You know, when I was a kid, my biggest dream was to become a marine biologist. I genuinely wanted nothing more than to explore the oceans and learn more about marine life for the rest of my days.
To be fair, hey, I wanted to be a lot of things. At one point, I wanted to become a pediatrician, a prosecutor, a forensic detective. But even as the years passed by and my life goals changed, my love for marine biology never waned.
So I guess it’s no surprise that the first thing I wanted to see upon coming to Bangkok was SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World, one of the biggest aquariums in Southeast Asia.
SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World
K and I arrived in Thailand with no travel plans other than an Airbnb booking for our entire stay and a return flight back home. However, I was sure of one thing and one thing only: that I would visit this amazing place before leaving the land of smiles.
With an area of over 10,000 sqm, SEA LIFE Bangkok holds 5 million liters of water and claims to host over 50,000 marine creatures on its premises.
- Location: B1-B2 Floor, Siam Paragon Building, 991 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
- Schedule: Daily, 10 AM – 9 PM
- Contact: +66 (0)2 687 2000
- Price: 990 THB (30 USD) for adults, 790 THB (25 USD) for kids aged 3-11
Lining up can be a hassle though, so if you want convenience, you can also order the ticket via Klook. Not a member yet? Don’t forget to sign up using my code QBNAW for an additional discount!
Also, one of the main issues with SEA LIFE Bangkok is that it features dual pricing for foreigners and locals. Foreigners get charged about 3x higher than Thailand residents, which kinda sucks if you’re a foreigner who’s also from a third-world country.
How To Get There
Since it’s located in Siam Paragon, going to SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World is a breeze.
By BTS, you can take any train on the BTS Silom Line or Sukhumvit Line. Take Exit 5 and follow the signs going downstairs. Turn left and you’ll see Siam Paragon.
By bus, you can take bus numbers 16, 25, 73, 79, 2014, 501, and 508. Stop at Siam Paragon Bus Stop and walk for two minutes to get to Siam Paragon.
The SEA LIFE Bangkok Experience
K and I arrived at SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World at around one o’clock in the afternoon. It’s located in the basement of Siam Paragon, making it quite convenient location-wise since Siam Paragon is a transportation hub in Bangkok.
Remember not to take the elevator when going down! We got lost on the way down since we didn’t realize that you don’t have to use an elevator to get there. Luckily, there were notices posted on the walls of the basement–which turned out to be a huge parking lot–that SEA LIFE is accessible via escalator. Oops.
We went on a Monday so the crowd wasn’t that big compared to the weekend. Still, there were plenty of people when we arrived, so we’re glad we were able to skip the line thanks to our Klook ticket. Purchasing in advance certainly had its perks! We simply had to show the QR codes to the lady at the desk and upon scanning them, she immediately gave us our wristband. Talk about quick.
Anyway, SEA LIFE Bangkok is divided into several sections, and we had so much fun exploring every single one. Let’s dive in!
Note: Click on the images if you want to see the photos up close!
This section features gorgeous marine creatures living a hidden life at the rocky depths of the sea.
Take a look at the Giant Spider Crab, whose leg span reaches up to 4 meters or 13 feet. They don’t have any teeth but they do the job of cleaning up the ocean floor by eating animal carcasses. Wanna know something more impressive? They can actually live up to 100 years!
We were also able to see a Giant Pacific Octopus. It’s the biggest known species of octopus in the world, with an average size and weight of 16 feet and 110 pounds. However, the record-holder had a 30 feet arm span and weighed over 600 pounds! They’re extremely intelligent, but unfortunately, they only get to live for about 3-5 years. To make it worse, that’s actually already pretty good for an octopus, since the most species only live for about 1-2 years.
Kinda makes you look differently at Hank from Finding Dory now, huh? *sobs*
If you’re hoping to see what life is like for reef dwellers in the ocean, then this is the place for you. This section basically shows the environment you’d see during a fun snorkeling session.
We got to see fish like the Achilles tang, clownfish, angelfish, and butterflyfish, among many, many others. The first two should be familiar to anyone who likes Pixar movies since it features the two main characters from both Finding films.
I actually have a soft spot for clownfish thanks to Nemo and Marlin! I saw a couple of them once during an island-hopping trip in Coron, way back in 2016. They’re quite shy, but don’t you dare touch the anemones, no matter how lovely they may seem! Clownfish don’t get stung because their bodies are covered by a special mucus, but everyone else is fair game.
The scorpionfish look especially beautiful and almost unreal. Interestingly, they’re actually a venomous predatory species. They wait patiently for their prey beside corals and rocks, blending into the background. Once a poor fish wanders into its vicinity, the scorpionfish will attack it so fast it wouldn’t even know what hit it.
Look at these strange but fascinating creatures. Ribbon eels are predators, preying on smaller marine animals. They can grow up to 1 meter long, but it’s not obvious since they usually spend their time hidden inside their chosen burrows. Don’t get fooled by their seemingly shy disposition though–ribbon eels tend to snap at anything that comes too close! Keep that in mind in case you see them in the wild.
I think garden eels are adorable, mainly because of how protective they are of their mates. These sexually dimorphic creatures will fight anyone who tries to take their significant others away from them. Cute. They’re called garden eels because they’re usually buried under the sand and just poke their heads out occasionally. Buried under sand… like in a garden? Hehe, get it? Okay, I seriously don’t get the superficial connection to gardens, but whatever floats your boat, scientists.
But anyway, with its really colorful display of fish and corals, I guess it’s no surprise that Coral Reef is one of my favorite sections in the entire aquarium.
If you want to see sharks swimming right beneath your feet, take a peek at the Shark Walk section of SEA LIFE Bangkok. It’s a relatively small room with informational panels on the walls. But where it really shines is the glass floor panels where you can clearly see the sharks swimming by. It’s a little bit scary if you’re afraid of heights, but don’t worry, they won’t break or anything. 😄
K and I spent a good amount of time inside the Seahorse Kingdom. We saw several species of seahorse, separated in different tanks.
We found them super cute, just floating around inside their tanks and letting the soft currents push them around. Some had their tails around the corals, acting as an anchor of sorts to prevent them from floating away. Super adorable.
And now we’re out of the ocean, at least for now. Welcome to the tropical rainforest!
You can see different species of reptiles and amphibians here, such as snakes and frogs, like the African Bullfrog and the Argentine Horned Bullfrog.
There are also fish here, but unlike the rest of the aquarium, the ones you can find here are all freshwater fish, like gouramis and carps.
I also saw these very cute, very peculiar kissing fish. Commonly known as kissing gourami, this species tends to display this behavior when they’re feeling territorial about something. It’s basically an act of aggression, though it happens so often that it’s considered the norm for them.
My favorite part of this section is the prehistoric fish. They’re hidden inside a dark, cave-like enclosure with several tanks inside.
I found the blind cave fish, officially known as the Mexican tetra, to be super interesting. True to their name, they’re completely blind, having lost their eyesight after years and years of living in a cave. Since there’s very little food there and they don’t need to use their sense of sight to navigate, these fish have evolved to become eyeless in order to conserve their energy. How do they find their way around, you may ask? Well, do you see that darker line on its body? The information panel at SEA LIFE says that those lines are highly sensitive to fluctuating water pressure. The more you know, huh.
Another interesting species found here is the royal panaque, a freshwater fish endemic to Brazil. They’re herbivores, one of the only few species of fish who can actually eat wood and digest it. Personally, I think it looks like an old, wise grandpa fish with a white beard.
Oh, and there’s also a cafe in this area so if you want to take a quick rest, you can do so here. I checked to see if they had chocolate milkshake but unfortunately, they had none. Better luck at the next cafe, I suppose.
Before you leave the area, you’ll see huge tanks holding the giant Arapaimas. These huge fish are native to the rivers of the Amazon. They can grow over 10 feet long and can weigh up to 440 pounds. Although they have gills, they can only stay underwater for 10-20 minutes at a time, before coming to the surface in order to gulp air. Sadly, this makes them easy targets for fishermen who hunt them for their meat and scales.
There are also a couple of other large animals inside the tank with the arapaimas. You can see some freshwater stingrays, giant pacus, and alligator gars swimming along too.
Sea turtles are not fish, but they’re some of my favorite marine animals. They’re certainly my favorite animal to watch when I’m out snorkeling in the sea. I actually spent over an hour just watching one turtle eating seagrass at Moalboal last year! I think that wild one was so used to seeing humans that it didn’t even care that I was hanging around it.
I’ve never been a fan of touch pools, especially not after watching Finding Dory. I’m already happy and contented just looking at animals from a safe distance. Still, I can understand the appeal to curious kids who want to touch everything they see. Even for adults, it’s also a good way to dispel your fears about these amazing creatures.
For example, I’ve always been scared of sea cucumbers because they look like giant fat worms and I’m scared of worms. One staff member at SEA LIFE convinced me to poke one, and wow, I didn’t know they were so soft and squishy! However, be careful about touching sea cucumbers in the wild, since there are some species that can release a blinding venom when threatened.
As for starfish, I really feel sorry for these folks in the touch pools, especially since they dry up super quickly once they’re out of the water. I once spent an afternoon on a beach in Bacolod carefully and gently throwing starfish back into the water so that they can be taken back by the waves. It’s no surprise that seeing a kid pick up a starfish at SEA LIFE made me really sad.
I honestly think touch pools would be a lot better if people were only allowed to touch the animals, not to take them out. I’m already partial to touch pools as it is.
Rocky Shore features a waddle of penguins going about their daily activities. They may look a bit sloppy and clumsy when out of the water, but they’re amazingly fast swimmers.
One issue I have with this section is the lack of sunlight and sufficient space for penguins. I don’t know if they even let the penguins out to breathe fresh air occasionally. I also saw a couple of penguins in another section that looked sick, injured, or dying, which is very sad.
I really enjoyed this section! This is the closest SEA LIFE Bangkok has to a circular tank exhibit, which is always my favorite exhibit in aquariums.
I could literally stay here all day, a perfect afternoon in Bangkok spent just watching the underwater world inside an 8-meter-high tank. It’s a lot similar to the Coral Reef section, with just a few differences thanks to the difference in depth.
If you’ve been to Manila Ocean Park before, you’ll find the Ocean Tunnel section quite familiar. I can’t tell whether the one in SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World is bigger or smaller though since it’s been a while since I last went to Manila Ocean Park.
Some of the marine animals you’ll be able to see here are manta rays and blacktip sharks. Above, you’ll also see aquarium guests participating in the Glass Bottom Boat activity, which I’ll talk about in more detail below.
Anyway, I don’t normally enjoy Ocean Tunnel sections since it’s where tourists mostly gather. To my surprise though, there weren’t a lot of people in this section of SEA LIFE Bangkok.
Do you like sharks? Lucky for you then, because you’ll get to see them up close in this section.
The most ferocious-looking ones that we saw here are the sand tiger sharks, a species of sharks that typically live on continental shelves. But despite their menacing looks, these sharks are actually non-aggressive. Even in the wild, they don’t usually attack humans unless they’re provoked. In fact, since 1580, there have been 0 deaths related to sand tiger sharks.
Can I let you in on a little secret? I don’t like seeing sharks in aquariums. “Sharks, Ran? You’ve got no problem going to aquariums but you don’t like seeing sharks?”
Yes. Call me a hypocrite for all you want, but I don’t care. I just feel like sharks, as well as large marine animals like dolphins and whales, are way too big to be kept in relatively tiny aquariums. In the wild, these nomadic creatures spend their lives rarely staying in just one place, unlike reef fish, for example. It seems unnecessarily cruel to keep them confined in a small environment. I’d love to talk about this in a more in-depth discussion, but that’s a blog post for another day.
Penguin Ice Adventure
Gentoo penguins are the highlight of this section. If you’ve seen the movie Good Luck Chuck, you’ll probably recognize that they’re Jessica Alba’s character’s favorite animals. They’re the third biggest species of penguins and they’re definitely some of the cutest.
Aside from the penguins, you can also play with the interactive games in this section. Mostly just for kids, but it can be amusing for adults too, if only for a few seconds. 😅
Oh, and this is actually the only place where the lighting is good enough so this is the only place where we got proper selfies. Hope you don’t get too tired of our faces!
Other Activities at SEA LIFE Bangkok
There are also other activities that can be done at Ocean World, all for an extra fee. If you avail your tickets from Klook though, you can save some money by just purchasing an add-on for these activities.
This section features the Sanyo 4D-Xventure, a 4D theater that’s one of Thailand’s oldest. During the time of our visit, the theater was playing Spongebob Squarepants in 4D. There were plenty of kids lining up there too. It costs 350 THB but you can also purchase it along with your Klook ticket.
The ‘movie’ apparently only lasted 15 minutes long, so it’s quite overpriced for 350 THB. I can’t really recommend this unless you have kids with you, and even then, it’s worth thinking twice before you purchase the add-on.
Glass Bottom Boat
This was the only activity that K and I actually participated in, as it was already pre-included in our Klook ticket. Otherwise, it’s 350 THB per person if you avail it on the spot.
I’m torn about this one. The line is ridiculously long, and you’ll have to wait a long time especially if you have your entire family with you. K and I got in pretty quickly (and I say that generously, I think we waited for over 20 minutes) because there were only two of us, so they put us in a boat together with a family of three.
Despite its name, it doesn’t really have a glass bottom. Instead, there’s a glass window in the middle of the boat where you can peek into to see the sharks swimming underneath you. Kinda disappointing. I mean, the rational part of my brain did think that it was impossible for the boat bottom to be made entirely out of glass, but I kinda hoped it would be.
Not to mention, there wasn’t much to see underneath. You’ll be able to see sharks and manta rays, yes, but I would’ve preferred to see a healthy reef environment with plenty of fish swimming around. Don’t you think that’s a livelier, more beautiful, and more memorable scene?
Honestly, I can only recommend this overpriced 10-minute activity if you’ve got kids with you. The two kids with us on the boat were so happy, I enjoyed watching their amazed reactions more than I enjoyed looking at the dim and dark underwater world below us.
SEA LIFE Bangkok also features several feeding shows throughout the day.
- Shark Feeding – 1PM, 4PM
- Gentoo Penguin Feeding – 12:30PM, 4:30PM
- Eagle Ray Feeding – 1:30PM, 4:30PM
- Jackass Penguin Feeding – 11:30PM, 3:30PM
- Freshwater Fish Feeding – 12PM, 4PM
- Otter Feeding – 11AM, 3PM (there were otters?!)
- Diver’s Communication a.k.a. Tropical Ocean Feeding – 12PM, 3PM
Diver Underwater Talk / Diving With Sharks
I’ve always been fascinated with diving. I took a diving course during my college years but I wasn’t able to attend the certification exam back in 2015 due to schedule issues.
In SEA LIFE Bangkok, guests can take the opportunity to explore the aquarium floors with other certified divers. I’m not actually sure if they require you to have diving certification before they allow you to do this activity, but I wanted to stay on the safe side. If you’re interested, the price costs 2000 THB which already includes everything you need for the activity.
Souvenir / Gift Shop
You can also buy souvenirs right from the shop located at the exit. The price is comparable to other aquariums. Overpriced in terms of regular prices, yes, but aren’t they all? 😅
In all honesty though, we thought of buying Serin a penguin plushie but we didn’t think the inflated price was worth it just for a SEA LIFE label. Yes we’re cheapskates.
SEA LIFE Bangkok: Worth The Experience?
The question of ethics can never be removed from this topic, but I think it’s safe to say that SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World seems to be doing a good job in maintaining the place as well as the animals. The tanks seem to be all clean, the place seems sanitary, and many of the marine creatures seem fairly healthy.
Of course, there are plenty of things that can still be improved. I wish they transferred the penguins to a different, more suitable, perhaps more sunny facility. I wish they didn’t host larger animals like sharks and giant rays. Maybe the tanks could be made a little bigger too, or the number of fishes could be reduced. I also wish the staff would be more insistent on disallowing guests to use flash. But these are things that can be improved as time goes on.
If only I lived in Bangkok, I would get a yearly pass and visit this place as many times as possible. I can imagine a child visiting this place and growing up to become a marine biologist, an ecologist, or a wildlife conservationist, to be honest. Ocean World’s goal to educate young minds is undeniable, considering all the information panels beside the tanks and Did-You-Know cards scattered everywhere in the facility.
Ultimately, I think SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World is not just a place for bonding, but also a place where adults and children alike can both learn more about the world we live in.
’til our next adventure,