The London Aquarium, located near the London Eye in the old London County Hall building, is somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for a while. I used to love going to Sea Life centres as a child – I have vivid memories of taking the cable car from the top of the cliff at Scarborough towards the white, pyramid-shaped Sea Life building by the sea. It’s been years since I visited one, however.
My auntie visited at the weekend and although we had a couple of theatre visits planned, it was a bit of a struggle to think of things we could do to fill the rest of the time. We’ve both done things like go on an open top bus and visit Buckingham Palace, and she isn’t that keen on history, so the exhibitions and museums that would normally be my first port of call were out. However, when I mentioned the London Aquarium, my auntie said she thought it sounded like a good idea, so off we went.
As it was such a hot day, we had hoped that everyone would be too busy enjoying the sun to visit indoor tourist attractions. However, this sadly proved not to be the case. We had to wait around an hour to get in, but luckily we were able to stand in the shade until then. Despite the huge queue, everyone seemed to spread out once inside, so it wasn’t as full as we were expecting, luckily.
The Aquarium is, I think, very expensive: over £20 for one adult. My auntie very kindly paid for me, but if I was to go again I would look for a special offer – for instance, the London Days Out offer which gives you 2 for 1 tickets when you travel in by rail. A child ticket is only £5 less than an adult. There are various ticket packages available: if you book online you save a couple of pounds (25% if you go for a special After-3pm ticket) and you can buy ticket packages for other attractions including the London Eye and the London Dungeon.
Inside the Aquarium, you follow a path taking you through all of the zoned areas. There are toilets at various points on the route and a buggy park at the beginning. The centrepiece of the Aquarium is the huge tank which is home to several black tip reef sharks. The Shark Reef Encounter, as it is known, begins as you walk over a glass floor looking at the sharks below, and continues as you walk through a glass tunnel, seeing these amazing creatures swimming over your head. There are various points within the Aquarium where you can stand or sit beside the tank and look at the creatures inside.
Other zones included Pacific Wreck, Atlantic Depths, Tidal Reach and the River Thames Story, to name just a few. Each zone showcased sea creatures native to that particular area, with information about each fish or other creature that you would find there. It was really fascinating to see so many sea creatures. I particularly liked the brightly-coloured tropical fish, and I loved the ray tank, with friendly rays showing off at the surface of the water.
One theme running through the whole Aquarium was that of conservation. There were regular notices explaining which creatures were endangered and how we can help to save them, from conserving energy to help prevent global warming to giving up eating certain types of fish (such as cod) to help their numbers recover. The Aquarium is doing its best to research, care for and breed the creatures in its care in order to ensure their survival. I really liked learning about this side of the Aquarium’s work, and it made me think about how I could make changes in my own life to help ensure the survival of endangered species.
I’ve left the best until last, as my favourite part of the whole experience was, of course, the penguins! The Ice Adventure section has a number of Gentoo penguins in a specially-built enclosure designed to cater for their needs, including a much lower temperature than you would get naturally in this country. I was particularly excited to meet the newest penguin, a baby who only hatched in June. It (they don’t know if it is male or female yet) still has some fluffy feathers, and we were told that they aren’t waterproof yet, so if the baby falls in the water someone has to go and towel-dry it!
Our visit took a couple of hours, and I’m sure we could have spent longer in there. I would definitely go again, but only if I could get some sort of special offer!