Given our recent passionate declarations to be shark lovers, we were very excited and very grateful to our friend, Molly, for letting us review Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. For the kids and I, this was our first visit to Manly’s Aquarium, in fact, I hadn’t really known it was even there. James had visited once when he was younger.
We started our adventure by meeting Nanna at central. Given that she’d never been to an aquarium and we get to do these awesome things we thought we would pay for her to come along. Once we made our way to Circular Quay we boarded a ferry to Manly. The ride over was the longest I’ve ever been on any type of water vessel. Seriously. The kids loved it, it was calm and gorgeous.
Entering Manly, the Sea Life Sanctuary is well presented but seemed quite tiny compared to what I was expecting and I have to admit that I was nervous, having visited Sea Life Sydney Aquarium for a Shark Mission event only a week beforehand, I wondered if I might be disappointed. However, on entering, I was immediately drawn into the magical world.
I love the effort that goes into presenting the areas surrounding the enclosures, it really makes an impression and you feel like you could truly be underwater.
In the large tank, immediately as we walked in, we were greeted by scores of gorgeously wonderful species, in particular, a couple of fish which caught my overly excited mum’s eye – they look like they have noses (first pic, second row) and we spent a good while marveling at them amongst all the other vibrant residents. As you move around the aquarium there are screens beside the exhibits telling you the names and details of what you might be looking at. The ability to learn as you make your way around at your own pace is a real highlight for us, as taking away knowledge from our experiences is a very important aspect of enjoying ourselves.
I was pleasantly surprised to be seeing so many things we had never seen before, even having been to another aquarium not so long ago. The oceans are full of weird, wonderful, scary, amazing and sometimes disgustingly enthralling things. Things you could never even imagine. Watching the kids and Nanna pressing their hands to the glass in wonder, gasping and exclaiming in delight filled me with so much joy. And, I have to admit, I did quite a bit of gasping and exclaiming myself.
As with all good aquariums (I’ve been to exactly two but I feel this must be a universal truth), there is a sensory pool where we could touch shark eggs, starfish and, much to my disgust, a sea slug. Often, these things do not feel how you imagine they will (with the exception of sea slugs, they feel as gross as you imagine). This hands on part of the adventure is a great learning tool and the kids love it. Ellie did complain that the pool was too deep and most things that were there to be touched could not be reached.
We made our way up to Penguin Cove, on the upper level, just in time for the Penguin feeding. I loved the ability to look out the windows at Manly beach, such a stunning view. Sitting on the provided benches, we learned about the Little Penguins while watching them be fed.
Then it was down to the depths for us and our little shark lovers. Shark Harbour is beautifully presented and completely awe inspiring. As you walk through the under water viewing tunnel you can see Grey Nurse sharks, Port Jackson Sharks, huge and not-so-huge stingrays, fish and ‘Sea Biscuit the Green Sea Turtle – who is literally the biggest turtle I have ever seen. The best thing was, there wasn’t a mad crush of people pushing us through the tunnel – we could look, study and discover as we pleased. We would have missed so much if we had to rush, instead, we got to really appreciate what we were seeing.
With ‘Breed, Rescue, Protect‘ being the sanctuaries mission, education and conservation are a key element here, with so many important messages being shared about things we can do from simple things such as keeping our beaches clean, to becoming a Penguin Warden . There was an opportunity to sign a petition against the current shark culling in Western Australia but no pressure to do so.
Our visit was the perfect mixture of wonder, excitement, education and fun and we will definitely be coming back for a visit. Next time we might bring along my 18 year old brother who has never been to an aquarium. Ellie already has her sights set on doing the Shark Dive offered as soon as she is old enough.
Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary is open from 10am – 5.30pm every day, except Christmas Day
Daily admission prices are;
- Adults: $24
- Children (4 – 15yrs): $12
- Concession (student/senior): $20
- Family (2 adults + 2 children): $60 – additional children: $10
Be sure to check out their online ticket prices if you know in advance you plan to visit, as they are always discounted