Advantages A great place to see fish; nicely laid out
Disadvantages May be a little pricey for some
|Is it worth visiting?|
It was a normal British summer's day. You know the sort - freezing cold, wet and windy! I was in the mood for doing something a little different with my young son. Having swung on the swings, mamboed at music group and giggled at granny for an hour, I decided we needed a change - and then I had a flash of inspiration. The Blue Planet Aquarium!I had driven past the Blue Planet Aquarium on numerous occasions but had never actually visited the place. Situated at the end of junction 10 just off the M53 motorway, the Blue Planet is in a prime location, not only for locals, but also for tourists visiting Cheshire.
On entering the Blue Planet, as with all tourist attractions, our first port of call was the pay desk. After handing over our hard earned pennies (more on that later!) we were presented with our tickets and invited through into the main foyer. And here is where our journey began.***Starting Our Journey***
Basically, the Blue Planet comprises two floors: ground floor and lower ground floor. Both floors are divided into sections covering all the various species of aquatic life - or to you and me - fish!Our journey began on the ground floor and took us across a wooden walkway into the Freshwater Rivers and Streams section. Here, we could get up close and personal to the likes of pike, carp, perch, bream and brook trout. The tanks in which the fish are kept are as close to their natural habitat as possible in an aquarium environment, and many are open top tanks which enable you to view the fish both from the outside and from above. Many of the fish even came up to the surface of the water, I assume anticipating food. I would add that this does not apply to the piranhas, which I mention later in the review.
The next exhibit we came to was the Amazon. This comprises a tropical river exhibit representing the Amazon River, where we saw an Arapaima which, according to the information at the Blue Planet, measures 4.25 metres long. Apparently, this is the largest of its breed in the UK and, after seeing it, I can well believe it! Also present were Redtail Catfish, Red-Bellied Piranha, Black Pacu and a Granulated Dora.Moving along, we came to the Lake Milawi exhibit. Apparently, this tank holds approximately 100 species of Chichlid. In addition to the Chichlids, we saw the Nile Perch, the Giraffe Catfish and the Vundu.
Not all the exhibits in the Blue Planet are fish. There is a fairly small exhibit of amphibians which includes the Blue Dart Frog. The Blue Planet undertook a breeding program of the Blue Dart Frog which apparently has been very successful. We also saw the Green Dart Frog, the Roccoco Toad, the Golden Dart Frog, the Regina Frog and the Red-Eye Tree Frog. The colours of these frogs were absolutely outstanding and, although we were able to take photographs, they do not do the vibrant colours justice.We continued our journey down to the lower ground floor, which is where the majority of the exhibits are found.
The rocky shoreline exhibit consists of individual rock pools which it at waist-height to adults. However, there is an important reason for this. The pools contain Plaice, Tub Gurnard, Spidercrab, Spotted Dogfish and the Thornback Ray. Unlike many aquariums, here, you can actually stroke the Ray Fish. There are signs surrounding the pools which advise you to seek consent from one of the assistants. We noticed that this was especially appealing to the younger visitors who, probably for most of them, was the first time they had been this close to a fish. At the side of this exhibit, there are a couple of hand basins and soap dispensers for you to wash your hands after touching the fish. Personally, I would have thought that visitors should be advised to wash their hands BEFORE touching the fish as bacteria can so easily be transferred into the water, as well as out of it. But that is just my opinion. They obviously know what they are doing there.Coral Bay was next on our route where we saw some very vivid coloured species. The exhibit has been created to represent the warm waters found in the Seychelles and the Maldives. Amongst the fish on display were the Redknobbed Starfish, the Clownfish (my personal favourite amongst this exhibit due to its vibrant colouring. I nearly bought a couple of these last year when setting up a tropical tank at home), Turret Fish, Batfish which apparently lie motionless in order to look like a dead leaf when faced with danger, together with the Blue Spotted Sting-Ray.
***And now for the highlight of our visit…***
The Aquatunnel is an underwater tunnel measuring 70 metres long. Here, you walk along whilst the fish swim around you and over your head. It is probably (and hopefully) the only time that I will ever come this close to a real life shark. We saw many varieties of fish swimming around us in the tunnel, and there was even a 'happy birthday Katy and Sarah' sign submerged in the water which had obviously been placed there for a couple of unsuspecting visitors. I can only assume this is a little optional extra which can be arranged with the Blue Planet prior to your visit.When going through the tunnel, you have the option of walking on your own two feet, or as we did, you can just stand on a slow moving walkway whilst you take in all that is around you.
As I mentioned at the start of this section, for me, this really was the highlight of our trip. We took our 2 year old son who was mesmerised by the whole thing.The final stage of our tour took us to the Aquatheatre, which I found particularly interesting. Situated next to the Aquatunnel, this set-back section comprises about six rows of twelve seats. To the front, there is a very small stage which lies directly in front of a large glass window, behind which swim the fish you see swimming around you in the Aquatunnel. The 'showtimes' go on throughout the day and last approximately 20 minutes. At the start of the show, two members of the Blue Planet staff come on stage. One staff member gives a brief talk on the types of fish we would be looking at, and the other staff member then introduces two divers who appear inside the 'tank'. You are taken through the various pieces of diving equipment the divers are wearing, and the divers give a quick demonstration as to its use.
The next stage of the show, and in my opinion the most interesting, demonstrates how the fish are fed. The divers, having left the tank to collect a bucket of food, return to the tank closely followed by the hungry fish. Only certain species of fish were being fed on the day that we visited. The sharks are apparently only fed four times a week so we had missed that one!As I mentioned, this really is an interesting part of the trip and is well worth waiting to see.
As well as fish, the Blue Planet also has an outdoor otter enclosure. This covers quite a large area and the otters have plenty of room to roam around and swim. We visited the Blue Planet on a wet and windy day so we only went outside to look at the otters for a couple of minutes, but I can imagine it is a very popular exhibit in the nice weather.***Facilities***
The Blue Planet certainly caters for all kinds of visitors, particularly disabled or those with difficulties walking any great distance. There is a lift to both floors, and wheelchairs may also be hired at a price of £10 which is refunded on return of the chair. Ramps are situated through the building. There is the usual gift shop which, from what I saw, sold quite a wide variety of goods, and this is situated on the first floor by the exit. On the lower ground floors, there is a fairly large restaurant, together with toilets and baby changing facilities. Finally, for the more adventurous, there is a dive shop, but this appeared to be closed on the day we visited so I am unable to comment on that.***Octopus Adventure*** =============
Basically, this is a kid's play area. Apparently, this was designed in association with Little Tykes UK who, for those of you not familiar with kiddy related things, manufacture toys and ride-ons etc. I was a little too old to try out the various monkey bars and bouncy whales for the purpose of this review, but I must admit it did look good fun. Maybe next time!!***Fancy Diving with the Sharks?***
Yes, for a small fee, you can actually take to the shark infested waters and enjoy a swim. If you wish to take advantage of this, it does need to be booked separately and you must be a minimum age of 16 years. I could not find any information at the aquarium on how much each session costs, but there is contact information on the Blue Planet's website (details at the end of this review).***Bring Your Friends***
If you wish to arrange a group tour of the Blue Planet, you may be offered a discount if there are more than 15 people in your party. For example, at the time of writing this review, an adult ticket price works out at approximately £6 less than a standard ticket. Certainly worth doing if you can gather enough people to go with you.***It's Party Time***
The Blue Planet offers parties for those occasions where you want something a little different. I think it's ideal for children and a lot more enjoyable than sitting in McDonalds for a birthday treat. Unfortunately, your booking does need to be for a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 20. Included in the price is free adoption of an animal. I assume you are now allowed to take it home with you! They also include face painting, a guided tour around the aquarium and food in the restaurant. At present, the tariff for a child's party is £10.95 per child and at least one adult is required to supervise, at a price of £5.50 per adult.***Adopt an Animal***
The Blue Planet allows you to adopt some of the animals at the aquarium. You can take your pick as to which you would like to adopt, and according to staff there, this seems very popular with the younger visitors.***Conferences***
Well, they seem to hold conferences everywhere nowadays, and the Blue Planet is no exception. We did notice a couple of 'meeting rooms' around the edge of the restaurant which I assume were the function rooms. I am unable to comment personally on these as we did not actually go into any of the rooms.***Conservation Efforts***
A number of Blue Planet staff have recently founded a voluntary group called the Blue Planet Aquarists. The aim of the group is to encourage the protection, maintenance and restoration of ecosystems and marine organisms. The group eventually hopes to encourage members of the public to join them.***Prices and Booking Information***
Now although I really enjoyed my visit to the Blue Planet, I actually think that the entrance prices were quite expensive. At the time of our visit, approximately three weeks ago, we paid £20.50 for two adults. Having just checked on the Blue Planet's website, these prices still remain the same. Standard charges are as follows:-Adult = £10.25
You can also become a member where you will pay:-Adult = £34.50
Tickets can be purchased online via the website given at the end of my review.***Opening Times***
The Blue Planet is open daily at 10.00 am. Closing times are 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and 6.00 pm Saturday and Sunday in school term times, and in school holidays, it is open until 6.00 pm daily. Unlike a lot of attractions, it is actually open on Christmas Eve but closes at 4.00 pm. It also opens on New Years Day but visitors are advised to check direct with Blue Planet nearer the time as to opening and closing times.***How to get there***
It's quite straight forward whichever direction you are coming from.If you are travelling via the M53, just take junction 10. Travelling from the M6, join the M56 at J20, then head towards Ellesmere Port and turn onto the M53 at junction 15. Follow the brown tourist information signs for Blue Planet and Cheshire Oaks.
If you are lucky enough to have satnav, just type in either the postcode CH65 9LF or Kinsey Road. It should get you there.There are plenty of regular bus services from Liverpool, Chester, Ellesmere Port and North Wales to Blue Planet. From Liverpool take the No 1 bus from Sir Thomas Street. From Chester take the No 1 or No 4 bus from the Central Bus Station.
Blue Planet Aquarium
Website: www.blueplanetaquarium.com***And finally, would I recommend?***
Most definitely. I have lived within 15 miles of this place for years and this was my first visit. It's an amazing attraction which is both fun and educational and it's certainly the first time I have ever looked a shark in the eye! As I mentioned, I do think the prices are a little high if you are on a budget, but saying that, it's not the kind of place you would be visiting on a weekly basis. As they say, and if you will pardon the aquatic pun, it's nice to push the boat out every now and then!Thanks for reading.
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