I am a massive animal lover - I love going to zoos, farms and aquariums and I can't seem to get enough of them. I study Environmental Studies and I think zoos and aquariums have a very important role in conservation (despite what the Born Free foundation might think).
On a recent trip to London with my boyfriend we were planning on going round the Natural History Museum and seeing all the dinosaurs, but it was a school holiday and the queue was OUTRAGEOUS. We were told it would be 2 hours to get in and I can't bear to think what it would be like inside! So we decided to give it a miss and just went on a wonder to see what else we could do.
At lunch I had the great idea of visiting the aquarium and googled where it was on my phone only to find out we were just around the corner so we paid a visit.
The Aquarium is located on the South Bank of the River Thames, just 100m or so past the London Eye and over the bridge from Big Ben. The nearest train station is Waterloo which is about 10 minutes' walk away.
=Queue and price=
Despite being the Easter Holidays, we only had to queue behind two or three people before we could go in. We went at around 3pm, though, which is probably later than most people. There are spiralling barriers up outside to guide the queue and if these were full I imagine the queue would take over an hour. There were some very friendly people outside to answer any questions before you go in and I imagine talking to the queue when it's large.
During the summer months the aquarium is open from 10am until 7pm and last entry at 6pm.
The standard entry for an adult is £20.70. Children are £15 and you can get a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) for £64.26. If you buy online you can save money (10%) so if you know in advance that you're going, it's well worth pre-booking. It's also worth mentioning that if you are visiting after 3pm there is a special online ticket that gives you 25% off - definitely a good idea because it's quieter as well.
If you're planning on visiting any other attractions have a look at the combi offers on the website - you can save money if you buy tickets for more than one attraction at a time.
We were told that you can get buy one get one free on tickets if you've travelled with national rail to get there (which we had). You need a HARD copy of the voucher to claim this offer. A e-voucher is not accepted (which I find a bit odd in this day and age) and you need to present your tickets as well. The vouchers are available from all national rail train stations so if you're not sure just ask at the information desk at the station (not underground stops).
I was impressed with the number of species in the aquarium. There was nothing that really surprised me or amazed me because I've seen them all before (as I've mentioned earlier I visit a lot of aquariums), but it was still fantastic.
My highlights were their two huge Green Turtles (we managed to see one right in front of us swimming about - magical!) and the Rays because I just think their little faces are so funny!
There weren't as many 'hands-on' experiences that are common of aquariums. They Ray exhibit had signs everywhere telling you not to touch them, but unfortunately because it was a shallow pool, many people were. I wanted to say something as it makes me really cross when people don't obey the signs in animal attractions - they are there for a reason! There was a nice starfish petting pool with an aquarium worker there to talk to you about starfish - it was designed for children, but I had a go anyway!
There is a good mix between large and small tanks so you can see big fish swimming around, but also see smaller fish up close. You can even go under one of the tanks and get a really good view - like you're in the water.
One great thing about this aquarium is that it has penguins! That was a real treat, although I didn't like their exhibit much - it was a bit small in my opinion. I think they could have a really nice outdoor pool that you can see either through a window or by actually going outside. Instead it was a room that is made to look like the arctic (but actually looks quite cheap and tacky). It was still nice to see them though.
The aquarium is fairly dark and probably a little claustrophobic so it might not be the best idea if you don't like this sort of thing.
It is a Sea Life aquarium and there is also one in Brighton that I have been to a few times. I have to say that I prefer the one in Brighton, but that is not to say London was a let-down - it was still good.
It took us about an hour and a half to go round, but we weren't stopping to take photos. I imagine it would take longer with children. There is a gift shop at the end which had lots of fun novelty items, but quite expensive.
Overall I had a really great time! The original price without buy one get one free would be far too much in my opinion, but for what I paid it was a fantastic afternoon. As I've said I prefer Sealife in Brighton because they just have more room to work with - at times this one did feel a little cramped.
4/5 - undiscounted entry is far too expensive, but it's a great trip if you're in London (especially if the weather is bad).