Behind the Scenes at Sydney's SEA LIFE Aquarium
Can a seahorse look embarrassed? The surprising answer is yes! One of the first stops on our behind the scenes tour of Sydney's SEA LIFE Aquarium was the medical quarantine room. This unfortunate little patient seemed to hang his head with a touch of shame when we learned he was being treated for excess gas build up in his pouch. Poor fellow! While we felt sad for his predicament, we couldn't help but enjoy every stop on our behind the scenes tour.
Ili is an inspiration
Our tour leader, Ili, is a full time member of the aquarium's team of scientists and she is one of the most passionate people I have ever met. She clearly loves her job and her enthusiasm was so infectious. It was amazing how the inner workings of the aquarium, like measuring pH levels, were transformed from routine administrative tasks to part of an inspiring nature experience.
Jellyfish: friend or foe?
We made our way from the medical zone to explore other areas of the aquarium that the public normally never sees, like special holding tanks for new fish (where we met "Lemon" and "Lime" the sharks), the food preparation area, and the "Cos Cafe" for the lettuce loving dugongs. We learned about the aquarium's efforts to help keep Sydney harbour clean and how they care for the occasional wayward marine guest. We were able to feed upside-down jellyfish one of their favourite treats - sea monkeys! I have to admit that jellyfish have long been on my list of mortal enemies but those at the aquarium were so colorful and graceful that I am reconsidering my harsh feelings!
Authenticity before entertainment
The behind the scenes tour is not the kind of experience that has participants touching the marine life or doing things that aren't permitted for regular visitors. This is a genuine behind the scenes look at the everyday workings of the aquarium, with a strong emphasis on the animals' care and well being. Children who are interested in animals and the ocean will love the personal attention and the chance to see how the marine life are fed and cared for. Adults will find Ili and other staffers a breath of fresh air and will soon be caught up in their passion. There is no photography allowed on this tour, so all the beautiful animals you see here were seen in the main aquarium.
Bananas for the barramundi
After the end of our behind the scenes tour we had the opportunity to visit the rest of the aquarium on our own. The knowledge we gained from the tour really helped put the public side of the aquarium into perspective and we viewed the exhibits with new-found appreciation. For instance, the aquarium is home to a very strange barramundi. His tank mate, a lungfish, is served a tasty diet of bananas and grapes and now the jealous barramundi - normally carnivorous-ly inclined - is getting some fruit salad as well!
The aquarium is well lit and well organized and was clearly a hit with small children. Visitors make their way through the aquarium in a linear fashion and there are no natural spots to double back. This is an important consideration if some of the marine animals are feeling shy (like the platypus!) - it might be worth lingering in one spot to see if they come out for a visit.
Research combos and concessions to save
The cost of the behind the scenes tour plus general admission to the aquarium is $58 through online pre-purchase (or $65 in person). All profits from the tour are reinvested to help with the cost of equipment and maintenance. General admission prices start from $28 as pre-purchase and there is a wide variety of concessions available, as well as combination prices for other attractions. If you're going to the aquarium with a family or if you are planning on visiting more than one attraction, it would be well worth the time to study the different options on their website.
We loved our visit and tour at Sydney's SEA LIFE Aquarium and I would enthusiastically recommend the behind the scenes tour to all visitors. Tell Ili we said hello!
As always I welcome and encourage your comments. Do you like visiting zoos, aquariums, and nature preserves when you travel?
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Our experience was sponsored by SEA LIFE. It did not affect my review and all opinions remain my own.