The Antartic part of this is a cheesy tourist trap is a ride through a penguin display. However the kitcsh of this part is made up by a fairly nice aquarium that is included. It's quite a long ride from downtown but a free shuttle runs from the Skytower. People can also make reservations on adventurous activities like "Discover SCUBA" - learning how to scuba dive in the venue's oceanarium; "Snorkel SAFARI" - snorkeling thru New Zealand's coastal waters (with over 2000 fishes to see); "Stingray SPLASH" and "Shark SURVIVAL" - a free cage dive wherein people can get to experience being surrounded by different kinds of sharks.
I must admit I am a bit disappointed with Kelly Tarlton's. We are a bit early and the staff make us wait outside for eight minutes before they let us in and even then they are not ready. The start fo the "adventure" is a walk through a replica of Scott's Antarctic hut which is very interesting.
Already the drive along the bays of Auckland Harbour is nice and relaxing, and Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World and Antarctic Encounter is well worth the visit although it is very touristy. But it still is a place you should not miss.
The Antarctic section which includes historic items and the recreation of Scott's hut from the early days of the great explorations cannot really compete with the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, as this is the place where the real Antarctic journeys start. But you won't see penguins like at Kelly Tarlton's in Christchurch where they have just introduced a colony of Little Blues.
Kelly Tarlton's features King and Gentoo Penguins. The big King Penguins - only the Emperors are bigger - look like inflated toy animals when they stand on the ice without motion. The Gentoos are similar, just a little smaller and not as colourful as the Kings with their yellow throats. One of them is said to dance in front of the cameras but on my visits I did not see that. (And really, would it not be terrible if he would dance on command?)
The penguins get fresh snow and ice, freezing temperatures and changing daylight cycles, so they feel a bit like home. I am sure they would prefer to live in the Antarctic but they are still nice to watch from the snow-mobile that transports you through their icy enclosure.
Kelly Tarlton's has started in 1985 with the Underwater World, and this is really something. You walk through a transparent acrylic tunnel, and sharks, giant stingrays, squids, piranhas and less scary fish and other marine creatures like sea horses and crayfish swim around you - in fact, right in front of your nose, at some centimetres.
It is rather scary to watch the staff in the tanks feeding the sea predators. The sharks get handfed on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1.30pm, stingray (11am, 1pm, 3pm) and penguin encounters (10am+4pm) are daily.
Open daily 9am-6pm
Entry fee: adults $29.50 (online 26.55), children (4-14y) $14/12.60, family passes available. (Prices as July 2008)
Update July 2008
If you do not know what to do with your last NZ$ 100 - perhaps you want to spend them on plunging in a pool with a 200 kilo short-tailed stingray? That is the latest attraction they offer at Kelly Tarlton's. You do not need diving or snorkelling experience on this guided plunge - just overcome the thought that the Crocodile Man Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray, perhaps... Right after my visit I saw it on Breakfast TV. They said you should not step towards the stingrays. Ok then ;-)
Cost is NZ$ 98.50 (including admission), children (minimum height 130 cm) $ 83.
There was not much of time in Auckland, reduced by a tight schedule to a transit city. In this case the advice to follow was to go to the Aquarium as one of the more unconventional sights in Auckland. There is no question in my mind that this was the right choice. Especially when the scuba diving you might have envisaged did not materialise and you are under pressure to perform before your South Pacific trip has run out, the aquarium supplies you with everything you wished for. Afraid of the unpredictability of shark feed session? Not in this environment – you are safe behind the glass. Mind you, the sharks did not want to eat their lunch even though the master was practically hitting them with it on the snouts.
The entrance to Kelly Tarltons is almost non descript. There were no maps to tell us what to expect ahead and which places do we see first, with directions. Hence we missed the sting ray feeding, shark feeding etc becuase there were no directions as to how to reach the enclosures.
THe antarctic hut was ok, since the international antarctic centre at christchurch was better. The penguin enclosure looked man-made and hence did not give any feeling of being in the antarctic and viewing the penguins (which can make penguin viewing more enjoyable).
However, there are a host of sea creatures which one can gaze and marvel at. One thing I missed was seeing a Great white shark. The sea-tunnel is a fantastic experience as it gives one the feeling of walking underwater. The ride though could have been longer (it is shorter than the sea tunnel at Singapore which truly gives you the feeling of being underwater)
There are free shuttles from Skytower, which take only upto 8 people. Be sure u don't miss the last shuttle from Sky city at 4.30 and back from KT at 4.45.else it is along walk home.
I'd visited Kelly Tarlton's many years ago, when it first opened about 17 years ago. Back then, I think it was the first of its kind, and the Sydney and Melbourne Aquariums followed up on the idea.
What makes Kelly Tarlton's so unique though to me, is that it has Penguins too! King Penguins and another smaller type I'd never heard of or seen before - Gentoo (but still much larger than blue fairy penguins we have in Australia).
The penguins have their own ice arena (several tonnes of snow made/brought in each day) and surrounding this 'ice berg' which really doesn't look too bad (the penguins must like it too as they even breed on it) is their large swimming pond. You can watch them swimming through the glass display in another part of the attraction, then go inside and ride in a heated snow cat in a loop around their arena, where you can see them at much closer range. Very well done indeed!
Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World is a unique aquarium. The first part has a walk through a replica snow hut from the early 1900s. Then you get a ride on a snow cat through an area where a colony of penguins live. The aquarium part is pretty amazing. You can stand on a conveyor belt that takes you through a transparent tunnel. Above and on the side of you there are fish, rays and sharks swimming by.
Kelly Tarlton's is not a big place so you will only need about an hour to look around but it is worth the visit.
We got a free pickup from Skytower.
There is a waiting line to enter both... we were lucky, we had booked ourselves on the city tour via Great Sights so we just wizzed pass the entire line like VIP's..
Kelly is great one can see various type of quatic creatures...one great hit was holding a live star fish in your hands... and meet the Penguin cool too..
This is one of the major tourist stop in the city.
Personally I don't enjoyed Aquarium that much and find the displayed not very exciting compared to other major city Aquariums . The entrance to the place is not exactly exciting as most of it is underground.
However there is a section where you can see colonies of Penguins play in real ice and snow, swim and plunge beneath the ice cap while riding in a snow vehicle.
This is a lovely place if you like fish and Penguins. I love penguins and they have a Penguin home where they have trams going around it and you can see the penguins really close.
This is great if you want to get out of the sun.
Next we board a "snowcat" for a short journey through "subarctic conditions" at minus seven degrees. More like a poor fairground ride. A few penguins sitting on an iceberg and a man spraying snow from a hosepipe.
We walk through plastic tunnels in the aquarium on moving footpaths, my favourite part of this complex. I especially like the rays here.
Kelly Tarlton was a New Zealand diver who developed this area in 1985, in an old stormwater holding tank.
Also here, besides the Aquarium fish and sharks swimming all around you behind perspex as you admire them from the moving walkway, there are touch tanks in the foyer before you get to the souvenir shop with lobster and other sea creatures in, plus a kids marine room with a mini touch pool and other interesting things for them to do, and fish in small tanks to admire.
Before you enter the Snow Cat to see the penguins, you first pass through an exhibition which is a replica scale model of the Antarctic hut from the Shackleton expeditions, complete with furniture, piano, and cabin interior, and black and white photos on display which were taken on the original expedition. Plus, you can watch video and listen to audio about the expedition. Rather interesting.
The Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World is an amazing visitor experience, I had a great time there. There is an excellent underwater tunnel where it's almost like being in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks, stingrays and other kinds of marine life. But what I liked most was the replica of Robert Scott's hut used in his South Pole expedition, it feels very authentic. And I also loved to see the penguins from the snowcat ride: they are such incredible creatures. When I was there, the King penguin colony had a chick who was already as large as the adults, but still had a baby's fluffy brown feathers. It was a very funny sight, like a penguin dressed in a costume.
See real live Penguins, explore the Antarctic landscape in a Snow Cat, take a journey on a moving walkway deep under the ocean, through Kelly Tarlton's unique 114 metre (373 feet) long see-through underwater tunnel.