Sydney Under the Sea
The Sea Life Aquarium offers oceanic encounters for all ages
Mary Kathryn Carpenter
The thick, red metal doors hiss open, emitting a burst of cold, brisk air. An empty boat pulls into place outside the short dock of the water ride. Passengers scramble on board, their breath clouding in the frigid air, ready to embark on a penguin excursion.
A sudden lurch sets the boat in motion. The sound of honks, squeaks and rustling greets the passengers as the boat rounds the corner. King and Gentoo penguins, somber in their black and white suits, orange feet stark against the white snow, totter back and forth. Around their enclosure, they dive in and out of pools, clambering to the top of snowy heaps.
Small, human faces press eagerly against a wall of glass fogged with the breath of penguins. It is feeding hour and the birds are excited. The Sea Life Sydney Aquarium’s latest visitor event, “Penguin Expedition,” takes guests through the exhibit on a water ride before depositing them outside the aquatic bird’s sanctuary.
This expedition is one of the ways the Sydney Aquarium is trying to enhance its wildlife experiences while furthering the educational mission. In addition to the penguin encounter, visitors can watch the sharks feed from the safety of a glass-bottomed boat, listen to discovery talks and interact with engaging exhibit items such as the interactive touch tank.
“I’m enjoying it heaps,” said Oscar Brennan, a ten-year-old resident of Sydney and first-time visitor to the aquarium, “It’s really fun and there’s lots to do so you wouldn’t get bored very quickly or anything. And they’re always opening new exhibitions and lots of different attractions like the glass-bottomed boat and the penguin boat.”
The aquarium also boasts a procession of ecosystems that reflect the oceans around Australia where visitors can walk through Sydney Harbor, Shark Valley, Dugong Island and Clownfish Gardens. Each ecosystem houses hundreds of fish species. In Sydney Harbor alone there are 600 species of fish to observe and learn about.
Glowing jellyfish, waving dugongs, clownfish and blue tangs can be found in the small ecosystems. A manta ray drifts past, wings arcing to slow its progress. A long, glass walkway puts the sea life all around visitors, wrapping them in the blue light of the ocean.
Mixed among the sea life are educational exhibits encouraging children to learn about preservation and ocean health. Steve Fleming, a New Zealand native and resident of Sydney, brings his two daughters to see the creatures at the aquarium frequently.
“It’s a good thing for the kids to go and do and they love fish,” Fleming said. “They have a great time, so it’s awesome.”
The Aquarium offers memberships, daily passes and online early booking discounts. Prices start at $35 (U.S. $25) for one adult. The Aquarium lies on the Sydney Harbour. The walkways are exposed in locations to the outside and the sound of the ocean pervades the various decks and lookouts.
In addition to the aquarium, Sydney houses the Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Madame Tussauds Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye and Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. Combination passes can be purchased on discount to see multiple attractions in a day. More information and ticket pricing can be found at sydneyaquarium.com.au/tickets/.