Monday, 13 October 2014

OctoAlert at The National Sealife Centre

On Saturday we got up bright and early to travel up to Birmingham.

We had been invited up to the National Sealife Centre to embark on their latest Octonauts mission which runs until the end of November.  It was particularly exciting because this was our first visit to the Centre and my first visit to a Sealife Centre since I was 12 years old!

On arrival you have the opportunity to have your photo taken in front of a green screen. A variety of themed backgrounds are then available to choose from at the end of your trip.

We then got to meet Peso! C is still a bit young for the Octonauts storylines however we do watch it on CBeebies and she recognised Peso as soon as she saw him.  B, on the other hand, was not at all sure what to make of the giant penguin stood in front of him!

As part of the Octonauts mission there are Octonauts activities distributed throughout the centre which adds an extra element of interest for school age children.

The first sea creatures we found were the penguins who were swimming at high speed across their tank.  The water level came up higher than the windows so we had a excellent view of them swimming back and fourth under the water.  C & B were fascinated!

From here we followed the pathway passed tanks full of fish, jellyfish, stingrays, sea horses and turtles, stopping as we went to point out and discuss what we could see.  I liked that there was a clear route around as I hate having to worry whether I've accidentally missed something.

At one point we could put our hands in a rock pool to touch the sea anemones.  C wasn't keen to try this at all so Mummy did instead. C got much more enjoyment in spotting the starfish dotted around the pool.

I was looking forward to seeing the otters but unfortunately they were not out and about in their enclosure.  Eventually we did see a nose pop out of it's holt.

We then reached the cinema and got to experience a short 4D showing of Happy Feet.  None of us have seen the full film so this made it especially interesting.  I was not sure what to expect from the 4D film experience.... I had visions of getting soaking wet!  Luckily this wasn't the case.  B thought the rumbling seats were hilarious and both enjoyed pointing out the bubbles.  We must get round to watching the full film sometime!

The tour then took us down in the lift and came out under some of the tanks. We walked through the ocean tunnel.  This is probably the most familiar of Sea Life Centre experiences and certainly one of the most impressive.

At the end of the tour we reached the photo processing booth and the soft play.  Personally we decided not to purchase any photos due to the cost however they did appear to offer reduced prices to season ticket and Merlin Pass holders.  Here you get to see the penguins again from a lower level and it is impressive to see them swimming straight towards you before darting back at the last moment.

C then announced she needed the toilet so we hurried to the nearest toilet, sensibly positioned right next to the soft play, only to find it was out of order.
A helpful member of staff informed us the nearest working toilet was back through the ocean tunnel and up in the lift on the upper floor.
Eek! A long way for a little bladder.
I carried C back to the lift then realised I had no idea which floor we had come from.  I only knew I needed to go up. All the signing in the lift was geared to people using the lift to go down and not up.
I pressed 1 and nothing happened so tried 2, still nothing.  Luckily at that point someone called the lift from the upper level and we were transported to Level 3.
We made it to the toilet just in time.

The plus side of that little drama was we got to do the ocean tunnel again.  This time we saw an enormous turtle that wasn't in view the previous time.  It swan right over our heads and was truly amazing! I wish I had had my camera with me to capture it!

We finally popped out into the gift shop and were disappointed to see that we had no option to loop back through any of the Centre.  If we had known, we would maybe have walked a little slower.  C in typical toddler fashion likes to do everything at a trot but a couple of loops of trotting would have served her quite well and allowed us to catch a few of the things we missed like the feeding demonstrations, otters and possibly Kwazii

The National Sealife Centre is so much more than a giant aquarium!  There is a huge variety of ocean wildlife plus the added dimension of well loved CBeebies characters.
I felt it catered for different age groups really well.  There was plenty of information and activities for school age children but also plenty for preshool children to look at as well.  It was lovely to be able to really include B so much in this activity, rather than feeling he was just along for the ride. From his buggy he had an excellent view into the majority of the tanks and was fascinated by the fish and penguins... and even the bubbles and lights.

We will definitely be making a return trip if we are up that way again.

Disclaimer: We were given free entry to the National Sealife Centre for the purposes of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own

1 comment:

  1. We love aquariums! We've been spoiled by some pretty amazing ones over the years. The Sealife one sounds wonderful. Will definitely add it go our list for when we're up that way