When we’ve visited an attraction like Sea Life Sydney Aquarium many times, it’s exciting to hear that there’s something new to explore. Given that a visit to the Antarctic isn’t on our agenda any time soon, we were thrilled to visit the newly opened Penguin Expedition last weekend. AJ and I have been lucky enough to get up close to penguins before, me at Sea World and AJ at Billabong Zoo & Wildlife Park in Port Macquarie. But the boys haven’t and I knew a boat ride would get BJ’s attention. The Penguin Expedition is included in the ticket price so there is no additional to pay.
THE PENGUIN EXPEDITION
We were keen to beat the crowds so we arrived at Sea Life on a Sunday morning just before opening. Among the first through the doors it felt like we had the aquarium to ourselves.
It also meant there was no queue for the Penguin Expedition and we could have multiple rides. The penguin enclosure is currently home to Gentoo Penguins with the King Penguins due to arrive early in December.
The Penguin Expedition is a boat ride which does require wheelchair users to transfer if they wish to ride. For guests who cannot transfer into the boat there are large viewing windows to watch the penguins. It’s just a 2 minute round-trip ride so we left BJ’s wheelchair with the ride operators. The 8 seater boat requires a step down transfer to get into the boat which BJ managed easily.
BJ absolutely loved the ride and was thoroughly amused by the penguins who seemed extremely curious about the humans in the boats. It was questionable as to who was watching who! One of the Gentoos hopped down the stairs seemingly following our ride which made BJ laugh.
I think our family has set a record for the most consecutive rides. I felt sorry for the poor guy who had to go through the safety drill despite knowing it was our fifth turn. I will give him an A+ for consistency and diligence. Though by the end I think we could have all recited it.
For any kids who are unsure in new situations I’ll explain a little more about the ride. The area you enter to get into the boats is on the darker side.
The temperature is set at a fresh 6 degrees which I found refreshing from Sydney’s heat but some visitors grabbed the blankets provided. There’s a little haze and then the boat emerges between the penguin enclosures where everything is clear.
BJ couldn’t quite believe how close the penguins were to the boats, which was made even better by the interest they took in us.
I’m popping back in December to see the King Penguins and I’ll share more details after my visit.
Flash photography is prohibited in the Penguin Expedition.
Children under 90cm must be seated next to a responsible adult.
Children over 90cm but under 120cm must be seated next to or in the row immediately in front of a responsible adult.
Children over 120cm are free to ride without adult supervision
THE REST OF THE AQUARIUM
I’ve focused on the Penguin Expedition because it’s new but it’s just one tiny part of the fabulous aquarium. There is so much to see and it’s fully accessible.
To access the underwater tunnels visitors need to navigate several ramps. It’s easy going on the way down but a bit of a push on the way back up. A power chair would make it much easier.
The best part of the aquarium is the easy viewing with many large windows
The highlight for BJ has always been the tunnels where he can watch the sharks swimming overhead.
Keep an eye out for Pig and Wuru the resident Dugongs at Sea Life. Wuru was found orphaned at one month of age and without human intervention would not have survived. She’s clearly thriving with the care she has received as she now weighs a whopping 400kg. The Dugongs eat lettuce which is just as good for them as sea grass. In fact, they eat so much of it, there are four staff members whose sole job is preparing the food and feeding the Dugongs 12 hours a day!
Kids love hands-on activities and there are plenty of learning opportunities through the displays throughout the aquarium.
BJ particularly enjoyed the sounds that come from this Dugong. One in particular – nothing like a bit of toilet humour!
Dugongs communicate in melodic chips, barks, trills and squeaks. Visitors are encouraged to make their own Dugong noises to communicate with someone sitting in the shell booth. Judging by some of the reactions from Hubby, the kids aren’t going to make it as Dugongs.
The Art Aquarium was new since our last visit and got us all participating. Visitors can colour in their own sea creature.
Which is then taken to a scanner to be scanned. At this point you can email it to home and also send it to the virtual tank.
When you choose tank, the scanner scans the picture and then there is an audible splash.
The fun is then finding your sea creature among the other artworks swimming in the tank. Lots of fun.
Whether visiting from overseas or a local, there is plenty to entertain and educate at the aquarium.
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is located at Darling Harbour and right next door you can visit Wildlife Sydney Zoo (you can read about our visit here) or Madame Tussauds (you can read about our visit here) Buying a ticket which covers all these attractions will also save you money.
Line up before opening to be first through the doors and avoid the large crowds.
Avoid Christmas – New Year period if possible. It’s one of the busiest times of year.
If you have a power wheelchair it will help with the extensive ramping between levels.
Companion Card is accepted.
Accessible stand-alone bathrooms are available half-way through the Aquarium and opposite the registers in the gift shop.
Do you have a favourite sea creature at the aquarium?
We visited as guests of Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. As always my enthusiasm comes from a fantastic day out and all opinions are my own.