London Aquarium review
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I've always had a soft spot for aquariums, and I've got a big tank at home. I could quite happily sit in front of a tank and watch the fish swimming round and round for hours (well... for five minutes), and you don't have to take them for walkies either, so they are my kind of pet. And you can eat them as well -- perfect!
There are quite a few aquariums in London, but the Sealife London Aquarium is easily the biggest and the best. (The other ones are in London Zoo, Chessington World of Adventures, and a little one in Kew Gardens.) It starts off with a walk across the top of a shark tank, on foot-thick glass. I am always very careful to check it for cracks before I walk across, because you can never be too careful. These are sharks we are talking about -- they're not going to give you a ten-second head-start to get out. They will just come straight for your legs and bite them off. If the worst happens and it breaks then try and drag a few kids in with you, and hopefully the sharks will go for them.
After that you get an obligatory stop against a green screen, so they can flog you some photos in the shop, and a couple of little fish tanks full of tiddlers.
The first big tank that you come across is an open-top one for the flat fish. You used to be able to stick your hand in and try and touch them, but I guess the fish complained because you can't do that anymore.
The tanks that come next are pleasingly big. Some of them are absolutely colossal, filled with mountainous rocks and towering columns of stone. One of them has got three huge Easter Island heads in it. The tank that I'm looking at right now must have a thousand fish in it -- at least. It's got hammerhead sharks and a flatfish with a six-foot wingspan, plus a pig-sized turtle swimming around.
I could stand in front of this tank all day and watch them swimming round and round. There don't seem to be very many rules of the road. There are big swarms going clockwise, but then a shark comes smack through the middle of them going the other way, scattering them all around the rocks. It's like his driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Some guys are just solitary and hang halfway up the water like a life buoy, trying to stay out of trouble.
I wonder why the sharks don't eat the little fellas? Maybe they have pulled out all their teeth.
Then you go through an underwater tunnel looking at the flatfish sailing over your head. Then it's on to the biggest tank of all. It's two stories tall and stuffed full of sharks-- the proper kind that will bite your head off given half a chance. It's difficult to count exactly how many there are, because the blighters won't stand still, but three of them are the real deal -- extras from the movie Jaws. And they don't look too happy either.
After that comes the coral tanks and tropical tanks. Some of fish are so brightly coloured that you think they must have been down the hairdressers to get their skin dyed. It's all purples and pinks and sunshine orange. Some of them look like they have been charged up with electricity, with lightning blue lines down their side.
They've got lots of prehistoric-looking fish too, like they've been thawed out of a glacier. They look like colossal chunks of muscle with aerials coming out of their heads. If you walked into a fish and chip shop and asked for one of them, then you'd be eating leftovers for a month.
One thing that I really like about the London Aquarium is that the zones have been very carefully themed. One minute you're walking through wooden walls of logs, then a cave-like rock place, then a lushly coloured Aztec jungle with bright green vegetation, Inca carvings, Buddhist statues, hanging vines and waterfalls.
The final bit worth seeing is the arctic zone. The last time I came here they had the corridors chilled down to minus-five degrees, but I guess someone must have complained because they've turned the heating up now. Right at the end is Penguin Beach, which is basically just a little pool of water with about five penguins in it, with some fake snow for them to stand on. I felt a bit sorry for them to be honest, because they were just standing there staring at the back wall -- a painted scene of distant clouds and icebergs. I guess their little brains believed it to be real. It reminded me of that final scene in the Truman Show (that Jim Carey movie, have you seen it?) where he finally reaches the edge of the world and then stands there banging on the wall, crying to get out.
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