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Published January 10th 2016
An underwater wonderland
Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium is a public Aquarium situated at 23 Tamaki Drive, Orahei, Auckland in New Zealand. Kelly Tarlton was a diver, archaeologist, conservationist and marine innovator who was the first to create curved glass viewing panels for aquarium tanks, subsequently pioneering and manufacturing the first underwater aquarium tunnel with this new construction technique.
The Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium is underground and located in what was Auckland's unused sewage tanks (unused since 1961). It offers a small but packed aquarium experience and is divided into distinct sections.
As visitors enter the Aquarium, replicas of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic hut are on display, giving a window into the life of early explorers to Ross Island. Food items, clothing, beds, reindeer sleeping bags and a pianola are exhibited, and small screens provide additional information on Captain Scott and his expedition.
Scott Base Exhibit
Scott Base Information Displays
Further on is a colony of King and Gentoo penguins in the Antarctic Ice Adventure, with the world's largest display Antarctic/Sub-Antarctic penguin colony and a successful breeding program. Interesting facts such as the King penguin being the second largest of 17 species of penguin behind the Emperor Penguin and the Gentoo penguin being the third largest and fastest swimmer in the penguin world are displayed on information boards.
Stingray bay is home to the Short Tailed Stingray (one of the largest ray species) and the Eagle Ray.
Further onward is the Shark Tunnel, a 114m plexiglass tunnel. Similar to other such tunnels around the world, a travelator to one side allows visitors to stand and marvel at the myriad of different marine animals, including turtles, rays, sharks (including a wobbegong), fish, eels and crayfish as they dance and flicker around the tank. The coruscating light and optical effect from curved glass, bubbles and flashing scales creates a kaleidoscopic, otherworldly, psychedelic experience. Backlit screens display factoids and identify the marine life within the tank.
Following the Shark Tunnel is a more open area with both freshwater and saltwater displays. The usual collection of colourful reef life and almost fluorescent floating jellyfish are present. Also on display are the spiny sea dragon and big bellied seahorse, puffer fish, an octopus and shellfish among others.
For children, there is an interactive zone and an indoor playground near a cafeteria which stocks a small range of food items.
A small information area on the life of Kelly Tarlton (1937 – 1985) is present near the stingray tank and provides an interesting biography on his underwater exploration, treasure hunting, innovation and conservation work. Talks and feed times are listed, and additional experiences such as a penguin, shark cage and behind the scenes package are also available.
If you're looking for a packed, varied and well organised aquarium experience, Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland provides a fun few hours of learning about marine life and exploration. Prices are $39 for Adults, $22 for Children under 16 and $30 for concession card holders. Family passes and discounted tickets for online bookings are also available. The aquarium is open 9:30am to 5pm every day of the year.