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Craig recommends… Here’s my latest London Aquarium review. The aquarium is next-door to the London Eye, London Dungeon and Shrek’s Adventure. There are a couple of other aquariums at London Zoo and Chessington World of Adventures.
The London Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Europe, filled with 3,000 different types of marine life from ponds, rivers and tropical seas, to coral reefs and rainforest swamps.
This review originally appeared in his London blog
I’ve always had a soft spot for aquariums, and I could quite happily sit in front of a fish tank and watch them swimming round and around for hours (well… maybe five minutes). There are quite a few of them in London, but the Sealife London Aquarium is easily the biggest and the best. (The other ones are at London Zoo, Chessington World of Adventures, plus a little one underneath the greenhouse at Kew Gardens.)
It begins with a walk across the top of a shark tank. I’m always very careful to check the glass for cracks beforehand because you can never be too careful. These are sharks we’re talking about, remember – and 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 the glass cracks then try and drag a few kids in with you, and hopefully the sharks will go for them instead.
After that you have to make an obligatory stop against a green screen so they can flog you some photos of your face in the shop, followed by some little fish tanks filled with jellyfish and seahorses.
The first big tank that you come across is an open-top pool full of flatfish. 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 fish tanks that come next are absolutely colossal, filled with mountainous slabs of rocks and towering columns of stone.
One of them has 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 has hammerhead sharks and a flatfish with a six-foot wingspan, plus a cow-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, I’ve noticed. There are big swarms going clockwise, but then a shark comes smack through the middle of them and scatters them all around the rocks. It’s as if he’s driving the wrong way down a one-way street, but I suppose when you’re a shark you can do whatever you like.
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.
Then come the coral reefs and tropical tanks. Some of the fish in these are so brightly coloured that they must have been down the hairdressers to get their skin dyed – they’re all purple and pink and sunshine orange. They look as if they’ve been charged up with electricity, with lightning blue lines down their side.
One thing that I really like about the London Aquarium is that the zones have been very carefully themed. One minute you’ll be walking through a wooden wall of logs, then a cave-like stone place, then a lushly coloured Aztec jungle with bright green vegetation, Inca carvings, Buddhist statues, hanging vines and waterfalls. The jungle one is like walking onto the set of Indiana Jones, with a soundtrack of jungle cheeps and thunderstorms coming from the speakers.
They have lots of prehistoric-looking fish as well – the piranhas are big chunks of muscle with tiny little pincers for teeth. This is also where you’ll start to meet some other animals… they’ve got some turtles and a six-foot crocodile lounging around a riverbank.
The final bit worth seeing is Penguin Beach. The last time I came here they had the corridors chilled down to minus-five degrees, but I guess the penguins must have complained because they’ve turned the heating up now. It’s 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 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 where Jim Carrey finally reaches the edge of the world and then stands there banging on the wall, wailing to get out.
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