Sea Life London Aquarium – Review for families

Queues, costs and shark walks - insider tips to help you make the most of a day out at Sea Life London Aquarium

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What is it?

A sea life centre which hosts one of Europe’s biggest collections of global sea creatures. Essentially, it’s a large aquarium. Find it on the South Bank of the Thames in central London.

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Age most suitable for

Best For: Toddlers & Preschoolers, 5-7 year olds

OK For: 8-11 year olds and 12 years & over

Cost

£££. This is an expensive attraction so make sure you make the best of your visit by booking tickets in advance and planning ahead.

What’s On Offer

The Sea Life London Aquarium is home to thousands of unusual creatures, from crocodiles and sharks to penguins and seahorses, so it’s not just endless arrays of fish swimming in tanks.

The Aquarium is set over 3 floors, with 14 different themed zones and 500 different species. 

There’s a range of educational talks, behind-the-scenes tours, touch pools, fun demonstrations and feeding time displays to choose from, so make sure you research dates and times before you go. 

Highlights

Don’t miss the Shark Reef Encounter (which stars 16 ‘awesome’ sharks including two that are 2.8m long) and features an amazing glass-bottomed Shark Walk.

The giant main aquarium, which goes across a couple of floors, is an amazing sight with great views, even if it’s busy. The jellyfish and piranhas are also a must. 

The ray lagoon is amazing. You can see these incredible creatures really close up, although if it’s busy you may need to hang around for a bit to get near the front. At 11:30am, you can help out with the daily ray feed. It’s first come first served, so make sure to arrive early.

Finally, for a VIP price tag, you and your child can take part in the Shark and Turtle feeding experiences or even go snorkelling with the sharks! But you’ll need to book in advance.

What To Watch Out For

– The Aquarium is a very popular attraction and gets extremely busy in school holidays and weekends. It’s dark inside and can feel hot and stuffy when it’s packed with people. Make sure you have lots of water with you and take toddlers and pre-schoolers during term time.

– It can also get busy on rainy days, so make sure your child is prepared to wait in the queue for exhibits. Ticket queues can be very long. Pre-book if you can to avoid this first queue on arrival.

– You can’t eat or drink in the aquarium, but your ticket will be valid for a full day, so you’ll be able to eat out during the visit if you want to stay longer than a couple of hours.

– There are no cloakrooms for bags, coats and parents’ stuff, but there is an available buggy station during peak periods and school holidays.

– The Gentoo Penguins, which are one of the newer additions, have not proved popular with everyone. Some TripAdvisor users weren’t keen, expressing that they felt the penguins were being kept in a small, internal enclosure with no natural light or outside air. However, Sea Life London’s Guest Relations Manager assures visitors that the penguins are kept in the correct and safest environment for this type of penguin.

“Unlike Humboldt Penguins (at London Zoo) our Gentoo penguins need cold temperatures and clear air quality therefore being in an outside enclosure can cause many problems for them. We have an extremely dedicated and knowledgeable aquarist team who work very hard to ensure that our group of penguins are happy and comfortable in their habitat.”

Animal welfare is a sensitive issue for some parents and children when it comes to visiting zoos, aquariums and circus attractions. Exercise your own judgement carefully to decide if you want to visit this part of the aquarium.  If you have concerns or questions, speak to the aquarium staff.

MFM Tips

– Keep an eye out for tourist brochures in hotels and train stations (even if you’re local), as they often contain 2 for 1 vouchers on this attraction. Tesco Clubcard vouchers are valid.

– Pre-booking or booking online will save you money and some queuing on the day. The Sea Life London website also features some useful info about money-saving combination tickets for other London attractions.

– If you need somewhere to store your belongings, try the left luggage facilities at the nearby Waterloo Road station. It charges a small fee, but if you’re going to be there for the whole day, it might be worth it. 

What The Owners Say

“Located on the popular South bank of the River Thames, within the historic County Hall building, SEA LIFE London Aquarium is home to one of Europe’s largest collections of global marine life and the jewel in the crown of the UK SEA LIFE attractions.”

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Visit the official Sea Life London website


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