Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Toddler and the SEA Aquarium

We have been meaning to visit the new SEA aquarium at Sentosa since it opened last month. Scarlett has always enjoyed visiting Underwater World on Sentosa and is madly in love with the sole survivor of the great fish giveaway, who she has dubbed Daisy. A wet and gloomy Saturday morning seemed like a great opportunity to spend some time indoors.

Sentosa is super easy to get to both by car and public transport. We opted for a bus, MRT combo and then caught the Sentosa Express from VivoCity across to the island. We took a while to work out exactly where the Oceanarium was but once we found an updated map we were in business and a short covered walk later we were queueing to enter.

Children under four are free to enter the Oceanarium. Adults are $29, Seniors and children aged 4 - 12 are $20. They also have some excellent value annual passes. I would say this is pretty good value as, even with a toddler who raced through the Oceanarium at a fair clip, we spent a good ninety minutes in there. If I had been on my own I would probably have spent an extra hour!

I was not entirely sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the scale of the exhibits. Upon entering the complex you are greeted by an enormous Chinese junk in full sail.

 It is used as a cinema of sorts which seemed very popular but we decided not to risk with Miss Nearly Three. We carried on through a really engaging and interactive series of exhibits sharing the wares and lifestyle of the various ports on the main sailing route between Palembang in Indonesia all the way through to Muscat and beyond.

Admiring the camel trader

One of the major goods traded on the route was rugs

Trying out the drums

 There are interactive stations at each stop along the route. Children can be issued with a passport and collect stamps as they move through the souk. There are also lots of fun making and colouring activities including making a junk, an Indonesian shadow puppet and a variety of other fun activities. With a primary school aged child you could spend a good chunk of time in this display without even needing to see the Oceanarium proper.

The junk making sheet - pre-punched and made of fairly sturdy card

The Oceanarium is billed as the largest in the world and we were not disappointed. The initial entrance way into a traditional tunnel tube with pretty fish swimming around was probably the least inspiring part of the entire complex. We were soon moving onto much bigger and brighter things though.

One of the first large aquariums

 The first half of the Oceanarium is a collection of aquarium after aquarium showing sea life in various habitats ranging from the local mangrove Eco systems to the deep ocean. One of the highlights for me was that almost all the fish were local species to the South East or East Asian region. It is nice to think that such beautiful creatures really are in our backyard.

Schools of fish moving as one

Beautiful undersea landscapes with stunning plants, fish and corals

The fish came in all colours of the rainbow

Giant Japanese Crabs

 Miss Nearly Three enjoyed looking at all the different fish in the different displays. The brighter coloured fish and the scary ones definitely got more interest from her.

Starfish in the touch tank

 One of Miss S's favourite experiences of the day was the touch tank. This was well supervised with the staff quickly stopping any rough or inappropriate behaviour. It is interesting that the children were never the culprits, rather older women seemed to cause the majority of the issues. The starfish were interesting to touch and the way they have adapted to cling onto rocks was really interesting. There were other sea creatures in the tank but this was a very popular stop and we moved on rather than battle the crowds to try and handle some other creatures.

Further into the Oceanarium we came to what may be my favourite section - the jellyfish. They were displayed in a range of large and small aquariums to show off the beautiful colours and shapes. I took a lot of photos in this area and have been quite restrained just sharing a handful here.

 I still cannot believe how well some of these photos turned out as I just took them using my iPhone 4s through the Camera+ app. It worked really well in some very low light situations without me using a flash.

After viewing all these amazing aquariums I was not sure what would come next. I stepped through a doorway and my breath was taken away. Inside was an enormous floor to ceiling aquarium. Unfortunately, my photos from this room were not as good as I had hoped.

The largest display
 This photo was an attempt to show the scale. There are multi levelled viewing areas in front of the tank and then smaller windows all along the sides and back so you can get up very close and personal with the animals inside.

The star of the aquarium

Stingray with his entourage of smaller fish

 The stingray shown above was very popular with the crowd. He swam surrounded by a school of smaller fish and they really were spectacular to watch. I could have happily sat and watched this environment and its inhabitants for hours but Miss S had other ideas.

Tropical fish and coral

Miss S loved the pink fish

The shark tank

We continued through the complex enjoying tank after tank of stunning brightly coloured fish. The final display tank is the shark tank and the sharks are keen to come and have a look at the visitors so it is worth the wait. 

There are several food outlets scattered throughout the complex including a sit down restaurant, a gelato counter and a soon to be opened Garrett's popcorn stand. There is also a large shop selling t shirts and other Oceanarium related merchandise. I usually avoid these like the plague as so often they are overpriced. We were pleasantly surprised by the reasonably priced merchandise especially the tshirts and soft toys. These were under $10 each which means you don't have to steer the children away from the shop for fear of being ripped off.

We spotted Din Tai Fung on our way into the complex and decided to have dim sum for lunch. I think the experience really deserves a post of its own and will share it later in the week.

Thanks for reading to the end. It has turned into a bit of a mega post. We had such a lovely time there and I am sure we will be back soon as it is a fun, educational outing for all three of us.

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  1. Claire - your photos turned out beautifully. It looks like a gorgeous place to visit!

  2. That looks like a great place to visit, I will put that on the list for next Singapore trip. I love the photo's you took.

  3. What a fun place to visit, wish our zoo was a little closer.

  4. what a great post..love all the pics...so clear and just stunning!!!