Our visit to SEA LIFE Aquarium, Sydney
With thanks to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium for hosting us!
Last week, Ned, Jack, and I had the pleasure of visiting the SEA LIFE Aquarium located at Darling Harbour in the city. I have a bit of history with aquariums. You may or may not know that my dad is quite well known for his photography of Australian native reptiles, frogs, and things but his passion is Australian Rainbow Fish. This meant that as children, my sisters and I, along with my (long-suffering?) mum spent many a weekend hour and day visiting all kinds of aquariums, including large tourist or educational facilities, as well as plenty of local suburban outlets for those hobbyists who keep fish as pets. So it is fair to say I may have an expectation or two… I’m happy to tell you that SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium exceeded anything I could have hoped for and is well worth your time, money, and effort. If you live nearby or happen to be holidaying in one of my favourite cities in Australia, then go, go, go!
Coincidently, there was someone visiting on the day we stopped by- Captain Barnacles from the Octonauts. You might say I had one very excited boy!
Being school holidays, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium was in child-friendly activity mode even more than usual, and the Octonauts theme was centre stage. There was a colouring-in station midway with an Octonaut prize pack to be won, videos to watch, and Octonauts goodies in the shop. Children were invited to ‘spot the Octonaut’ toy strategically placed in certain tanks, and to read the Octonaut’s underwater messages about keeping the ocean clean and healthy. It certainly worked to engage my five-year-old!
The SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium reminded me a little of an Ikea walking maze. Yes, there is a track to follow and you find yourself winding around, going up and down, and up and down, and around a little more. Give yourselves at least 2 to 3 hours and take the time to meander along and don’t worry too much if the children get a little ahead of you. They won’t get too far before being mesmerised by something in a tank. There is so much to see!
I LOVED the underwater walks, (not one, but two- Dugong Island and Shark Valley) and so did baby Jack who just laid in his pram and stared at the glistening patterns and movement above.
The highlight of the first walk was when the massive dugong calmly sailed over our heads. Magnificent and thrilling to boot to see this creature up close. While we only saw one dugong, evidently there are two! They are two of only six dugongs on display in the world. Both were rescued at a very young age and cannot be returned to the wild so SEA LIFE aquarium purposely adapted this huge and amazing tank just for them, and a few friends such as eagle rays too. It was spectacular to walk through the underwater viewing tunnel and even more surprising to then be able to look down on them from above.
One of the most enjoyable features of this aquarium was the opportunity to view the sea life from multiple angles, making the best use of the spaces and tanks. The thought and design that has gone into this aquarium to make your visit the most informative and fun is truly outstanding. It is definitely one of a kind.
I’m always interested to see how places and tourist attractions create opportunities for children to interact and engage with elements of the exhibit, show, or activity. At SEA LIFE, there was a series of stamping stations that encouraged children to be on the lookout for various animals around the aquarium. This was fun for Ned.
There was also a Discovery Rockpool where children were invited to touch and investigate the sea life more closely. And while yes, the blue starfish was cool, Ned was even more thrilled when the presenter let him have a quick hold of the blue plastic Octonauts ‘gup’ seen above! “Mum, she let me hold the gup. No one else did that!”
Another thing that impressed Ned and I was the amount and the variety of sea life creatures we saw, big and small. In fact, plenty of big ones to inspire awe and wonder. Ned loved to watch the smalltooth sawfish gliding around.
And thanks to the Octonauts videos we’ve borrowed from the library in the last few months, Ned could identify many of the creatures perfectly. This was a leopard shark.
From a design perspective, this tunnel was a marvel. Water and sea creatures on all sides as you walked through. Such fun! But a little scary for Ned. He wasn’t keen on the see-through floor but luckily, found a way around that!
On the design front again, the murals on the walls caught my attention too. The thoughtfulness and artistic elements of the designs, including all the tiny details taken care of, ensured that my long walk wasn’t through the bland corridors of grey so familiar from my childhood. Happily, the aquarium did not smell like the aquariums of my childhood either. Double yay!
As we headed towards the end of the journey, we came upon the Reef Theatre which gave us the opportunity to look into the world’s biggest tank! (My dad would be jealous.) This tank holds two million litres of water from the Sydney Harbour, filtered daily to make sure it is super clean for the animals that live here. It really has to be seen to be believed.
Reef Theatre held another attraction for us too- an opportunity for a meet and greet with Captain Barnacles. Ned took his spot in the queue and patiently waited for his turn for a cuddle, a handshake, and a photo opportunity too.
And yes, Jack enjoyed his visit to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium too!
One handy tip: When you leave SEA LIFE Aquarium in Darling Harbour, be sure to walk around to the fabulous Darling Quarter filled with restaurants on the promenade, and one of the best kid’s playgrounds I’ver ever seen. Take towels and your children’s swimming costumes just in case as no doubt they’ll want to play in the water park. There’s also balance ropes, a giant swing, the octonet, sand diggers, and slide mountain! Not to be missed.