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The Rays Were Amazing!
Blue Reef Aquarium (England)
Member Name: lyndsey1989
Blue Reef Aquarium (England)
Advantages: Good Sized Tanks
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.
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:
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.
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.
Summary: Well worth a visit!
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