London Aquarium – £35 not so well spent

So as I mentioned in my last post, K celebrated his 4th Birthday last week and as his Birthday treat we braved a trip into London with two children in tow to visit the Sealife London Aquarium.

Now, K has had an obsession with sharks since before the age of two thanks to Disney Pixar and Finding Nemo, so we have visited London Aquarium before and enjoyed a good trip. However we decided that he was really to young to enjoy it then and with the shark tank at Southsea being a disappointment this seemed like the perfect opportunity to go again.

He had been excited for well over a week, and though I was a little apprehensive as we were visiting in school holidays, I was quite confident it would be a great day.

Unfortunately we came away bitterly disappointed. Having parted with £35 for 3 tickets and a guide book (despite our 2 for 1 days out voucher) it didn’t start well as you now HAVE to walk over a glass floor above the shark tank to get into the aquarium. Now these are not small sharks by any stretch of the imagination and for those of us who are frankly petrified of the wretched things this is not a good way to start the day.

With nowhere just inside to sort out coats and gather your thoughts or plan what you want to see most you are straight into the dark murky depths. I did see a buggy park at the entrance but this stated clearly that ONLY buggies were to be left (and heavens knows how you would find your way back to them) so most people (including us) were off on our way with children, buggies, bags etc all in tow.

Now inside it is dark, they are playing what some might say is creepy music and when we were there cramped and busy. There was NO attempt to managed the crowds save for one point through the tunnel in the turtle tank, where the one of only about 3 members of staff I saw apart from those behind the desk was keeping things moving freely, which meant it was, quite frankly unpleasant for everyone.

Now that’s before we even got to the Congo area – some weird atmospheric spongy floor covering made it almost impossible to manoeuvre a buggy and it was hot, very hot, so hot in fact that E went to sleep.

Now it takes some time to get around the aquarium especially with the volume of people inside it on the day we visited and there is NOWHERE sensible to stop, have a seat for 5 mins and give the kids a drink, let alone somewhere to eat – I saw people eating sandwiches outside lifts and along corridors, not ideal to say the least.

Now, if all that wasn’t bad enough the most disappointing part of the day was that we didn’t even get to see the penguins. As we had the buggy we had to use the lift to get back upstairs from the lower levels and upon emerging were forced by an otherwise dead end into a queue for souvenir photos we didn’t want. Having managed to negotiate our way around this we found a final view of the shark tank but no sign of the Thames River Walk or penguins.

Now, this wasn’t just me being stupid as the whole route seems to have changed since we visited last time. We looked and couldn’t see another way to go or any signposts, apart from up the escalator (having decided not to stand in line for the single lift behind the other 75 buggies for 2 days) and suddenly we were in the gift shop with no way back in. Great!

Now, if you’re thinking of paying a visit to London Aquarium my advice to you is frankly don’t bother. A friend of mine also visited a week earlier and had a similar experience and I think that their latest round of updates to the displays has just crammed far too much into a small space. It was badly managed with no staff to be seen for most of our visit.

Thankfully being 4 make you quite oblivious to most of this so K enjoyed his visit but not so much that when we got home and had our first look at our guidebook he didn’t realise that there was quite a lot we’d missed.

Not the best way to spend our last Birthday with K before he starts school, but I hope that the rest of his weekend made up for it.

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2 thoughts on “London Aquarium – £35 not so well spent

  1. K had a good day though.
    I fully understand the ‘last birthday before school’ thing. I put so much pressure on myself at Christmas for the same reason. It was the last chance for Mummy to make the magic before School changes EVERYTHING.
    *sob*

  2. Since posting the above, Sealife London Aquarium have contacted me and have taken on board my comments. For info, there is an alternative entrance to the Aquarium which means you can miss out walking over the shark tank (but I think you will have to look carefully as we didn’t spot this), and they have also advised that you are able to get re-admission to the Aquarium (but check at the desk as you enter).

    They have kindly offered our family the chance to visit again with some complimentary tickets so we can see the part of the attraction we missed as they believe this was because of a fault with the lift.

    In light of all the extra information they have given me, I am sure that after our next visit I will be armed with lots of top tips as to how to make the most of a visit here with young children, we’ve not yet planned when to go, but watch this space…..

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