This week we decided to do some craft activities based on an ‘under the sea’ theme, and what better place to give us inspiration than the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham?
It was incredibly busy when we got there at 11am. I’d forgotten that some schools didn’t go back until the following day. We didn’t have to wait too long though.
The centre is connected by ramps and walkways, and if I’m honest they’re a little narrow, especially as there was lots of pushchairs, making it extremely hard to get past. It also meant Harrison and Alex were bumped into a lot by adults who don’t appear to watch they’re walking! We didn’t get very close to a lot of displays either. The windows to see things are quite high and in some parts there are a step for the kids to stand on but quite a lot didn’t, which meant we constantly had to pick the kids up so they could see.
We enjoyed the interactive rock pool where you can touch and hold starfish and crabs. If you know me, you know I have a serious phobia of crabs, but I was really brave and managed to touch (albeit extremely quickly!) one. The lady who was looking after the area was really lovely and made me feel at ease and not at all stupid.
It’s a lovely place to walk through. There are areas that make you feel like you’re walking through rainforests, and areas that are very dark and atmospheric. The jellyfish (which were one of my favourite things – never realised how incredibly beautiful they are!) were bathed in neon lights making them look spectacular.
I’m not sure Harrison felt entirely comfortable with the darkness but that’s an age thing. Alex loved it! We enjoyed the big tank of rays, especially Alex who kept waving at them and threw a wobbler when we left it!
However, the absolute highlight of the visit was their famous 360 degree glass tunnel. It is amazing, watching huge rays and hammerhead sharks glide above you, watching tiny fish swim beneath your feet, but best of all seeing the truly incredible giant sea turtle swim past you.
However, I do have a few moans. I remember the 4D cinema being fantastic, and was looking forward to visiting it. However the queuing area for it is in the same area as the otter feeding area so was chaotic and poorly organised. There were no staff to tell us how long it was to wait and no clear queue start/end point, with us and several families standing around feeling very confused. We eventually worked out that the next viewing was a twenty minute wait. The area is on a sort of balcony so is open, and was very cold. The centre is obviously very warm so we hadn’t got coats and was freezing, so had to leave the queue. By this point, all the other families waiting had also given up and moved on. I was really disappointed that we didn’t get that opportunity, but couldn’t stand in the freezing cold with two toddlers for that long. We also never got to see the otters either. A lot of the displays were either empty or covered with a sign saying they were being ‘spring cleaned’,
The centre has the obligatory gift shop, which was reasonably priced. We bought a lovely little pirate chest for our upcoming pirate week which was £3.50 and a shark grabber which was £3 so not horrendous!
All in all? Well, I think I would have been disappointed if we had paid the £30+ ticket price for me and Graham (kids under three are free). We enjoyed it but were only there just over an hour which I don’t think warrants the price. However, I think if you’d had older kids who could see into the tanks easily and were prepared to wait for a long time to see things and went when they’re not doing a big clean and building new exhibitions you would enjoy it.
*We were invited to the Sea Life Centre in return for an honest and unbiased review