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As half term is looming ahead, just an idea as to where you can take the children is the London Aquarium. Being a Piscean where best for me to see some relations ! Hubby and I took my three ankle biters in the last half term which was October.
Here's a guide as to what to expect if you make that journey.
~~WHERE IS IT AND HOW TO GET THERE.~~
The London Aquarium is situated on the South Bank. The river Thames runs adjacent to the building and during the summer months this is an ideal place to stroll along and people watch. Not recommended in freezing October though. The building is situated right next to the London Eye, past Westminster Bridge and within walking distance to Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament. Salvador Dali has one of his curious statues close to the entrance. Being London there is limited parking so I suggest you take public transport. If however you decide that driving into town is more convenient for you then there is parking at The Royal Festival Hall or you can use the underground parking facility at Waterloo Station. Please remember central London Congestion Charge, Monday-Friday and the huge cost of parking per hour. Waterloo Station is filled quite early in the day by city workers so it is a gamble as to whether you can get a parking slot. If you take the tube then the nearest stations are Westminster and Waterloo. Westminster tube is on the Circle, Jubilee and District lines. As you leave the station follow the signs for the Houses of parliament and use this as your landmark for the south bank. You can pick up a free time table at your departure station, all situated by the ticket kiosk. Try to leave after rush hour when it's cheaper and you can get a family day ticket with no time limit to return.
As well as all the London sightseeing busses that pick up and drop off at this point, you can also catch the following route numbers: For Westminster Bridge Road, take the 12, 53, 59, 76, 148, 159, 211 or 341. For Belvedere Road which runs parallel to the South Bank, take the 77. There are also no's 4, 26, X68, 76, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 243, 507 and 638. Waterloo Road is the pick up and drop off point for this route, but is no more than a three minute walk from the aquarium.
~~HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO ENTER AND OPENING TIMES ~~
Taken from the last brochure dated 2005.
Off Peak - School Term Time 9 Jan - 10 Feb 27 Feb - 31 March 04 Sept - 13 Oct 30 Oct - 15 Dec
Adult £10.75 Children 3-14 £7.25 Student 15-18 (&/proof) £8.50 Senior Citizen 60+ £8.50 Unemployed (Uk only) £8.50 Registered Disabled & carers £8.50 Family Ticket (2 ad & 2 Ch) £32.00
Peak 11 Feb - 26 Feb - Half Term week 01 April - 03 Sept 14 Oct - 29 Oct 16 Dec - 31 Dec
~~DISABLED FACILITIES, BABY CHANGING AND TOILETS~~
Facilities are catered for on all three. You will find toilets, some with baby changing units, on every floor. Though not exactly spotlessly clean with the large influx of people using them, they are quite modern inside and as the saying goes "any port in a storm will do". The separate baby units and disabled toilets are nearly always locked so you have to ask for assistance if you want a private cubicle. Lifts take you up on all levels, though not designed to carry more than a few visitors and one wheelchair at a time. There is always a long wait for these and it annoys me that the lifts are filled with able-bodied persons too idle to take the staircase. I have no choice than to take the lift as I have a young child in a buggy, so I usually end up waiting a good 10 to 15 minutes for an empty elevator. Once inside the Aquarium you will find it easy to manoeuvre a buggy or wheelchair, as the non-slip flooring is all one level apart from the odd one or two small slopes. These aren't so much of an obstacle and they can be avoided.
~~ ONCE INSIDE ~~
The waiting time outside is usually quite long. During off peak, it's the school parties that hold everyone up, then peak time its all the children and their parents. Expect to wait a good 20 minutes from the entrance to the ticket office. If you use fast track and pre book your tickets on line then you can avoid this all together. Just go straight through and up to the fast track member of staff who will clip your ticket and usher you through. It costs the same as buying at the door but without the hassle and pushing. Occasionally when I have been there a very annoying town crier is outside bellowing the words " Move Along Please". Believe me I cannot print what I would like to have done with that huge feather on the back of his hat. Be aware of the tourists, they don't understand the British code of conduct and queue for your turn. Occasionally you will find a group that just push right in front of you, I too can sound like a town crier when this happens. So you have got your ticket and then what? Well the first thing you will notice is the lack of light. Its very tranquil as you enter the Aquarium and the sound of the bubbles through the filter is so relaxing. I felt like a deep-sea diver. Before you can go any further, you have to have your picture taken against the backdrop of some sharks and the Aquarium logo. There is a barrier to stop people walking past so you have no option other than to have this done. You have your family picture taken and then take your receipt number to the photo desk, which is situated on the next floor up. Do not offer plastic for payment, they only take cash and you get to see the prints on the monitor before you buy. It is actually well worth the £10.50. You receive one large print, one smaller one and two magnets. All presented in paper frames and a strong carrier bag.
~~ON ALL FLOORS ~~ So now you are free to wander around at your leisure. What do you get to see for your money? Well you wont be bored as there are 350 species in over 50 displays and in 14 different zones. The London Aquarium is set of 3 levels, the ground level, sub level 1 and sub level 2. I wont go into full detail about every display otherwise it might ruin the surprise of your day trip. Every level, every glass panel has something beautiful inside. It feels like a different world and is such a relaxing experience, even with children, that you might be tempted to keep going round the floors. If you do, you see something new each time. The fish are oblivious to us unless you tap the glass of the smaller aquariums. Please do be tempted, it just scares them and you will be captured on CCTV doing this. Here's some of the fish that have taken up residence here on the South Bank:
In the Atlantic Level: Mackerel, Gilthead Bread, Dogfish, Flatfish, Ballen Wrasse, cuckoo Wrasse, Rays, and Pollack. Ponds: Koi carp, Bream and Trout (I was surprised to see how big these are). Indian Ocean: Garden Eels, Stonefish, Cardinals, boxfish and Valentine's Toby (very stunning looking fish). Coral Reef: Corals, Lionfish, Moray Eel, Tangs, Seahorses, Picasso triggerfish, French angelfish, Blue-spotted boxfish. Pacific Ocean: Jacks, lookdowns, Golden Trevally, Mono, Sand tiger Sharks, Brown Sharks, Zebra Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Grouper. This was our favourite zone. You get to see the sharks so close it is quite frightening. They actually come up to the glass and open their huge jaws, bounce off the glass and come back round for more. These creatures are huge and the tank is on two floor levels. There is seating around both large windows and I would have been happy to stay there all day. It is truly amazing to see them. However, after the initial shock of seeing so many sharks, my kids lost their interest and couldn't take their eyes off a dead Mono that was upside down, spinning in the air current. They were pointing to it, telling the sharks to come and eat! Touch Pool: Sting Rays and Plaice The second best zone to see. Kids and adults stand on platforms and dip their hands into the cold water whilst the fish and Rays swim around your fingers. The rays don't attempt to nip you but gracefully slide under your palms. Gets very packed at all times and you have to just grab a spot when you can. No splashing is allowed and anyone seen by the staff will be removed. Small sinks are visible and it is recommend to wash your hands after dipping them into this water. Robotics: robotic fish, each with jewel-bright scales and realistic movements. After seeing the live ones, I found this quite a let down and unless you're a bit of tecchie head, you wont appreciate this zone very much.
~~THE SHOP~~ The gift shop is well worth a look and is at the last point before you exit out. Remember that once you exit out you cannot get back in unless you pay the charge again. The shop is not overly expensive which is a surprise being London, it does however stock some unusual and different knick-knacks to remind you of your day. Prices start from £1 upwards. However, the aisles are narrow and the shop is not that big on space, so buggies and wheelchairs will find it awkward.
~~RESTAURANTS~~ Very simply, there isn't one. The Aquarium has a strict no eating and drinking policy. For school parties though there is a classroom available for schools that pre-book. Being the South Bank there are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby, such as MacDonald's. Though far from cheap, I would recommend taking your own sandwiches and just purchasing drinks from these outlets. ~~LASTLEY~~ As part of your visitor experience, you get the opportunity to see the animals being fed. The professional divers actually go into the tanks with the Sharks. Also throughout the day there are free talks so you can learn more about the fish in each zone. I found it hard keeping the little ones quiet in order to listen. Dives take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12pm in the Atlantic Tank. During the summer holidays dives take place on Monday to Friday but this does attract lots of visitors and if you don't get front position at least an hour before the dive, you will not see anything. This is great experience, not sure if you can spend the whole day there. We covered it all by early afternoon but still worth the money. Each time we have re-visited, there has always been something different. Photography is allowed and even the camera on your phone will give you good results. The colours are amazing . If you make that trip, I hope you enjoy it.
Contact Details: London Aquarium County Hall Westminster Bridge Road London SE1 7PB
I wonder if they would let me take my rod?.......lol
solamarie 30.03.2006 22:53
congrats on the diamond, a great review, well worth it, I love aquariums but wouldn't want to queue for 20 minutes, so will stick to the Brighton Sea World where I have always been able to get in without a wait, Sue