“ Address: Eastern Esplanade / Southend-on-sea / Essex / SS1 2ER „
Sealife Adventure is located in Southend, Essex. It is right along the seafront and has it's own carpark. It is a pay and display carpark but you can also use it to go elsewhere. There is a nearby fun park called 'Adventure Island' which has a number of rides and attractions (I've written a review of it if you wanted to know more!).
Getting to Sealife Adventure is really easy. Just follow the A13 to reach Southend, once you are there follow the signs to the seafront. There are 2 train stations in Southend, both in walking distance to Sealife Adventure. It is nearby a building called The Kursaal and is hard to miss - just look for the big, blue building.
Admission prices are £6.75 per adult, £5.00 per child (4-12 years) and £5.50 per senior citizen. They also do family tickets of 2 adults and 2 children for £21.00 or 2 adults and 3 children for £25.00. Children under 4 can visit for free which I think is really good because usually you have to pay if they are over 2 years old. Sealife Adventure also do strange but bargaintastic deals such as 'hangover special' and 'bus pass special' and also annual passes (I don't know exact prices so you'll have to check the website for that). They also accept Tesco clubcard deal tokens which is handy. They are open everyday from 10am until 5pm - 7pm depending on the time of year.
When you walk into the building there is a small tank with a few grey fish in and a waterfall feature. You'll also notice the aquariums souvenir shop (probably best to visit this on the exit though) and paying desk. When you pay they will stamp your hand so you can go in and out of the aquarium as many times you as like.
The first exhibit you come across is called 'Beach Walk' and has tanks of fish that live in the North Sea and Thames Estuary. These are all fish that live just outside the aqaurium itself and I can't say they are very attractive, they are all rather grey and dull but fish are fish and I guess they are all nice to watch!
The second exhibit is called 'Sea Cavern' and has a number of different tanks. Marine life includes lobsters, eels (lots of fun watching them pop out of holes in the wall!), dogfish, pipefish and mullet.
The third exhibit is called 'HMS Sub tropical' and is set out abit like a submarine with portholes to look into the tanks from. All of the fish in here are bright, pretty and unusual tropical fish. My daughter loved it in here because they had lots of 'Nemo' and 'Dory' fish from the Disney film 'Finding Nemo' (otherwise known an clown fish and blue tang). Many of the tanks are under UV light which make them look really good. The shrimps are worth a look at too - they are really funny and fascinating. In the middle of the exhibit is a tank full of pirana fish (although the tank is too small in my opinion) with a dome in the middle of it to stick your head up inside so it looks like you're inside the tank with the piranas.
Leading off from this area is 'Seahorse Rodeo' which is a couple of tanks of lovely seahorses. Again really nice and interesting to watch.
There is an outdoor (but under cover) rockpool which is full of marine life such as starfish and crabs. The last time I visited it wasn't open and they were indoors with the seahorses but it was during the winter season so it's understandable. The staff do regular talks at the rockpool and you can get the opportunity to touch and handle the creatures.
Inbetween the rockpool and HMS Sub Tropical exhibit are a couple of pools of turtles which are really cute and of frogs which are really interesting. There is also a 'Conservation Adventure' where you can take a look behind the scenes where baby fish and sick fish are cared for. You can also see the axolotls. I love axolotls because they are so interesting and are pretty much fish with legs that can live in and out of water (and look like they have smiley faces!).
The next part of the aquarium is called 'Ray Bay' which is a large pool filled with sting rays, sand rays and 3 big fish. They do interesting talks here too. This was my daughters favourite as she could see everything below the water and then I lifted her up to see everything on top - she was a little confused at first! The rays kept coming over to say hello too which was really special.
The last exhibit is 'Deep Water' which is a walk through tank. You walk through a tunnel whilst sharks, rays and bass swim over and around you. The tank isn't long, only a few metres and the sharks aren't huge, quite small infact but are still really intriguing to watch - like many people I'm a sucker for sharks. When you leave the tunnel there used to be a tank with a moray eel in but he has been moved to another aquarium. The tank was empty the last time I visited but I believe it has now been made into a new exhibit for 2009 called 'Most Venomous' and includes such nasties as fuzzy dwarf lionfish, leaf scorpion fish and fox faced rabbit fish.
All of the tanks looked clean and attractive (rocks, greenery, waterfalls etc), although a couple of them did look a big smaller than I would have liked. Each species had facts written next to their tank which was really interesting and helpful to read. There were also activities stuck to the walls around the aquarium to educate children about different types of marine life ('edu-tainment' as they call it).
Sealife Adventure is definitely not an all day attraction, infact you'll probably be in and out within an hour as it is not very big. However there is an indoor play area called 'Adventure Towers' at the exit (next to the desk where you pay the entry fee). You need to pay an extra £1.00 on top of a childs entry fee to use Adventure Towers, which isn't much but I still don't see why it can't just be free. If you wanted to use the play area but not visit the aquarium then you can pay for just the play area - £2.90 for under 4's and £3.90 for 4-12 year olds. Next to the play area is a cafe called 'Waves Cafe' where they do hot and cold food, snacks and drinks. I can't comment on the food because I haven't actually eaten in there. They have cameras in the play area and television monitors in the cafe so you can keep an eye on the kids too which I think is just a brilliant idea.
If you live in or around Southend, have kids, are interested in marine life or are visiting Southend then Sealife Adventure is a must do. I would absolutley not recommend travelling from far away just to visit Sealife Adventure as you'll almost certainly be dissapointed as it is not as good or as big as many other aquariums in the UK. However if you are going to travel from far away then I would recommend making a day of it by visiting both Sealife Adventure and nearby Adventure Island.
So Sealife Adventure isn't the biggest or best aquarium in the country but it is also a lot cheaper than most Aquariums. I think the prices are reasonable and affordable, although I would like to see the adult prices dropped to around £5.00. My partner and I made a visit a couple of months ago and it cost us almost £15.00 to get in which just seems like too much money for what Sealife Adventure actually is. I would feel quite sorry for somebody visiting with a big family!
Overall, a well spent hour or so.