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Underwater World A Review of SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast

Discussion in 'Australia' started by WhistlingKite24, 1 Oct 2018.

  1. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    2 Jul 2018
    Posts:
    954
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    I recently visited SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast (I will always call it Underwater World though), and thought I’d share my thoughts, since the aquarium has a small representation on ZooChat.

    Opened in 1989, and originally named, ‘Underwater World’, the aquarium officially relaunched under the notorious SEA LIFE chain in 2013, and was named, ‘SEA LIFE Moolooba’, where it received additional funding. Later on, it was named, ‘SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast’, and the name has stuck. A bit confusing!

    My only other visit to this particular aquarium, was only a few months before the aquarium relaunched in 2013, under the ‘SEA LIFE’ name. I don’t remember much about my 2013 visit, however, overall the impression was quite positive. I recall they had just opened the newly renovated oceanarium, and it was divided into four parts; turtles, sharks, rays, and a coral cove- they were obviously still introducing/acquiring new species, but it seemed like a nice (bit dark) oceanarium. Other elements of the aquarium which I appreciated included a nice collection of exotic freshwater fish, otters (long gone), frogs, and a solid number of ray and shark species.

    Since then I have noticed the development of many ‘zones’, and the addition of the garish, ‘Octonauts’, ‘Finding Dory and Friends’, and an indoor playground. However, it was expected as the unfortunate inevitable, and is nothing new for a SEA LIFE aquarium.

    Considering this mish mash of old and new, I still wanted to see for myself, what Underwater World/SEA LIFE Moolooba/ SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast had become (what a mouthful). Although I might sound very critical, I did enjoy the visit and ticked off a few new species.

    Minus the name, the entry hadn’t changed. The aquarium is situated right near the coast, and had quite an inviting and pleasant atmosphere. When I arrived thirty minutes before opening, there was quite the line of parents, boisterous children, and monstrous prams. Ugh.

    Anyways, once you pass the ticket counter and the obligatory photo, you encounter the beach-themed ray pool. This area hasn’t changed in five years, but has less species (I remember Port Jackson and wobbegong sharks). The ray pool has underwater viewing, but it was too low for adults to appreciate unfortunately. Species on show: Blue-spotted Fantail Ray, Smooth Stingray, Eastern Fiddler Ray- I believe, Brown-Banded Bamboo Sharks and other unidentified rays. The only signage present was for the Blue-spotted Fantail Ray, and the invisible Epaulette Sharks.

    Adjacent to the ray pool, was a very standard touch pool, with the obligatory starfish, urchins and sea cucumbers, along with a few fish species, such as, Blue-Green Chromis and Pajama Cardinal. The underwater viewing for this touch area was extremely low, and was very crowded.

    Moving on from this area, you enter the dimly-lit, “Seahorse Sanctuary”, which begins with an effective circular tank for Hinge-backed Shrimp, right before the actual entry. The first tank in the actual area, is a kelp-themed tank for Weedy Sea Dragon. There seem to be quite a few of them (around five), however the majority of visitors walked straight past them, unaware of their presence, declaring it was just an, “empty tank”. Next to the sea dragons, were a pair of circular tanks, for Pot-bellied Seahorse, and Kuda Seahorse. They seemed adequate, and there were several individuals in each. There was also a horizontal razorfish tank in the area, they are great fun to watch.

    The next zone, “Coastal Wreck”, took this concept a bit too literally. Basically, every tank in the area possessed junk, such as tea cups, bottles, plates and toys. Very tacky. The entire area possessed quite dark lighting, and some of the tanks were badly lighted with unusual colours (pinks, blues etc). The first tank held moray eel and rabbitfish. There were several active individuals, ultilising garden pots and terracotta vases to their full advantage! Following the eels, there was a tank with bird-nose wrasse, with no signage indicating what this intriguing species was. They have quite striking sexual dimorphism, and were very active, dodging through….more garden pots.

    The following tanks of this, “Coastal Wreck” saga, really took the biscuit. The yellow assessor tank although well-lighted, featured a fishing net, a dinner plate, tea cups and bottles. The following octopus tank offered good hiding opportunities… bar the baby plastic toy. In this area, there was also a Lionfish/ Stonefish tank, and a Cowfish tank (they are awesome - I identified both Ornate and Striped Cowfish). To finish the area, the was the typical, crowded, brightly-coloured Sea Life bubble tank, with Clownfish, Blue Tang, Blue-Green Chromis, Six bar Wrasse, Coral Beauty Angelfish, and a few other fish species. This area showcases Sea Life’s perfect formula- luridly adorned tanks and familiar fish species equals crowds and money.

    Following a sliding door, you enter “Freshwater Streams”. This hadn’t changed since my last visit, and is still well-planned (a little tired). In this area, they showcased a wide range of exotic fish (cichlids, barbs, tetras, angelfish, discus, catfish) in well-landscaped and stocked tanks. However, signage was a real problem, as there were many inaccuracies at almost every tank (nothing new for an aquarium). This area also featured the top of two large tanks, based around Australian species (Freshwater Crocodile, Barramundi, Eel-tailed Catfish, turtles), and exotic freshwater species (Pacu- signed as Piaractus brachypomus, Alligator Gar, Red Devil Cichlid, catfish). They seem to have a lot of confiscated fish that were formerly illegally kept.

    Past this area, was the “Finding Dory”, playroom, hidden in an area, near the toilets. The only animals in this area, were an almost identical line up of species to the previous bubble tank, with the clownfish etc.

    Continuing on, there was the “Seal Island” area, with a smallish presentation area, and public seating. This remains identical to my last visit, with a deep pool, mock rock setting and a fake lighthouse. They seem to have less sea lions/ fur seals (7 individuals with 4 species). I went to the packed seal presentation, and it was pretty standard. During the presentation, the Australian Fur Seal pair (apparently it was breeding season) were left out during the presentation, circling the area, and many of the seals involved in the show were very timid, and often didn’t complete their respective tasks. One Australian Sea Lion decided she wanted to join the pair, and jumped straight back into the pool, whilst completing a command. Quite entertaining. I did enjoy witnessing that not everything always goes to plan when working with animals:p.

    After the presentation, I went to “Billabongs”, which is basically the underwater viewing for the two spacious tanks, seen from above, at “Freshwater Streams”. These again remained unchanged, and signage was a bit better in this area. However, I discovered much to my dismay, that the adjacent wall, which previously housed a good range of frog species, had been replaced by the eyesore, that was the “Octonauts” area. Not only did it offer no obvious conservation message, it created a narrow pathway for prams and visitors to maneuver through. The animal exhibits were inadequate, especially for the fish. One of the small bubble tanks, has no hiding opportunities for a Speckled Sandperch, and every time a kid would pop his/her head in the bubble, it would spook the fish, who was resting on the bubble. Other species in this area, included Blue-face Angelfish, Epaulette Surgeonfish, Moon Wrasse, Coral Cardinalfish, Axolotl, Hermit Crabs and more Rabbitfish.

    The “Octonauts” area, disconnected the remaining freshwater exhibits; an open-topped Archerfish/ Queensland Lungfish tank, and glass-fronted tank for three Mertens’s Water Monitor. Past a corridor, there was the underwater seal viewing. This seemed quite nice, and many seals (around 5), were using the full area of the viewing space, much to the visitors’ delight.

    Following a ramp, with printed conservation messages, you reach the Ocean Tunnel. This section has been into divided into three main parts; a shark area, a coral reef, and a ray area (formerly there used to be a sea turtle area). There was a good selection of species in the sections- grey nurse sharks, reef sharks, tawny nurse sharks, leopard (zebra) sharks, around five- seven ray species, Queensland grouper, three large freshwater Sawfish, snappers, trevally, diamond fish, and a myriad of reef fish (tangs, triggerfish, wrasses, butterflyfish, Moorish Idol etc.). However, although adequately sized, some of the SEA LIFE ‘temple’ theming was pretty tacky, and certain areas were quite dark. Although I keep complaining about the signage, it was quite outdated and unspecific, especially in this area.

    Making my way back to the front area of the aquarium (the jumbled flow of the aquarium is another point I have to mention), I reached a large, well-stocked coral tank, with a solid range of anemonefish, damsels, tangs etc. It was quite naturalistic and rocky, with a good selection of corals, anemones and hiding places. Adjacent to this area, was a standard clownfish and anemone tank.

    The last zone, “Jellyfish Kingdom”, had the usual dark, circular tanks, with changing fluorescent colours. These featured Moon Jellyfish and Blue Blubber. There was also a large bubble tank, which had Upside-Down jellyfish- pretty cool. There was also a tank, with plastic bags and other rubbish- frankly a waste of space.

    Although I sound pretty negative, I did overall enjoy my visit, and there were some very nice sections and species. However, certain sections lagged behind, either due to their age and wear, or their “underwater disco party” design. Although the aquarium does some meaningful conservation work, such as rehabilitating turtles and seals etc., I felt their conservation message was a bit half-hearted, sort of “when it’s convenient we’ll mention we care”.

    Overall, it would be interesting to compare the other two SEA LIFE aquariums in Australia, which seem to also receive mixed feelings (mainly negative). All in all, I enjoyed my visit, and welcome others to visit and share their thoughts about the facility.
    I have posted a few images of SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast, mainly fish identifications.

    Underwater World | ZooChat
     
  2. animal_expert01

    animal_expert01 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    13 Sep 2015
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    834
    Location:
    QLD Australia
    Awesome review.
    In the first enclosure there are also two twin sister black blotched fantail rays named “cookies and cream”.
     
  3. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    2 Jul 2018
    Posts:
    954
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Thank you! I was wondering what those dark-coloured rays were.:confused::)
     
  4. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    2 Jul 2018
    Posts:
    954
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    In comparison with my review I wrote last year, here are some notes from my visit to SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast today.
    In general, I noticed a few more species of invertebrates and fish throughout the tanks in the 'Coastal Wreck' area. There were a few species of gobies (yet to be identified) and a hawkfish in the yellow assessor tank. Also, sea urchins, sea stars and crustaceans (cleaner shrimp, marine hermit crabs) were found throughout many of the tanks. The small octopus tank didn't have that baby toy anymore, and the species that resided in the tank was confirmed to be a common Sydney Octopus (labelled as a Gloomy Octopus) Octopus tetricus.
    There were a few changes in this area to make way for the new frogs. There were four modern frog tanks for Dainty Tree Frog, Red-eyed Tree Frog, Peron's Tree Frog and Eastern Dwarf Frog (this may sound very obvious but these dwarf frogs are really so small!)
    This particular area, where the frogs are now, originally had a large collection of tropical fish which have since been distributed throughout the remaining freshwater tanks. Some of these fish were particularly large (bala sharks, red-tailed black sharks etc).
    The first freshwater tank now holds the exotic species (pacu, alligator gar, cigar shark, catfish). Also, I noticed a species I hadn't seen before at the aquarium- a huge Red-tailed Catfish (quite a striking species and one I didn't think was in Australia). The second tank now has several cichlid species, mainly Red Devil, and a large Giant Gourami (this individual was previously in the lungfish/archerfish tank). There was no sign of the freshwater turtles or the Freshwater crocodile.
    Luckily, most of the species in this area have been removed.
    During my visit, the aquarium was in the process of acclimatising Barramundi (the individuals from the large freshwater tank) into the large marine tunnel. Apparently they had lived in their original freshwater tank for around 20 years!
    The aquarium's sawfish have moved to a larger facility with more space (I assume SEA LIFE Sydney).
    Overall, the aquarium seemed to be in the process of completing many beneficial changes, swaps and developments. I was glad to see that some of the fish (like the Barramundi) have now received more space.
     
    Last edited: 11 Jul 2019
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