This weekend I went on a much anticipated trip to the London Sea Life aquarium. It was much anticipated because I adore wildlife in all its forms and an opportunity to see otherworldly animals fills me with excitement. You can imagine then my eagerness to visit the UK’s premier sea life attraction which contains over 500 species of fish and aquatic mammals.
The Sea Life London Aquarium is located just next to the London eye within the rather beautiful County Hall building. The closest stations are Waterloo and Westminster which are both within walking distance.
London Aquarium Review
I was forced to choose a bank holiday weekend for my visit as it was the only time I had available; I knew that this meant an inevitable deluge of children accompanied by their weary parents attempting to entertain and educate them, and rightly so.
With this in mind, I decided to book priority tickets to avoid a possible queuing nightmare. I actually discovered that you can buy priority tickets from golden tours for the same price as non-priority tickets on the London Aquariums’ website; I’ll put a link at the bottom of this post for the cheaper priority tickets.
I arrived mid afternoon, the sun was shining and London was in its full spring glory; unfortunately the entire city had also come out to experience it. The south bank area surrounding the London Eye and London Aquarium is busy on a normal day, but this was something else. You could barely move for people along the entire section and I could see that a good chunk of these people were queuing to go into the aquarium. I thanked myself repeatedly for buying priority tickets and saving myself from what looked like over an hour’s queuing time.
The priority entrance was a breeze in comparison; there was virtually no queue and I was inside ready to go within 10 minutes. It really is worth buying the priority tickets because they aren’t even more expensive if you buy from the right place. I actually felt sorry for the people in the non priority queue when a member of staff told them they had reached capacity and there would be a longer wait to enter; which brings me onto my main problem with the London aquarium: it is sooooo busy.
I know I was there on a bank holiday weekend, so this many not have been what normal operations looked like, but even if they took away a third of the people it would still have been too busy. As you enter the attraction you are greeted with a stunning glass walkway which reveals an ocean of sea life beneath your feet. Great, but with 15 other people walking on it at the same time it’s difficult to see anything apart from the other guests taste in footwear.
Once I reached the first large room I could tell that crowds were going to be the theme of the day. Whilst there was a huge variety of sea life to look at, you had to wait behind 3 rows of people before you get your turn to look at anything, then you feel rushed because you know other people are waiting behind you. It’s a shame, because I really loved some of the animals on display, particularly the jellyfish which are absolutely mesmerising to watch.
Most of the sea life is behind giant walls of glass and I did wonder how clearly I would be able to see the animals. Fortunately the water is very clear and you can see everything almost to the other end of the giant tanks, when you get a chance to look that is.
Some of the animals are in open tanks, such as the manta rays and turtles. I found the stingrays to be a lot of fun as they would often come above the surface to have a quick look at you, I think one of them was after my packet of crisps but obviously I didn’t oblige. The kids seemed to love this area because they would actually see the animals without any glass between them.
The London Aquarium is split into various themed sections along a set pathway; you are encouraged to follow this pathway and not turn back so make sure to look at everything you want to before you move on. Again I must applaud them for their variety; I saw many exotic species that I’d never heard of before and some that downright shocked me with their size and beauty.
As I made my way through the aquarium I began to notice the heat levels rising exponentially. This may have been due to the large numbers of people in a relatively small space, but it became quite uncomfortable very quickly. There is little airflow and the atmosphere resembled a muggy humid day, I’d have thought a modern attraction such as this would have some sort of air conditioning system but apparently not.
One of the highlights of the London Aquarium is said to be the underwater tunnel; a completely glass walkway that is supposed to immerse you in the underwater world. Again, I’m sure this would have been a great experience if I wasn’t sharing this rather small tunnel with two dozen other people. It kind of reminded me of being on a packed tube but surrounded by stingrays and sharks instead of grumpy commuters.
As you approach the end of the attraction you come across some of the big hitters of the aquarium, namely the big shark tanks and the penguin enclosure. I’d love to be able to tell you how cute all the little penguins were but unfortunately I didn’t catch a glimpse of one as the area was completely packed full of people. Seriously, London Bridge Station at rush hour isn’t as busy as the penguin enclosure; I did try and get a closer look but the ever increasing heat levels forced me to give in and move on.
It took me about an hour and a half to walk through the whole attraction; though I rarely stopped to read the educational facts about the marine life on show, or tried out any of the extra mini games, primarily because there were so many kids trying to do the same thing and I didn’t want to get in their way (awwh)!
I really wanted to love this. I wanted to come here and tell everyone how amazing it was and that I wanted to become a marine biologist and dedicate my life to preserving tuna, but I can’t. There were just too many people there for me to properly enjoy the London Aquarium. Now you could say to me ‘Daniel, of course it was bloody busy, you went on a bank holiday!’ Which is true, but I’ve walked past here many a Saturday and it’s been equally as hectic.
What’s most annoying is that they have all the right ingredients for an amazing experience; incredible sea life, immense variety, fun themes, plenty of room for education, but unless you’re willing to put up with the large crowds and uncomfortable climate then I’d have to recommend avoiding this, if only on the busy days.
1. Buy fast track priority tickets
2. Don’t go on the busiest days if you can avoid it (Saturday/Bank Holiday weekends)
3. Don’t wear warm clothes.
Where to get cheap priority tickets for the London Aquarium.
As I stated earlier in this post purchasing priority tickets is essential if you don’t want to queue for an age. Click the button below for priority entrance tickets that are the same price as normal tickets bought elsewhere.