Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Mermaids

My family was gifted entry to Sea Life Aquarium Sydney for the purposes of this review. No other payment or compensation was provided or requested. All opinions and experiances are my own.

Imagine being on a huge boat, sailing fair out at sea with no sign of land. It has been days or even months since you last saw anyone other than the limited group of people sailing with you. The days have been a series of sameness, water, wind, and more water. Suddenly, skimming beneath the water is a long graceful shape, slender and curvy, with perfect control. It's not a shark, it has far too much rhythym to it's movements, and maybe if you listen closely, whistles or other strange sounds can be heard.

Is it any wonder that there was a time when even the most pragmatic of sailors would have insisted that mermaids were real, and that they had encountered them on many a journey?

The beautiful, dark, shapes in the oceans are thought to have been Dugongs, which translates to "Lady of the Sea". Dugongs are a sea cow who eat predominantly seagrass, but those in captivity can eat lettuce where neccessary which have the same nutritional value.

We took our youngest two into Sydney today for a visit to Sea Life Aquarium to see the newly returned Dugongs. Sydney is lucky enough to house two of only five Dugongs on display anywhere in the world - AND we have the only pair on display together. Pig and Waru were both orphaned in the wild at a young age, and could not be released back due to survival concerns. They are both lovely, playful mammals, and we were so excited to be able to see them both from the underwater tunnels, but also from above at Dugong Island.

Pig and Waru's home has had a makeover recently, and is a fully hands on, FUN and educational experiance for the kids. Lorelei was a little scared by the huge Dugong that made noises (some suspiciously like farting) but Seb couldn't get enough of it! With lots of touch and learn points, both kids had an awesome time.

We chose to drive in to Lidcombe and leave our car in one of the free roadside spots (these spots are only unlimited times on Sundays) and catch the train into Central using a $2.50 Family Funday ticket. Kids 4 and under are free, and if you have a large family, once you have paid for the first child the remainder travel free as well. We find the Funday tickets to be the best value method of taking a day out with the kids in Sydney as it includes unlimited travel on Trains, Buses, Lightrail, and Ferries. Definately a cheaper option than paying for parking and most likely tolls. These tickets only seem to be available at Train stations, but can be used for all of the transport types. You have to ask for it though - we've seen so many people buy regular tickets that cost more and don't give unlimited travel and the ticket sellers never seem to guide them towards the value tickets. They can be purchased at the automatic terminal as well.

Some highlights from the Aquarium trip for us today:

-The Discovery Rock pool is always a favourite with my kids. The staff are lovely and don't freak out nearly as much as I do when my kids lift the poor little starfish from the water, and when Sebastian gave the worker long and cheerful "Goodbyes" he was gifted a little clip on koala bear which I thought was adorable. I bet Australia tourists get a kick out of them.
-The Nemo tank. 3 year old Lorelei has seen the movie and loved spotted the orange Clown fish hiding in the anemone. I was just disappointed that I couldn't find a Dory, because I love that nutty little fish (Just keep swimming!). Dory did make a cameo in a later Dugong photo though.
-The Digital Fish activity. The kids were able to sit down and colour in a personalised fish, which the staff then scanned so that it would appear on the animated wall swimming around. Hint: Put your name on that fish or I can pretty much guarantee your toddlers scribbles are not going to be jumping out at you on the big screen too quickly. Seeing SEBASTIAN float by was a nudge.

Tickets to the Aquarium can be a little on the pricey side at $136 for a family of four for a one off visit, but if you book online beforehand the price is discounted to $89. Another thought is to buy an annual Merlin pass which is currently discounted to $224. The annual passes get you 12 months of unlimited entry to six different NSW attractions not to mention another handful in Victoria and New Zealand. At that price you would only need to take the kids 3 times and you've gotten some great value. Take the kids once a month all year round and you are laughing! 

We like to pack an assortment of snacks and lunch foods for days out like this. There are heaps of food options in the city, but if we want to keep the day affordable food is the easiest thing to eliminate. By making sure there is something yummy in the slow cooker for dinner before we leave, we aren't tempted to buy takeaway at the end of a long day either!

If you do drive, make sure you review your parking options early. Sea Life offers parking validation and discounts starting at $8 per day. Otherwise, DON'T do what we did, which was to cleverly jump on a ferry back to Olympic Park thinking to take a 1 stop train from there to Lidcombe. Turns out the Ferry wharf at Olympic Park is a 45 minute walk away from the train station! Next time we think we might leave the car at Parramatta and take the Ferry from there. The kids definitely enjoyed the Ferry more than the train.

Will you be heading into the city for anything fun these school holidays?

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