When you have a little boy who is obsessed with sharks and you happen to live less than an hour from Europe’s largest collection of sharks in captivity, a birthday visit to the aquarium is something of a no-brainer. I’m just actually surprised we haven’t had our arms twisted for a trip long before now!
The Blue Planet Aquarium is based in Chester, next to the Cheshire Oaks Retail Park. As I mentioned above, it boasts one of Europe’s largest collections of sharks but it is also home to over 100 other displays of marine life. The displays are split into different sections which you follow in a one-way system. Areas such as ‘Flooded Forest’ and ‘Lake Malawi’ with plenty for visitors of all ages to see and enjoy.
There is also a pirate-themed outdoor play area, a gift shop and an on-site restaurant.
As you might imagine, we spent a lot of our visit wandering backwards and forwards through the Underwater Shark Tunnel. There are a whole host of sharks to be spotted here including Sand Tiger Sharks, Zebra Sharks and Black Tips. There is occasionally a moving travelator which you can utilise to make your way through the 70m tunnel but this was only working during one of our trips through.
There is also a schedule of live shows, talks and feeds throughout the day and we were lucky enough to be front row for one of the feeds which took place in the Aquatheatre and featured the divers feeding the rays. We had actually just decided to sit in the Aquatheatre to have a bit of a break, and watch the marine live swimming by when we noticed it was starting to fill up. Low and behold we were right at the front and Eli, the lucky birthday boy, even got called up to take part in a little quiz about sharks!
In terms of cost, it is pretty standard for a family day out. We took advantage of the 10% discount you receive for booking tickets online in advance, and the trip cost us circa £60 for a family of four. We went around the Aquarium a number of times and saw three of the live talks. I would estimate that we were there for no more than 4 hours.
We also arrived exactly at opening time, and found that it was incredibly quiet, despite being an overcast bank holiday Monday morning so I would highly recommend getting there first thing if you can. There were literally only a handful of other people present and we raced straight through to the Underwater Shark Tunnel (birthday boy’s choice!) so that we could spend some quality time there. By the time we went through for one last visit with the sharks it was much, much busier.
If you have younger children I imagine you could spend longer exploring, and children under 90cm go free so it’s a great option for a day out for toddlers and preschoolers.
It’s also worth noting that there is a £2.50 parking charge which applies, regardless of how long your visit lasts, but your car park ticket does allow you a complimentary drink from the restaurant with any purchase.
All in all I think Eli had a great birthday trip. It’s not the cheapest day out but there is plenty to see and do, and we saved money by planning ahead and taking a picnic in with us; there are picnic benches located in the outdoor area. The Aquarium are also happy for you to eat your own food at any of the seating areas dotted throughout, just not in the restaurant.
We had a great time, and I’m pretty sure we will be heading back before too long. Eli happened to notice that there was an opportunity to swim with the sharks so that is probably next on his bucket list. Wish me luck dissuading him from that!