I remember the days when I’d visit the beach and rejoice in discovering a few hermit crabs. Or the time I went snorkelling in Bali and coughed up sea water in excitement of a turtle swimming past. Even most recently I went kayaking in Milford Sound (NZ) and squealed with joy over spotting a sleeping seal from afar. I thought all those sea creature encounters were really flipping cool … until I came to SEA LIFE. Home to over 10,000 sea creatures that you can observe, hold and even swim with, SEA LIFE really is your ultimate sea critter paradise!
Located just an hour north of Brisbane, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast can be found at the Southern end of the Mooloolaba Esplanade in Mooloolaba. Although the predominant crowd is young kids, SEA LIFE is also a popular attraction for teenagers and adults to enjoy too! Spanning 3 stories high, SEA LIFE showcases Australia’s largest jellyfish collection, 6 resident seals, and over 20 species of sharks and rays. Brandon and I were invited to SEA LIFE to view their wonderful sea aquarium, explore their Behind the Scenes tour & experience their incredible Seal Swim!
Visitors can experience the hidden treasures of the deep blue sea through 11 uniquely themed zones on offer inside the main aquarium:
- Tidal Touch Pools – an interactive touch pool featuring thorny sea stars, banded sea urchins and sea cucumbers
- Seahorse Sanctuary – a mesmerising exhibition featuring weedy sea dragons and pot-bellied sea horses
- Coastal Wreck – a mystical exhibition replicating species that hide amongst shipwreck environments, such as lionfish, eels and the common octopus. Even the poisonous stone fish that can disguise itself amongst ordinary ocean rocks and inflict venomous, painful stings potentially lethal to humans is on display
- Billabongs & Freshwater Streams – two zones dedicated to freshwater animals such as giant barramundi and freshwater crocodiles
- Finding Dory – a unique exhibit paying homage to the box office hit ‘Finding Dory’, you’ll find all the beautiful real-life critters as seen in Finding Nemo/ Dory! Embrace the vibrant blues of Pacific blue tang fish, and the glorious orange and white stripes of Clownfish
- Jellyfish Kingdom – a colourful exhibit flourishing with jellyfish species, including the blue blubber and moon jelly fish
- Octonauts & Shipwreck Shores indoor playground – two special interactive play zones to keep kids entertained for hours on end
- Ocean Tunnel – a breath-taking 80m long tunnel that gives you 180 degree views of marine life, bringing you up close and personal! You’ll see huge grey nurse sharks along with 8 other shark species, manta rays, reef fish and so much more. It was the first time I’d ever seen a saw fish … boy oh boy I have no idea how neighbouring sea creatures manage to avoid that hazardous, serrated nose!
- Seal Island – see below re Seal Swim!
The Behind the Scenes tour provides a unique opportunity to view the foundations of the Ocean Tunnel and visit their Turtle rehabilitation area. A wonderful team of turtle conservationists help rescue, rehabilitate and release marine turtles affected by human related events, such as eating plastic rubbish causing ‘floating syndrome’ (and consequent barnacle infestation), being struck by boats, or being entangled in discarded fishing equipment. The turtle hospital nurtures these poor turtles back to optimal health to return to the ocean, and you can feel the love and care sought out to these innocent critters! You can also view the Ocean Tunnel from above and be educated on the different species and their interactions within the Ocean Tunnel!
Now to the most incredible part of the day – the Seal Swim at Seal Island! SEA LIFE offers you the opportunity to swim, play and interact with their 6 beautiful seals – Groucho, Bella, Moana, Nelson, Sly and April. These resident seals also happen to be celebrities on SEA LIFE’s hilarious online show ‘Seal Island’ – a cuter and furrier version of Love Island - showcasing the saga of six single seals looking for love (show link can be found on SEA LIFE’s facebook page). We were provided with wetsuits, instructed to rinse in the shower and then given a quick intro to the seals and swim process before entering the seal arena! I will forever cherish that magical 20min swim – the youngest 4-year-old seal Moana was incredibly playful with us, chasing after her favourite toys and allowing us to stroke her silky smooth fur coat.
Moana was a rescued fur seal found stranded on a beach with an extensive, irreversible eye injury and severe malnourishment, but was rehabilitated back to optimal health thanks to SEA LIFE. The seals were very nonchalant with our presence, and happily went about gliding through the water and ka-plonking themselves on the rocks without any worries! Post-swim we were given the opportunity to take photos with the gorgeous seal ‘April’, who turned into a bit of a ‘diva’ and waddled off mid photo-shoot just before our photo! Luckily, the adorable ‘Moana’ came to the rescue, slipping and sliding her way to us and even clapping her fins in happiness during our photoshoot *cue endless awes*!
What: SEA LIFE (previously known as Underwater World)
When: 363 days per year - Mon to Sun (9:00am – 3:00pm, last entry at 2:00pm), QLD school holidays (9:00am – 5:00pm, last entry at 4:00pm)
Where: Parkyn Pde, Mooloolaba, QLD, 4557
My UQU Rewards Deal: Buy 1 get 1 free full-paying adult ticket
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