There is something irrepressibly wonderful about the current trend of unlikely places opening their doors to the drinking public late on a Friday evening. Natural History Museum? Wonderful. London Zoo? Done it. Now the London Sea Life Centre has joined these venerable institutions with its series of Sea Life: After Dark events.
These nights always engender a little ‘Night in the Museum’ type frissant. You get to finally fulfil those childhood wishes of sneaking into prohibited events and hiding until closing time and having the entire place to yourself. Unlike those childhood dreams however, these nights are always accompanied by a healthy bar and well stocked artisan food stalls.
But let’s not mess around. No one is going to a late night aquarium visit for the food and drink, welcome that these things are. People want tropical fish, sharks, stingrays and turtles. Happily, there were plenty of these to satisfy the punters. And crocodiles. And big freaking eels. And penguins, they’ve only got bloody penguins too! There are very few pleasure so great as seeing a penguin waddling around. Scroll on down to see some photos.
One the greatest delights of the night was to listen to my fellow guests act like children as they saw the next best colourful thing. It is a totally un-ironic pleasure available to everyone to see Clownfish hiding in among the arms of a sea anemone. The man who insisted on pointing out to his partner all the fish that they used to eat ‘back home’ wasn’t quite getting into the spirit I felt but I forgave him immediately when he said “Look at the teeth on that shitting shark” in his South African accent.
The aquarium is split into different sections such as the Tropical and Arctic. It’s wonderful to be able to wander at your own pace to stare dumbly at the Piranha, try to make the glum Terrapins smile before quickly move past the British fish (Hint: They’re all brown) to find the penguins. I had feared that people might congregate around the food stalls and DJ and miss out on all the cool stuff but luckily the main concourse was beside the biggest tank in the building and it was wonderful to be able to sit, talk and eat at the same time as trying to stare out some sharks. I overheard so many variations of the same conversation: “So I said to my boss that…..oooh look at that one!….yeah….what was i saying?”.
Luckily there is another Sea Life: After Dark evening planned for 22nd Nov. Tickets aren’t on sale as yet but keep your eyes locked on the website. I really would urge you to go but really, if you don’t think it sounds awesome without my urging, I really don’t know what to say to you. So if you want to be transported to your childhood go to the London Sea Life Centre on the Southbank. It’s under the London Eye, you can’t miss it.
P.S. Here are some photos. It was so much fun taking them but really damn hard. It was almost like they didn’t care about my attempts to capture their souls. My favourite is the little purple fella.
Words and photography by Neil McComb