I am standing atop a platform, with the winter sun shining down on my face, and the find whipping my hair into a frenzy. I look down, and I can see their smiling, hungry faces swimming up towards me….
“Nestled on St Andrews’ dramatic north facing cliffs, with stunning views of the famous west sands and St Andrews Bay, St Andrews Aquarium boasts one of the finest coastal locations in the historic town. Step through our doors and be transported into an underwater world of adventure and discovery. Come face to face with some of the most beautiful, fascinating and dangerous creatures of the watery worlds. From British sharks to spiders, lobsters to lionfish, poison dart frogs to piranhas, loveable seals…… and not to forget our fabulous meerkats.” [source]
Today’s adventure is a fantastic visit to St. Andrews Aquarium. For my Christmas present last year, Stuart bought me a voucher to feed the seals in this aquarium and I was so excited to book our trip!!
Our experience was booked for 10am and it was the first thing we were set to do in the aquarium… aka an awesome start to any day!! We met with the seal keeper, and she gave us a brief safety run down, as well as kitting us out with gloves and two trays of fish. On the menu today: sprat! We were shown how to throw the fish, with the trick being to try and avoid it landing into the mouths of the greedy gulls that were waiting by the seal pools! While we were happily throwing fish, the keeper told us all about the four Harbour Seals that we were feeding.
The Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina), also known as the Common Seal, is one of 33 species of seals worldwide, and one of the two species of seals that live in the UK (the other being the Grey Seal). The easiest way to tell Harbour Seals and Grey Seals apart is to look at the muzzle and the size. Harbour Seals are the smaller of the two, and they have a cat-like face with a short muzzle. Grey Seals are larger, and the have a flat forehead with an elongated muzzle like a dog. In short, you need to figure out if you’re looking at cat mermaids or dog mermaids!! In our case, it was the sea kittens, and there were four beautiful Harbour Seals for us to be introduced to: Nelly, Luna, Silver, and Dug. Nelly was the oldest in the group, and she was the most reserved. The two girls, Nelly, and Luna, hung back a little behind the boys, so we had to make sure to throw them as much fish as the boys so they would get their fill. Silver, and Dug were much more confident and splashed around, both chasing after very piece of fish that we threw. Especially Silver, the biggest seal in the group – such a sweet gentle giant! I really loved getting to know our new watery friends… Thank you so much Stuart for this brilliant experience, and I know you enjoy it as much as I did!!
Did you know? A Harbour Seal can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes with just one breath! However, most of their dives last from 5-10 minutes, and they generally dive to depths of 100-200ft within this time.
The day did not end with the seal feeding, as we still had the whole aquarium to explore! The centre houses over 100 different species of animals, with some highlights including: Humboldt Penguins, Harbour Seals, Black-Tip Reef Sharks, Meerkats, and Common Marmosets. The eclectic array of animals makes for a unique aquarium experience, and ensures all guests discover something they are excited by!
I always like to check out how animal centres tick my boxes of education, conservation, and research. St. Andrews Aquarium blog is the best place to see what projects are going on within the centre, and at a glance there was not as much as I was hoping to see. However, I was really impressed by the educational signage around the centre, and the information given out by keepers during talks and feeding sessions… in terms of education, they are really doing their part.
For a small aquarium, there is a lot to enjoy. If you give St. Andrews Aquarium the time it deserves, you will get the most out of your visit. Don’t do what I saw some parents do, and rush round as quickly as possible without really taking anything in… and if you want to avoid the crowds, I would highly recommend visiting in the morning as soon as the centre opens, as you will be more likely to enjoy the animals in peace and quiet!!
St. Andrews Aquarium at a glance…
Open Daily from 10:00 – 17:00 (Last admission 16:00)
Under 2s: Free
You can book your feeding experiences here.
Address: The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AS OR use Google Maps here.
As a Victorian building on the cliff edge the building is not accessible to all, please contact the centre to discuss your requirements before visiting.
The nearest car park is located 100 yards away. Bruce Embankment car park has over 150 spaces available with seasonal charges between 1st April and 30th September. There are a few other car parks close by as well.
There is a cafe, gift shop, and toilets on site.