Over the half term break we were visiting in Manchester and after a fabulous time at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre we visited Sea Life Manchester Aquarium. This is situated conveniently next door to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre at the Barton Square entrance of the Trafford Centre.
We love visiting aquariums and the girls in particular love watching and learning about the marine life on display. What I love about visiting aquariums is that each one is different and they all offer something different to see and experience such as the Jurassic Seas exhibition in Manchester.
We were warmly welcomed and the girls were given a diver mask and a DIVE log book to complete as they explored the aquarium. The locations of each station were shown in their books and there were activities to complete at each point of our visit.
The start of our visit was very engaging as you stand around an interactive screen and watch a 3D projection show known as the Turtle Beach experience. This unique experience guides you through the life of a green sea turtle and with the help of the children’s participation you learn the life cycle of a turtle from egg to the sea. We learnt that in fact turtles lived on the earth before dinosaurs.
Sea Life Manchester is a self-guided experience through 15 discovery zones which boasts over 5,000 amazing sea creatures. All of the displays at the aquarium were at the perfect height for children, which allowed the girls to get up really close to all of the fantastic marine life on display. There were lots of information boards around the aquarium featuring pictures and key facts about the marine life which was suitable and engaging for all ages.
The Shoal & Rocky Hideout
Our journey started at the shoal and the rocky hideout, which contains some of the world’s oddest and scary looking creatures.
We love jellyfish, and at the interactive colour-changing tank made it even more engaging. We spent an age watching the moon jellyfish captivated by how different they looked under a variety of coloured lights. There were lots of questions from the girls and they were so intrigued after we told them they have no brains, stomachs, blood, heart or eyes.
Shark Shipwreck & Underwater Ocean Tunnel
As we entered Shark Shipwreck we caught our first glimpse of sharks.
The views inside the underwater ocean tunnel are always one of our favourite parts and Sea Life Manchester did not disappoint, giving a full panoramic experience. As we walked through the views from the bottom to the top of the tank provided extraordinary close-ups of the marine life. We loved shark spotting, with the girls jumping back from the glass every time a shark swam past and also being able to get up close to the giant sea turtle called ‘Ernie’ and the numerous shoals of fish was amazing.
A favourite with children in all aquariums is when they spot Nemo and Dory from the Disney movie ‘Find Nemo’. What was great about the Coral Reef tank in Sea Life Manchester was that they could explore the tank and see the clownfish by crawling through a mini underwater tunnel.
Our next area to explore was Turtle World, again the interaction offered was just fantastic. A giant talking turtle called Tyler shared lots of cool facts with you as you enter. There were also giant turtle eggs that the girls had to heat with their hands before the screen shows if it would be a boy or a girl when it hatches.
There was a great activity area for children to relax, colour in pictures and complete dot to dot puzzles.
What was a different about Sea Life Manchester was around half way through our journey as the Sub-Aqua soft play. This was not expected and the girls thought it was amazing having a soft play in an aquarium and allowed them to burn off some energy. The downside of placing a soft play in an aquarium is getting the children out, however the promise of being able to touch a sharks tooth and to see sting rays was enough to get us back on track.
With so many large tanks with floor to ceiling windows the girls could easily see everything. The Tropical Ocean tank had a huge ancient statue in the middle and the girls spent ages looking at the sharks, rays and turtles swimming around it. One fish in particular caught my attention which was the napoleon wrasse one of the largest reef fishes in the world.
There are regular talks and feeding times where you can find out more about the different habits and the breeding programmes. The times of the talks are situated at the tanks and on the floor in large stickers and also on television screens.
The Seahorse nursery was fascinating, and we learnt that male seahorses are the only male animals to give birth!
One of our favourite exhibits was stingray bay, with its large 360 degree circular glass tank where we loved watching the rays swimming past us. One fish in particular was particularly taken with me and kept following me around the tank.
A new exhibit never seen before at Sea Life was the brilliant Jurassic Ranger. As you enter the exhibit it allows you to dive into the depths of the ocean and travel back in time to the ages of the dinosaurs. We got the chance to hold and feel sharks teeth and we were given a fossilised sharks took to take away. My youngest daughter loves sharks and thought it was so amazing to have a sharks tooth in her bag.
The three player interactive dinosaur game was so engaging and provided lots of information on different types of ancient sharks such as the giant Megalodon and the girls really enjoyed this.
What is great about Sea Life centres is the amount of interaction offered for visitors. At the rockpools we were able to smooth the starfish and crabs which was a unique sensory experience for the girls.
The children loved knowing that some of the marine life such as Ernie the giant sea turtle had been rescued and that they were protected from predators who sometimes are humans. Moreover, although it was sad for the girls to hear that sharks are hunted for their fins to make local delicacies, clothing, bags and shoes, it was positive for them to hear what they see as a happy ending with the conservation projects the Sea Life Centre supports.
My daughter kept reminding me that there is no flash photography is allowed in the aquarium. We did film and photograph using no flash!
Just before the exit was another great interactive area for children called ‘Turtle Ocean’ where you have to help the turtles.
Your visit ends as with many attractions in the gift shop, and it is here you can claim your reward on completion of your dive log book. The children were proud to receive an additional two toggles to go on their lanyard from LEGOLAND Discovery Centre. The books are a fun way to help the children learn about the marine life in the aquarium as they have to search for the answers.
What I thought was good value was that your ticket was valid all day. So you could leave for lunch or visit another area of the Trafford Centre and come back to specific feeding sessions or talks later on in the day.
We had such a great time at SEALIFE Manchester which took us around 2 hours to explore. Although it’s not on the same scale as some of the larger aquariums around the UK it still offered a fun educational trip and I would recommend as a great all-weather family attraction to visit whilst in Manchester.
If you are planning a visit it is cheaper to book your tickets in advance online at https://www2.visitsealife.com/manchester It is also worth looking at the combi ticket which is excellent value and includes entry to the excellent LEGOLAND Discovery Centre next door.
For the latest ticket prices and more information please visit the SEALIFE Manchester website: https://manchester.legolanddiscoverycentre.co.uk
Alternatively you can use Tesco Clubcard vouchers for tickets. By exchanging £5.00 in Clubcard vouchers gets you your entry ticket.
We were guests of SeaLife Manchester for the purpose of the review.