Sea Life Manchester is a brand new attraction, having been opened for just a few weeks, so we decided to pay it a visit. We have Merlin annual passes (this place is part of that group), so wanted to pack a visit in before they expire in September.
It is at the Trafford Centre shopping centre, so a really convenient location with lots of parking. We were hopeful of a great day out, especially because there has been much hype and publicity in the lead up to the opening.
It is open every day between 10am and 7pm - we saw at the weekends long queues outside, so I think, if you wanted to visit at peak times, prebooking online would be a good idea. Ticket prices are £16.20 for adults and children aged over 3 years. There is no discount for purchasing in advance online - apparently you just get priority entry.
We all enjoyed the first part of Sea Life - Turtle Beach. A lady gave us a little talk about turtles and how and where they lay their eggs. This was creatively done, with use of lighting, a "beach" scene and animated turtles. It was fun for younger children and brought the story alive for everyone - it felt like you were watching the baby turtles hatch.
We were full of anticipation as to what would be next, after that great start - big mistake! There were lots of displays, it was very well laid out with touch screen information next to the displays, everything was brightly coloured and there were some really interesting fish. Some tanks had "crawl" through places where children could crawl "into" them and get a different view.
There is a glass tunnel you walk through and get some great views of the sharks, the fish and Ernie, the huge sea turtle. He was swimming around above our heads, we were fascinated by him and could have watched him all day. He was feeding on apples from the top of the tank and it was a great sight.
There was an interesting area focusing on turtles next - lots of tanks with all different types of turtles swimming around inside and some cute hands-on activities. We enjoyed "hatching" the turtle egg and finding out if we got a baby boy or girl.
They had a touch tank with 2 members of staff. The only creature in this pool was a crab - nothing else at all! Our son was a bit bemused by this. You were also not really allowed to touch the single crab, just look closely while the lady showed it to you. This was a real disappointment to say the least.
We kept anticipating something really impressive was just around the corner. The displays seemed to be building up to this - that you were going to get a great view of the massive tank containing the huge sea turtle and the other fish. Imagine the sense of anti-climax, when, after 20 minutes of slow browsing and reading every single information board about every single fish.... we reached the gift shop and exit!
They are constrained by the building here for sure. It was formerly a furniture shop, so is only 2 floors tall, so there are limits to what they can have. At most other aquariums we have visited, there is either a huge tank several floors high and the chance to see all the fish and other creatures from different angles; OR more hands-on interaction with different creatures; OR something special and different. Not at this Sea Life Centre though. I was so glad we had used our Merlin passes and not paid the entrance fee which would have cost £50 for our family of 3.
I would definitely not recommend coming here. If they charged a quarter of the price, it would be a lovely half hour experience, as it stands, with the prices they are currently charging you would be much better off going to another aquarium (there are several not too far away), where for the same amount of money, you get to see so much more.