Friday, 28 November 2014

SEA Aquarium Trip Report

I visited SEA Aquarium as part of my company's family day outing. This relatively new attraction was awarded one of the top 10 Aquariums in Asia by TTG Travel Awards and used to boast the world's largest acrylic viewing panel, verified by Guinness Book of Records. I must say that among the aquariums I visited so far (Hong Kong Ocean Park, Underwater World, KLCC Aquaria), SEA Aquarium at RWS has the best atmosphere and the most comprehensive collection of marine life. Entry to Maritime Experiential Museum is included in the $38 admission ticket.

Maritime Experiential Museum

The ticketing counter is located on the left side of the attraction entrance. Here, you will find both the standard day passes and a top-up fee to enter the Typhoon Theatre. The show is alright and I think it is worth the top-up fee it if it is your first time visiting. 

You can enter the attraction building without a ticket. You only need to present your ticket at the Maritime Experiential Museum entrance located further inside. One you enter the show building, you will be greeted by a giant treasure ship Bao Chuan. You might wonder why there are theater like seats in front of the ship. Well, the answer is that ship comes to life every 10 minutes with a giant screen and some interesting special effects. Fish and Co is located just to the right of the entrance and will open soon.

The Bao Chuan ship greets you the moment you enter the attraction building.
Note that this show does not require a ticket to watch!

Look at these little boats beside the giant ship!

The Bao Chuan is actually a show featuring the Chinese Admiral Zheng He

These trade goods are stacked at the back of Bao Chuan. You can only see
them after entering the Souk, though

Upon entering the ticketed area, you will be greeted by the Souk - a traditional Arabic trading hub. Here, there are exhibits that showcase the wide variety of spices, fabrics and craftwork from various Asian ports such as Oman, Malacca and Sri Lanka. There are also some interactive games along the way where you can (virtually) transform into a traditional character, or simulate trading goods on a giant table. Fact files are presented in both English and Simplified Chinese

This is the Souk, an Arabic trading hub

Pottery anyone?

This is one of several games in the Souk. Located at the Malacca section,
it allows you to try your hand at goods trading

Although there a signs telling guests not to touch the exhibits, most guests still get curious and do so. The fabrics, in particular, are very intricate and you might one to lift up the top ones so you can also appreciate the designs stacked below. Traditional African drums are available near the Typhoon Theatre entrance and will be a great stopping point for kids.

A traditional knitting machine

No Asian trade exhibit will be complete without the herbs and spices!

Typhoon Theatre

This is a multimedia experience that simulates a shipwreck in a giant storm. The show is not too bad though most people will find similar shows in USS and 4D Adventureland  more exciting. There are 2 ways to enter: 
1) Pay additional $3 per person for Typhoon Theatre admission
2) Present your RWS Invites or RWS Invites Attractions pass for complimentary admission for up to 6 guests

[tip] There are announcements that alert you when the show is about to start, so you can explore the Souk until about 5 mins before the show begins before you enter the theatre waiting area.

There are more games and exhibits at the waiting area, and you can also catch a clear view of the Jewel of Muscat (a trading ship) from there. This ship, also known as a Dhow, is hand made in Oman and sailed to Singapore before finding its place in the museum.

This is the Jewel of Muscat. Hand built in Oman and sailed to Singapore

This wagon is one of several exhibits at the Typhoon Theatre waiting area

At the scheduled intervals, the traditional Chinese doors will open and unveil the pre-show area. There, you will watch a short video clip of a crew of sailors who will be setting sail to deliver the a prized treasure to the Kingdom of Oman. Be warned, though, the Astrologer has seen some bad signs!

The entrance to the pre-show area

Here, a sailor, his son, navigator, astrologer and the emperor's emissary prepare to
set sail

The show begins as the team is ready to set sail. Here, pay close attention to how sailors of old cast off their ships and prepare the sails. The weather was great, the signs were in their favour. What could possibly go wrong?

Boom! A sudden roar of thunder signified a change in the weather. Suddenly, the ship found itself in the middle of a powerful storm and began to swap violently. I must say that the rain effect was quite good and really felt like being in the rain. Of course, that means you will get a little wet (its not so bad that you need a poncho). The emissary watches in horror as the prized treasure falls through a drainage hole in the ship, and soon after the ship hits a giant wave and began to sink. As the show comes to an end, the doors open to reveal that you are now at a different place. Greeting you is a large sunken ship inside an aquarium tank. You have now entered S.E.A Aquarium

S.E.A. Aquarium

S.E.A. Aquarium begins with the Sunken Ship habitat. This actually simulates an artificial reef environment where the presence of a large foreign object provides shelter for marine life to grow. The exhibit is through an acrylic tunnel so you will have a 360 degree view of the habitat. As it was near Christmas when I went, we are also greeted by Santa in diving gear! Exiting a tunnel, you will be prompted by the staff to take some photos.

It is quite surprising how many visited the aquarium even on a weekday

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Fishmas!

The next area is the Straits of Malacca and Andaman Sea. Here, fishes are literally all around you as there is even a ray tank where you will walk over. The highlight of this section is no doubt the Discovery Touch Pool, where you can touch and feel starfishes and several other marine animals. This is smaller than the touch pool at Underwater World and the queue is much longer. This is followed by the Bay of Bengal area with a large swamp habitat that features aquatic life in mangroves. If you are lucky, you may even catch the archerfish squirt water into the air! In line with the Christmas theme, there are even Christmas Trees and presents hidden inside the exhibits!

Mind your step! Rays below!

These information displays will rotate between summary (as shown) and more detailed information about individual species. They are found all over the aquarium

Feathers? or Fishes?

Magnifying glasses are embedded into the viewing panels for a clearer view

While focusing on the fish, don't forget to pay some attention so other exhibits,
such as this one about corals and shells

The Discovery Touch Pool is smaller than at Underwater World and there
is a very long queue for it.

There we go again. Merry Fishmas!
Bay of Bengal mangroves, with Christmas surprises to spare!

Ocean journey begins with the most popular exhibit of the aquarium - the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins. These dolphins are really cute and love to show off. A little tip: If the first viewing gallery is full, you can proceed to the second one. My experience is that the view is better at the second gallery. There is also a small dining outlet called SeaSide Snacks that sells some quick bites. Prices are...ahem... resort grade.

Talk about acting cute. These dolphins love to swim upside down!

Ocean journey continues with crabs, shellfish and a large area devoted to Jellyfish. I must say the jellyfish zone is a great area for de-stressing as everything tends to take place so slowly and gracefully. Do keep a look out for a Giant Pacific Octopus who loves to squeezes itself into 1 tiny corner of its tank. Sorry for soccer fans, this octopus does not help you place bets!

The whole corridor opens up to reveal the Open Ocean Habitat, one of the largest single aquariums in the world and featuring one of the largest acrylic viewing panels. There are multiple levels of viewing galleries though most people like to go all the way down to the front. Do keep a look out for the 3 manta rays. Here's a little secret. You can actually book this venue for events and functions. It will accommodate almost 300 people. To the right is the Ocean Dome which is basically just another location to view the fish.

This is one of the largest viewing panels in the world, and there are 3 levels in the
viewing gallery. You see the rectangles near the top? Those are actually hotel suites!
There is another snack stop on the left side of the Open Ocean area, and the Ocean Restaurant is located further inside. This is an upscale dining option starring celebrity chef Cat Cora, with prices to match. Guests are required to spend a minimum of $38++ PER PERSON to dine here, and can enjoy the view of the Open Ocean Habitat through a private acrylic window. Obviously, I did not have my lunch there.

This snack bar at Open Ocean Habitat features drinks, cakes and fruits. There
is also a smaller booth selling glowing cotton candy!

The Persian Gulf section features a coastal waters exhibit where the acrylic panel only extends to the water level. However, there are signs warning guests not to touch the animals inside. This area also features some of the most colourful coral reefs. The subsequent Red Sea area also focuses on colourful coral reefs. In fact, we managed to catch sight of Marine Divers cleaning the corals during our visit! It was done through the gentle touch of a brush and a low pressure suction vacuum.

Cleaning in progress! Beware of slippery seabed!

East Africa features Freshwater fishes from the giant lakes there like Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. Then, continue to the South East Asia area where you can see the Lionfish and Moray Eels. In fact, there is a tiny cave that you can crawl into and supposedly catch an even more intimate glimpse of the moray eels, though I must say that the main viewing gallery provides a better view.

Moray Eels really love to squeeze into one another. 

Before the exit, S.E.A Aquarium will attempt to sell you the photos you took earlier in the day. I must say the price here is really too much - $50 for 8R photo with casing, $30 for the plain photo only. I also find the RWS system of printing the photo before selling very wasteful and I saw many other unsold photos get thrown away together with mine.

Here is where the photos taken earlier are presented to you. I just wish they
could charge less for them so more people can purchase and relive their memories.

In true SEA Aquarium Fashion, there are fishes above and below you.
You will find such a scene both towards the end of the tour as well as inside the Ocean Dome.

The S.E.A. Aquarium concludes with another walk-through acrylic tunnel, this time featuring the Shark Seas Habitat. Here, there are several species of sharks including the scalloped hammerhead shark, silvertip shark and sandbar shark. I think the sharks here look smaller than those at Underwater World.


I think SEA Aquarium is a good location for people who are looking for a slower paced, easy going experience with minimal stress. The lighting in the aquarium is really well done in drawing attention to relevant areas and there is a wide variety of marine life. The Maritime Experiential Museum is a good complement to the aquarium though I wished there was no extra charge for Typhoon Theatre (except on peak days). Even the toilets here follow the nautical theme with porthole like mirrors and ship doors. The complete experience will take about 2 hours.