Review: Sea Life London Aquarium

I grew up on David Attenborough documentaries, bug hunts and trips to the safari park. I suspect that’s where my interest in science was originally sparked, and I really hope my girls will come to share this fascination with the natural world. Sadly I’ve heard a few people say that London kids must find all animals really weird, as they never get to see any. Actually the city can be a great place for introducing children to the wilder world and I was really pleased to be invited to take E and baby M to the Sea Life London Aquarium this week and get them face to face with some fishes!

E- Ready to head underwater

 Our first encounter was a mildly terrifying walk over a glass floor with sharks swimming beneath us. E was less worried about this than I was, but I held her hand and did my best impression of thinking it was brilliant. After that she was able to run about and find the tanks that really interested her, climbing up on the steps and peering in at octopus, sea urchins and even poison dart frogs.

 We’ve actually visited before, on a busy bank holiday weekend. This time it was mid week, and I’d definitely recommend that if possible with pre-school children. It was still fairly busy but I could let E range around and still keep up an eye on her, even with a buggy. It was much more fun for her to decide what she looked at, rather than me dragging her attention to everything (look it’s a piranha! please can I tell you the story about me and your dad going fishing for them in the amazon – PLEASE, oh no, you just want to look at “Nemo”. fine.). Also, the place is huge, so although we probably didn’t see absolutely everything we did get around it all with interest levels still high.

The big attractions for us were the sharks, gliding around in their tank with some surprisingly unconcerned looking fish (apparently the sharks are too well fed and too lazy to bother eating them), the great big turtles and the penguins, in their genuinely chilly Antarctic area. E also rather liked the seahorses but looked a bit confused when I tried to explain to her that it’s the Daddy Seahorses who have the babies in their tummies (and that this was a brilliant idea)!

On the practical side, the aquarium is well geared up for young children, the entire thing is buggy accessible with lifts to every level and quite a few disabled / baby change toilets which are big enough to take the buggy in with you (so it is possible for parents to have a wee too). there is a buggy store, which we used last time, but walking around the entire thing may be a challenge for little legs. There is at least one drink stall on the way around and for food there are all manor of places nearby (including sushi).

Penguins! (ok this one isn’t my picture)

The other great thing is the location. Next to the London Eye and opposite the houses of parliament. Entry to the aquarium isn’t cheap (although you can often find offers, or 2 for 1 tickets if you travel by train) but after a morning in there, there is plenty to entertain the kids for free on the Southbank;  street performers, skate boarders or just exploring the Southbank centre which often has free events.

Overall the city kids had a great time, Baby M veered between wide awake and gazing in wonder and completely zonked. E was clearly utterly exhausted by the time we got home, but didn’t want the day to end. It took quite a long time to coax her out of the bath as she insisted that she was now a turtle (and not at all tired).

She was out like a light when we finally got her to bed, probably dreaming of fish. I’m hope this little insight into the wonders of the wild things will stick with her. I think it probably will.

Disclaimer – We received free entry and lunch was provided, this review represents my honest opinion of the day.

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