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For James’s 2nd birthday treat day out we needed somewhere that would keep both him and Stanley entertained (no easy task!), be predominately indoors (gotta love February birthdays), and have plenty of facilities for Eli.
Blue Planet Aquarium Chester was our chosen destination, and is roughly 1.5hrs away from us and so there was much talk of sharks and crocodiles (Stanley) and someone singing Baby Shark (James) on route. Nana came along with us and so we were looking forward to it being a great day out.
A captivating underwater world is waiting for you to discover at Blue Planet Aquarium. Home to more than 100 living displays, as well as one of Europe’s largest collections of sharks, the aquarium offers plenty of marine life to marvel at.
For those mummy’s with little ones, I decided to wear Eli in a carrier for our visit, but all exhibits were buggy/wheelchair friendly and there was also a buggy park at the Aquatheatre site, if you choose to watch a show.
On arrival we were given a leaflet with a timetable for feeding times/shows and off we went. There was a sign detailing the different zones and a map which my boys took absolutely no notice of and went running to the waterfall and into the first zone of discovery ‘Northern Streams’.
These are inhabitants of the waters of the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere, including the rivers and streams of the British Isles.
I would have liked the chance to read the signs and displays to find out more, but life with two boys under 5 tends to go at 100mph at the best of times and before we knew it we were in the Flooded Forest.
The Flooded Forest tropical river exhibit is designed to represent a branch of the Amazon River, the mighty waterway of the rainforests of South America, with its abundant and exotic freshwater life.
This zone included an interactive electric eel display which James enjoyed and also the huge tank of piranha which the boys viewed with both awe and nervousness.
Fun Fact: The infamous razor-sharp teeth of the red-bellied piranha are self-sharpening and can cut through steel. A shoal of piranha can strip an unwary animal to a skeleton in minutes.
For a fish that is so deadly they really are beautiful creatures, glimmering and glinting under the water as they turn, some time was spent watching the piranhas then running away when they swam towards the glass.
We passed through Lake Malawi and the Frog Zone before heading downstairs to the Mangrove Swamps, which for my boys was all about the crocodiles (caiman). On our first passing we spotted a tail poking out from the submerged roots but on our next viewing (there were several) we finally got a good look.
The next environment was Rock Pools, which was one of my favourites just because I love being at the coast, one of the rock pools is home to some beautiful star fish which were clinging to the glass. There is a simulated wave that crashes over them every few minutes or so. One of my favourite sounds…I could have stayed there all day!
So far on our journey the colours had been muted, with the odd pop of colour here and there, but from here on in there was about to be a colour explosion. If like me you are a fan of photos, Blue Planet Aquarium can provide the backdrop to some very ‘instaworthy’ shots. All photos within this post were captured with my phone, and I’m completely in love with the colours. This would be an absolutely great day out for an amateur photographer.
Coral Cave was a delight, we ventured into the cave taking in the brightly coloured coral and it’s inhabitants and for my little Finding Nemo fans, we found his whole family and Dory made an appearance too.
You can view the coral reef from above, either from the viewing platform or by looking directly down through the viewing portholes in the floor.
I wasn’t expecting Eli to get much from the day as he’s only 16 weeks old, but the colourful coral and the bright fish darting in and out, had him completely mesmerised.
At this point we decided to double back and grab some lunch from The Nautilus Kitchen. The set up in the restaurant is great, plenty of high chairs are available and tables that look out into the deep…don’t be surprised to see rays and fish swimming up to the glass while you’re eating!
After looking at the menu display boards behind the counter, (ideally I’d have liked the option of a table menu, as it was we had to go up and view the menu in turns) we decided on fish and chips all round. Unfortunately we were told that they hadn’t any fish…the irony was not lost on us! We soon made other choices from the somewhat limited menu finally settling on burgers, pizza and the chicken bites kids meal and the food was served quickly. The meal was average and typical of these kind of attractions, which was a bit of a shame as this could be a real feature of the experience if it was upgraded a little, I personally think they’re missing a trick as the setting is so amazing! If you have any dietary requirements I’d suggest ringing ahead of your trip if you plan to eat in-house.
Alternatively, you can take your own food and eat it on site. There are benches dotted around the aquarium and also picnic tables provided in the outside play area for this purpose. This would be my preference for a return visit.
Back to the aquarium and finally we were in the domain of the sharks, if you intend on visiting with anyone under the age of 10 be prepared to spend approximately 18 hours here…it’s a magical experience for little ones!
The Aquatheatre hosts at least 3 dive shows daily, we chose not to catch a show during our visit as our boys struggle to sit still for any great length of time and we didn’t want to disrupt the other visitors. We did however, stand and gaze in amazement at the underwater panorama before us.
Fun Fact: The Blue Planet Aquarium Aquatheatre window is actually made of acrylic and is 23cm (8in) thick to hold back the 4 million litres (880,000 gallons) of water of the Caribbean reef. It cost more than £100,000!
And finally onto Shark Tunnel, this could not have been more exciting for my boys, as it involved a moving walkway and sharks, lots of sharks!! I must admit I got a bit lost in the wonder of it myself, it really is a special way to view these majestic creatures.
At the heart of Blue Planet Aquarium is the Aquatunnel, one of the longest underwater tunnels in the world. You’ll be taken on a spectacular underwater safari on our moving walkway and everywhere you look you’ll find amazing tropical fish and awesome sharks staring back at you!
The walkway allowed us to look up and keep moving without falling over, and it felt like we were part of the underwater world. Being below the rays and watching them swim overhead, gave a wonderful view of their hidden ‘faces’.
We also got a true sense of the sheer scale of all these animals, and how they interact with each other below the surface.
Once we had managed to convince the boys to leave Shark Tunnel (no easy task) using the promise of a trip to the Pirate Playground as bribery, we headed through to Venom where we got up close and personal with some big spiders and stingy things before making our way back upstairs ending our fabulous day of underwater exploration.
If you would like to visit Blue Planet Aquarium on the door prices are £19.00 for standard tickets, £13.50 for juniors over 90cm and up to 12 years old, and £16.50 for concessions. Infant juniors under 90cm in height are admitted free.
Visit the website for more details and news of upcoming events.
All images are my own unless otherwise credited and must not be reproduced without permission.
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