students - £6.75
                    Family of 4 - £24
                    Family of 5 - £27.50

                    There's also an option of becoming an annual member, which I really should contemplate as since it's so nearby, I would probably save quite a bit and use it more often:
                    Adult - £22
                    Child (age 3 - 14) - £18
                    Senior & Students - £20
                    Family of 4 - £65

                    Additional benefits include:
                    Free Admission for a full year to all Blue Reef Aquariums.
                    £1 off the full admission price for accompanying friends and family
                    £1 off the full price for children's birthday parties.

                    - Opening Times -

                    Daily from 10am
                    Last admission is 5pm (4pm November - February)
                    Closed on Christmas Day only.

                    - Location -

                    This is easily spotted, just outside of Tynemouth, right on the sea front. The nearest Metro stations are Cullercoats and Tynemouth but allow approx 15 - 20 mins walk.
                    There's quite a bit of parking along the sea front, priced at 80p for 2 hours.

                    - Inside -

                    Depending on whether or not they are having a busy day, the entrance is usually at the front but on busier days is at the side of the building as they use the 'official' entrance as an exit.

                    In the entrance area there is a small gift shop, a café, the tills at which to pay for your entrance, the toilets and a small tank of fish and turtles.
                    Once you have paid you each get a stamp of something that resembles a very basic fish head. On entering the double doors in to the main section of the aquarium, there are little stools, much what we used at home for the youngsters to stand on to reach the sink. It really is a good idea to take one of these with you if you have children under about 7 or 8 as many of the displays aren't at their eye level and your arms will ache by the end from lifting them up to see all of the things! My niece is 8 and of average height and this is the first time we haven't needed to lift her up more than twice.

                    The corridors through which you walk are quite narrow and on a busy day, prepare yourself to be shoulder to shoulder in some places with complete strangers! It is quite dark in most of the corridors which emphasises the tanks. Quite a lot of the tanks are set in corridors but there are other areas which are large rooms such as the stingrays, lobsters, otters and seals.
                    There are pictures of most of the fish in the tanks with information about them. Since becoming a little older my niece showed a lot more interest in the information about them but the problem was that because of the positioning of many of the posters and the darkness of some of the areas, the writing was quite difficult to make out. The information is extremely detailed and appropriate for adults and I found myself having to scan some of it and translate it in to child friendly information.
                    I can understand that they are catering for adults who are interested in sea life but I do think that there is a case for them to then create little bits of information for children and positioned at a level that is appropriate to them. After all, in each of my visits the only adults I have ever seen are those accompanied by children!

                    There are little quiz questions intermittently placed on walls near different tanks, that children can turn with different options on but the answers are nowhere to be seen. There also areas to take rubbings of fish but no paper or crayons were given out or clearly available on our entry to the displays.
                    The range of sea life on show is very good, for example:
                    -Fascinating Frogs - a few deadly frogs and toads are shown in this area.

                    -Otters - this is a large room in which about 4 - 6 'toddler' otters are in full view. You can see them playing above the water and also see how they swim by bending down and watching them through the glass walls. This was a very busy area and it's quite hard to find a good spot. Be prepared for a foul stench.... You know when you are near them as you can smell them through the preceding corridors.

                    -Tropical fish area which is really very beautiful to look at, given the colours of the fish.

                    -A large octopus - we found this fascinating as got to it just at the right time as it came moving over to the front glass. We could clearly see it's suckers and how it changed colour in order to become more camouflaged. This is the only area where you are requested not to take photos as apparantly it is very sensitive to flash lights.

                    -Nursery - This houses some baby fish and fascinating Dogfish in pouches that you can see moving and breathing. It also houses a few rock pools and skeletons of shark and fish jaws.

                    -There is a large tank with small black tipped sharks and other fish. These creatures can be seen from different areas. Finally through a short walk through tunnel at the end of the aquarium where you can see them swimming above and to the sides of you. There are also a couple of shark talk and feed sessions throughout the day which is announced with approx 5 minutes warning.

                    -The seal cove - This is an outdoor area situated towards the end of the building. On entering the area you are faced with a very large glass wall, you are then able to walk outside in either direction to the surface of the pool. You are therefore able to see the seals above and below the water. There are a few talk and feeding times with the seals which can be checked out on the website. We missed it this visit but my niece had already seen it on her school trip so it wasn't too much of a travesty!

                    ~ The Gift shop ~
                    The small size of this is very apparent on a busy day. It sells a wide range of toys relating to seal life, along with many things that bear no relation to the sea, for example pens, rubbers, jewellery.

                    Disadvantages
                    ~ Information isn't always child-friendly.
                    ~ It's quite expensive for one to two hours entertainment.
                    ~ Since when have children become adults at 15? 14+ and you are charged as an adult, not very fair.
                    ~ Not all of the signs match the creatures that are in the tanks.

                    Advantages
                    ~ Something to kill an hour or so on a miserable weather day.
                    ~ Educational.

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                      14.07.2009 16:09
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                      Well worth a visit!

                      This review relates to the Portsmouth Blue Reef Aquarium only as I have never been to the others.

                      DESCRIPTION OF THE AQUARIUM
                      When you enter the building you come into a large light and airy reception area, the size of it is great because if it is raining it means it is unlikely you will end up lining up out of the door! We joined the line and must have been served within one minute. You are given a stamp on your hand so you can return the rest of the day which is great if you want to leave for lunch or simply come back later.

                      As you enter the aquarium itself you pass a few tanks of fish (which my niece found ordinary and boring) and then you are hit by the rays. Personally, for both myself, my partner and my niece this was the best part of the whole day. There is a large tank in the middle which the rays are in and you can get to almost all the edges of this and also can climb up some steps to get to a viewing platform in order to see the rays from a birds eye view. The top of the tank is open but it is requested that you do not touch the rays due to potential damage to them from human skin. There are a number of different types of ray in this tank and they are a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. When I visited (July 2009) there was also a section of the tank cornered off for the baby rays which was lovely to see. Also in this tank we spotted a lobster, a crab, a small shark and a number of other fish. Towards the side of the ray fish there is a much smaller tank with some small seahorses in it, this was also very interesting as they were a rare species of them with unusually large stomachs!

                      Upon leaving this room there is a ceiling high window looking into another generously sized tank which contained a few more ray fish, eels and an amazing zebra shark (who was actually spotty!), which provided entertainment for a short while. In this tank was also a moray eel which had its head sticking out of the rock on the ground. As you proceed round this tank there are more viewing windows so you can get a fantastic view of the fish wherever they may be hiding!

                      As you progress further you reach the more tropical fish. This included my personal favourite, the lion fish. There are a number of tanks in this area and a vast amount of various fish and other species (such as hermit crabs) in them. In this area you will also find the Clownfish (Nemo's!)

                      You will then reach the aquariums walk through tunnel which children and adults both find truely amazing. There are a number of fish and creatures in here and the use of lighting in the tank makes all of the creatures easily visable. The tunnel is of a good length making it easy to look at all the creatures. It provides you with the real feel as though you are actually swimming with them.

                      Carrying on you will find a large pond which is usually full of carps (they weren't there on my visit-July 2009 because of a leakage within the tank). You will also find what is described as a 'giant' octopus. Don't be fooled-we couldn't find the octopus upon first looks but it is actually much smaller than you may have been led to believe!

                      Progressing further through the aquarium you will reach the otters, here you will also find the toilets as I think they may be the only ones in the aquarium. The aquarium houses 3 Asian Short Claw otters, 2 girls and one boy. Depending on what sort of mood they are in, you can spend a short while being entertained by them and watching them go about their pen in a convoy. The otters have a musty smell which is typical of all otters and should be expected when entering this part of the aquarium.

                      If you choose to go outside you will find the Blue Reef Beach Club which consists of a small sandy beach and a splash zone for kids, make sure you take a towel as they are likely to get soaked through! Here you will also find a pirates bridge, a rock pool and a generous amount of picnic benches, perfect for having lunch while the kids play! There are also some turtles housed outside here.

                      When you go back inside to where the otters are you will also find various kinds of lizard, a chameleon and a snake which adds some great variation for the day. Progressing round the corner you are greeted by a number of different frogs which are all weird and wonderful colours.

                      Continuing through you will find the Snapping Turtle which was donated to the aquarium by somebody who had purchased it as a pet when it was the size of a 50p piece and had now outgrown the washing up bowl it was living in (it is now around the size of a domesticated rabbit). The turtle provided great entertainment and kids of all ages were amazed by it and spent a long time watching it swim around its tank. Both times we viewed the turtle it was swimming up against the glass ready for visitors!

                      You will then reach the Blue Reef Nursery which is a fairly small section of the aquarium consisting of around 6 tanks where you can see the babies of the larger fish. In here when we visited were baby seahorses. The lighting used and the size of the tanks make the subject easy to view and spot.

                      You will then reach the gift shop which is of a good size. Prices vary and some may be thought of as a little steep whilst others are reasonable.. In here you can buy soft toys, stationary and toys. There is also a Blue Reef Cafe situated outside of the aquarium.

                      ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
                      The aquarium in Portsmouth is situated on the sea front. There is no parking for the aquarium itself but there is pay and display right outside of the building. The charges for this are £1.10 for an hour and thereafter cost around £1 per hour. It is open daily from 10am to 5pm (4pm in winter).

                      Admission prices are as follows:
                      Adult £9
                      Child (Aged 3-14) £7
                      Senior and Students £8.25
                      Family of 4 £27
                      Family of 5 £29
                      There was also a sign up when we visited stating a special offer for familys with more than 3 children.

                      MY OPINION
                      I really enjoyed my day out at Blue Reef, as did my partner and niece. It was slightly disappointing that you have to pay extra to park, especially as in my personal opinion, prices for entry to the aquarium are already fairly steep. However, you can transfer tesco clubcard vouchers, which makes the day much more reasonably priced. I found the aquarium to be fairly small, we were round and out within an hour and a half but the stamp which allows you to visit all day is useful as it means you can come back for another look later. The majority of the tanks are of a vast size and for the larger tanks a number of viewing points are there meaning you can view the tank wherever the fish may be. My niece really enjoyed the splash zone and was desperate to go back later, I would recommend bringing a spare set of clothes or a swimsuit though as if they stay there too long they will get soaked! The staff were helpful and polite. Please do check with staff the actual feeding times as we waited around for 10 minutes for a talk and it never actually took place despite being advertised on the board. Other than this, I thought it was a very nice day out, well worth going for a look.

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