If you’re not sure what to expect when you go to the aquarium…
…you’re going to feel like a right fish out of water.
So the fact that you’re here, reading this, is phenomenally good timing.
Perched on the South Bank underneath the grand County Hall building, the Sea Life London Aquarium is home to over 500 different species, three floors, and tanks holding 2 million litres of water. That’s the equivalent to 2 million big bottles of water.
Set over an atmospherically low-lit, cavernous network of tunnels and tanks, the place is divvied up into 14 different zones, showing off the spectacular variety of life underwater. The marine animals here have, for the most part, been rescued in the wild, or bred in the aquarium as part of their extensive conservation projects. Which means that alongside the regular clownfish, seahorses and jellyfish, you’ll also be able to tip your hat to blind cavefish, West African dwarf crocodiles, and a colony of Gentoo penguins all the way from er, Edinburgh.
There are glass walkways over shark tanks, and underwater tunnels with turtles soaring gracefully overhead. You can watch hundreds of different species of tropical fish weave through the ribcage of a giant whale skeleton* half buried in sand. And because you should always keep your friends close but your anemones closer, there’s a huge rock pool display where you can get hands-on with the starfish and sea sponges.
Add to that a ray lagoon, a shipwreck inhabited by a half-shark, half-ray and a rainforest zone filled with glass domes that allow bird-eating tarantulas (yes, bird-eating) to crawl above your head, and there’s something for everyone. Assuming that there are, indeed, people who want a bird-eating spider plucked from the depths of all nightmares crawling above their head.
Less alarming activities include a 15-minute snorkel with sharks, feeding time for 200+ piranhas, and walk-in machines specifically designed to replicate the sensation of a hurricane. And opening in just a few weeks is the beautiful coral installation – standing at 40ft long, it’s the largest living reef in the UK, and home to a vibrant population of clownfish.
You’ll finish up your journey in the black-lit jellyfish section, surrounded by mesmerising, ghostly glowing jellies. It’s here that you’ll see the Lion’s Mane jellyfish, which is taller than humans, and the seemingly elegant Amakusa jellyfish, which has four “oral arms” and no fewer than 32 lappets, which, as you no doubt know, is a “fold or hanging piece of flesh on an animal”.
Which isn’t remotely creepy.
NOTE: The Sea Life London Aquarium is open daily, with late openings until 7pm on Saturdays. Tickets cost from £30 for adults – you can find out more, and book ahead, HERE.
Sea Life London Aquarium | County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB
Last Updated: 2nd May 2019
Like the life aquatic? Hop into a hot tub. In the Thames.