Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Visiting the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham

Over the recent Father’s Day weekend we planned a day trip to Warwick Castle.

But as the weather forecast descended into simply a mere guess at to just how much rain we were due, we decided to abandon that plan.

Instead we opted to avoid water of the precipitation variety and head for where it’s salted, and kept safely away from us in tanks.

That’s one of the beauties of the Merlin annual pass (thanks Merlin).  

Meaning we could change where we were headed without having to cancel and re-book, or indeed, costing any more money.


Armed with a pass it also means that you can bypass the larger pay-on-the-door queue.  But even when the place is busy, like wet weekends, it isn’t too bad and there’s plenty of space as you meander around its wonders, of which there are many.

The place is great for kids, especially as they walk passed the tanks and pools with everything at head height.  It’s us adults that have to collapse a little to get the best vantage points.

My favourite creatures are the otters.  Otter feeding time is great fun to watch, and there's loads to learn about these surprisingly vicious animals from the Sea Life’s incredibly well informed and enthusiastic staff.

There always seems to be something going on, every 30 minutes or so.  Feeding times are well set out, and you are never very far from someone only too willing to help you.

I even got tweets back from the Sea Life Twitter feed advising me when the otters were ‘on’ (Yes, I asked rather than looking on the website for myself).

That’s one thing with attractions in the Merlin group, their staff all seem like they really enjoy their jobs and are there to help you improve your day, rather than as being mere tools to sell you things.

The boy, my lovely little know-it-all, probably enjoyed the quiz the most.  Finding the questions dotted around the trail you follow, and then getting to answer the questions, like: What is an Octopus as intelligent as? A) A Dog B) A Shark & C) Geoff Hurst in the 1966 World Cup Final.

Being Father’s Day weekend, I think the sea horses were even more popular than normal, with the males being the ones bearing children in that species.  I still struggle to believe they are real; they look way too mythical to be (bit like Katy Perry).  

The interactive rock pool is good too, as is the 4D cinema.  Despite being a busy day we didn’t wait very long for either, less than 10 minutes (yes, I still have a stopwatch function on my £7 wristwatch).

Our tips for visiting the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham

  1. Timings & Layout– Plan your day around the things you want to see.  The Otter feeding, the talk at the Shark Lagoon etc.  Getting round is easier once you know the layout, makes it simpler when a child says: “Can we go an see such-and-such again?”
  2. Lunch – Take a packed lunch. There is no café, which I personal see as an advantage. There are picnic tables, vending machines and a small soft play, just left of the reception desks as you enter, or up the steps from the shop if you’ve made your way around the circuit.
  3. Comfort breaks – If you’ve got little ones with you, trips to the loo probably need to be scheduled in.  There are toilets by the picnic zone and about halfway round.  But if you need to be at a loo in a rush, it can be a little bit of a scramble to get there in time.  You wouldn’t want to be caught short.  Only an idiot parent forgets about the toilet.
  4. Otters – Don’t miss these bad boys.  Not terribly exciting if they are lazing around their enclosure as you pass them, but come back for feeding time and learn all about them, as well as see them interact, play and jostle for food (the guide warns that the squeamish may wish to look away).
  5. Ask, ask & ask again – The staff are brilliant.  Use them.  They will guide you around the place and tell you where things are, but equally are incredibly blessed in knowledge, so if you want to know if it’s true that sharks don’t get colds, they are the folks to ask.