Arriving at SEA LIFE: Kelly Tarlton’s Auckland is exciting, especially knowing they have the largest Antarctic colony of penguins on display in the world! I can’t wait to discover all the weird and wonderfully mysterious creatures that lurk in the depths of our oceans! Barely able to contain our excitement, it’s time to start exploring …
We head down the ramp which is split into two lanes. One for ‘walk-in’ visitors and the other, for those who have paid online prior to their arrival – something I would definitely recommend doing to avoid waiting and to also nab that cheaper deal!
Before you’ve even begun to explore, you’re immediately immersed in another world – a much colder Antarctic one with a huge “Snow Trac” parked in the main entranceway. We are greeted by friendly faces and warm smiles and given a lanyard along with a map to guide us through and tell us when feeding times are. That’s it! We’re off!
We find ourselves in Scotts Hut, exactly like the one at Scott’s Base in Antarctica! It’s fascinating to see the clothing and bunk beds, various studying apparatus and a collection of rations. Some of these are authentic pieces from the base itself while others are replicas. The exhibit details Scott’s journey to the Antarctic.
Heading out of the hut, you will find a friendly photographer ready to capture some photos of you and your friends/family in front of a blue screen. Instructed to smile in one breath and then to “look scared” as a shark is coming from the right, you know that when you pick up the photos at the end of your visit, you’re in for a cool souvenir!
After your photos, take a walk across the bridge, through the turning tunnel which eventually leads you to the cheeky Gentoo and majestic King Penguins.
These birds are absolutely fascinating to watch. The Gentoo are playful and energetic, swimming around the tank or running in groups around the enclosure. They’re also extremely curious and more often than not, you’ll find them coming up to the glass to investigate who you are – perfect for photo opportunities! The King Penguins stand tall with their vibrant yellow markings, almost resembling men in tuxedos.
When it comes to love, nothing can come between a Gentoo penguin couple. They are monogamous for life. To win his true love, the male penguin presents her with a pebble, almost like a gift just like us humans! How cute is that?
An interesting fact we learned is that the breeding programme is extremely successful. No new penguins have been brought in to the enclosure since 1995. With 87 penguins in total, two new chicks born just before Christmas and another due around April 4th (keep your eyes peeled!), it’s easy to see why!
A quirky addition is the “Ice Challenge”, simply dip one of your hands into the ice-cold water and see if you can last 30 seconds – this is the temperature that the penguins swim in! Personally, I could only last 15 seconds before backing out!
Take a walk through NIWA Southern Oceans and see what a GIANT – but very much frozen – squid looks like, this thing is HUGE! It’s kinda scary to think that there are others like this in the oceans today! Eek!
Enjoy the grace of the jellyfish or wander through to the next space “Amazing Creations” which is open and bright! Launched in Summer, it allows kids and grown-ups alike to colour in a fish at one of the many stands. You then scan it and see your masterpiece come to life on a small screen before being magically projected to a bigger screen on the far wall, where it joins the other fish.
Starting to feel peckish? Why not grab a bite to eat and a refreshing drink to recharge for the second half of SEA LIFE? Even better, enjoy a live stingray feeding at the same time! The cafe is open to the public and has a great selection of food and drinks both hot and cold.
Elephant sharks share a tank with Puffer fish who are both equally peaceful and glide seamlessly around the enclosure. This tank is open and so getting that birds eye view is really amazing. Right next door are the HUGE Short tail Stingrays. We were fortunate enough to be there for feeding time, an entertaining spectacle – especially when they surface. You don’t fully grasp their size until they break the water!
As you walk down the ramp, you have the chance to grab another photo opportunity inside the replica jaws of a Megalodon – as if Great White Sharks weren’t big enough – these were GIGANTIC! I can’t help but imagine the terror of going for a swim at the beach if these still existed!
Reaching the bottom of the ramp, you find yourself at the first aquarium, Shark Zone. Step onto the conveyor belt for an awesome journey. Try not to scream as you find yourself surrounded by predators of the deep. Long, sleek Broadnose Seven Gill sharks swim past, looking deceptively harmless. With its wide eyes, jagged and incredibly sharp teeth – you spot the Sand Tiger Shark. These are massive! And as a fun fact, are actually made to look slightly smaller through the tunnel glass. That’s right! These are a third bigger in reality!
Had enough thrills? Well take a moment to relax as you move through the next tank, “Shipwreck Discovery”. This tank is used in the rehabilitation of turtles which makes it even more special. The fish are beautiful and harmoniously make their way around the tank. The turtles always seem somewhat curious and put on an amazing display of grace as they “fly” over the top of you. Take as many photos as you like but avoid using flash! We don’t want to startle these amazing creatures!
To continue your discovery, head into the Fish Gallery where you’ll find an array of different species. From a tropical tank featuring the all-time-favourite Clown Fish (more commonly known as ‘Nemo’) to tanks filled with Eels and Crayfish. There’s also a super intelligent Octopus, this guy was taught how to take pictures! Quite the Octographer!
With so much excitement, the best way to end this experience is with Seahorse Kingdom. Get ready to say “AWWWW” because these wee-littlies are adorable! My personal favourite are the Big Bellied Seahorses. Watching their fins flutter insanely fast is fascinating and I feel myself dreaming of a Seahorse companion!
Truly though, SEALIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Auckland are doing an amazing job of preserving marine wildlife and promoting the same message to the public – we highly recommend visiting!