Story by Simon Pinion
HAVING been to several aquariums around the world, my expectations for London's effort were quite high. From Sydney's and San Francisco's impressive 'moving walkways' that take you under a simulated ocean with sharks swimming overhead, to Las Vegas's excellent 'petting pool' in the Mandalay Bay (Hotel) that gives children the chance to touch Rays and other friendly fishes (no piranhas in here!), the London Aquarium had a lot to live up to.
It is located on London's South Bank next to the Millennium Wheel and virtually opposite Big Ben. Only a ten minute walk away from Waterloo Station, I decided to take my four-year-old son there by train - head for the Millennium Wheel and turn left and you're there.
Prices were £8.25 for adults, and £5.75 for children, which I thought was about average. Going to the cinema wouldn't cost you much less, particularly in the West End. We went on a Sunday and it was quite busy, but never uncomfortably so.
The aquarium is split into displays of different oceans - Pacific, Indian, etc - which I thought was a good way of laying it out. With a four-year-old it proved heavy work as, obviously, the displays are at adult height, meaning a lot of extended lifting. Our highlights of the outing were easily the shark display and the 'petting pool'.
The shark display was housed in the biggest tank in the aquarium with four types of shark on show. This can be viewed on three levels, giving you an opportunity to view even the bottom dwelling fish. We spent a good half hour walking sharks circle menacingly.
The 'petting pool' proved a popular attraction. The rays had no escape from probing fingers and splashing hands. It is a patient job, though. We were there for 40 minutes, and Henry (my son) only managed four touches. The rays seem to know when to go deep, if they want to.
All told, we were there for two and a quarter hours and we had a great time. Although it may not have as many features as some other, larger aquariums around the world, London's ocean displays proved interesting and well laid out. The South Bank is definitely worth a visit.