In a city full of attractions and theme parks, one thing Orlando has been lacking is a quality aquarium. With the opening this week of SEA LIFE Aquarium, that is no longer the case.
We had the chance to check it out during a recent media preview, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Upon entering SEA LIFE, you pass a photo op area. Photos taken here will later be digitized into CGI settings like being underwater with fish, then ready for purchase at the end of the attraction. You then enter a cute round theater, with a video running on the ceiling.
From there, you exit into a hallway that leads you to a group of freestanding aquariums. What is unique about them, is that they have features that allow you to feel like you’re part of the underwater world. The eel tank features glass observation domes that you have to crawl up into (aimed more at kids, but agile adults can enjoy this feature, as well). There is also a wrap around tank for those standing or in wheelchairs to experience marine life in surround view, as it were.
Then there is the jellfish corridor, but alas, during our visit, the jellyfish weren’t at home in their tank. There were cool replicas on the ceiling, though.
From there, we encountered starfish, sharks, stingrays, horseshoe crabs, and more, all separated into sections by oceans and natural habitats. Other animals like the Giant Pacific Octopus hadn’t moved in yet, either.
As we walked, placards on the wall imparted information on the different habitats, and the environmental issues they face. There were little facts to be read about the animals, too.
A giant tank with a large stone head and hand served as the focal point for several viewing areas. It housed the majority of the sharks, and SEA LIFE pretty much gave 360 degree access to the denizens swimming inside. There were even viewing areas cut out at kid level.
And most viewing areas had curved glass, as opposed to flat glass. This had the effect of making the marine life seem like it’s closer to you.
The highlight of the path through the attraction was a clear Ocean Tunnel that allowed the marine life (sharks, stingrays, and more) to swim all around you, even under your feet. This is due to a plexiglass floor, which I’m told can hold several thousand pounds.
It was a bit disorientating at first because your eyes tell you you’re walking in water since they register motion on all sides. But once you get used to the sensation, it is so amazingly cool!
After that tunnel, you visit the Indian Ocean area, which features another tank with a giant statue in it. I really liked seeing these details, as it gave some depth and design to the large tanks of water.
Stingray Cove was next and featured a round-ish tank full of that animal, along with horseshoe crabs. The crabs were troublemakers, I think. I watched one sneak up behind a sleeping stingray and give it several nudges until it awoke floating.
From there is a habitat that should be familiar to anyone who has spent time in south Florida…the Everglades Wetlands.
Once you’ve visited all the world’s marine life habitats included inside SEA LIFE, the last area before the exit has several small rockpool tanks where kids of all ages can pet real live starfish and sea urchins (carefully because of the spiky outside). It’s recommended to wash your hand before and after at the nearby sink. This area also has restrooms, and what looks like a play zone for kids.
At this point, you can exit up the ramp to purchase your photos and hit the gift shop…OR you can re-enter SEA LIFE and do the tour all over. That’s right, you can stay inside as long as you’d like. And if you missed something or want to see it again, you can, as long as you don’t head up the ramp.
As if SEA LIFE wasn’t already a great value just with the great exhibits and variety of animals, you aren’t rushed to leave. I really like that.
I think the attraction is fun for all ages, and nicely balances the informational aspect with the visual. There is a passport you can get at the entrance that allows kids to visit various information stations throughout the exhibits and get a stamp that they were there.
Admission to SEA LIFE Orlando is only $18 for adults, if bought online at least three weeks in advance . It’s $25 otherwise. Children (age 4-12) are $13 with the three week advance purchase, or $20 at the attraction. Children under 3 are free.
There are also combo tickets available online that allow you to pair a visit to SEA LIFE with visits to The Orlando Eye or Madame Tussauds, or both, as well as 4 attraction ticket that adds in a visit to LEGOLAND Florida.
SEA LIFE Orlando operates under a motto to Breed, Rescue, and Protect creatures, and the company’s SEA LIFE Trust works to preserve oceans and the life in them.
To purchase tickets, or for more information on SEA LIFE Orlando, visit visitsealife.com/orlando.
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