A selection of the fish at the aquarium
by Navtej Johal
The newly renamed Sea Life London Aquarium has reopened after a multi-million pound revamp and has unveiled a series of new attractions aimed at getting large numbers of visitors through the doors.
Spread over three floors and 14 themed zones, some of the new highlights include the world’s biggest collection of vulnerable cownose rays, a 25m Blue whale skeleton replica tunnel walkway and a nail-biting Shark Walk finale – a floating platform suspended above the Pacific shark tank with only a glass panel separating the sharks from the visitors.
Thousands of sea creatures representing over 500 species from every part of the world, including:
The world’s largest collection of cownose rays and 10 species of shark
Two million litres of water, 100kg coral, 30 species of plants and foliage
25 metre whale skeleton encasing a walk-through viewing tunnel
The project cost £5 million and has taken a total of six months to complete with the aquarium remaining closed since March 9.
Toby Forer, general manager of Sea Life London Aquarium, said: “We have made it a far more family friendly environment. We’re also trying to educate our visitors, so kids are given a fact finder sheet on entry that allows them to learn about the sea life here.
“We had 50 displays before and we have put on another 15 now that are more adventurous, but the underwater walkway and Shark Walk are the two big ones,” he added.
A group of children from a local school were enviably allowed entry before the doors opened to the public and there was resounding approval for the changes introduced by the aquarium.
Lewis, 11, said: “I really enjoyed the whole thing. My favourite bit was when we saw all the Cownose rays – to see all those fishes up close was fascinating. It’s definitely improved since the last time I was here.”
Mr Forer concedes the building, which is located under the shadow of the London Eye on Westminster Bridge Road, has not been the most popular attraction in the past, but is hoping the new additions will change that.
He said: “It had very much stayed still and it became quickly regarded as an industrial aquarium – it was very bland. We think we have given it a new lease of life by introducing some dramatic new changes.”
The London Aquarium, as it was originally known, was built within the old Greater London Council building. The construction of the site began in October 1995 and the aquarium first opened its doors in April 1997.
As for the future of the aquarium, Mr Forer is adamant that visitor feedback will be the key: “In the winter we are going to look at introducing new species, but it all depends on what our visitors want – they will drive any future changes.”