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I Sea Life in Birmingham
National Sea Life Centre (Birmingham)
Member Name: Autarkis
National Sea Life Centre (Birmingham)
Date: 21/04/11, updated on 28/08/12 (383 review reads)
Advantages: A fun and educational attractions for all the family to enjoy
Disadvantages: The cafe could do with a little bit of TLC
>>> Finding the Ocean in Birmingham
The Sea Life Centre is located just off of Birmingham's Board Street alongside the canal and next door to the Birmingham National Indoor Arena. For those of you that drive there is ample parking facilities just a short distance away in the main NIA car park, however, for those that don't drive, it is just a little over a 10 minute walk from Birmingham New Street Railway Station, plus there are plenty of bus services that run near to the centre itself.
>>> I See the Sea
The Sea Life Centre is home to a host of aquatic freshwater and marine creatures, it boasts over 60 different displays and it is the home to over 1,000 aquatic creatures. The aquarium is fairly compact with all the displays near to one another, the design is cleverly thought out, as there is so much to see. The displays are all beautifully done, and they are all easy to view even for little ones. The tanks and displays are in optimum condition and they all look well maintained, as do the creatures themselves. There is tranquil atmospheric ambient music that flows through the centre which adds to the experience and makes it feel even more magical.
There are various different tanks that are of differing shapes and sizes. With open pools that can be viewed easily by little ones where you can watch through the water, and they can also be viewed from above. There are smaller tanks that have convex windows to view the sea life, raised tanks that have large windows and there are plenty of open pools, amongst many other innovative displays. They have cleverly recreated the habitats to suit the occupants with rock pools and shallow pools, some of the tanks are dark and murky, and some of the displays are brightly lit to create the right environment for the inhabitants. Flash photography is prohibited to protect the marine creatures, as this could harm and upset them.
The displays are arranged in collective sections based around common themes, one of the first themed displays you come to is Shark Lagoon which is a low level open pool that is on the ground which is incredibly well lit, it is approximately 4ft high, and it contains a number of various sharks and rays. Children are able to easily watch the sharks as they swim below the water or from above as the dart around beneath the surface.
There is plenty of information regarding the occupants of the tanks which is clearly displayed, the fact boards are educational for both adults and children, older children will enjoy learning about the different marine creatures. There are also feeding demonstrations scheduled throughout the day, as well as informative talks where you can learn about the sea creatures and the history of them.
>>> Get ready for a Fishy Encounter
Arriving at the Sea Life Centre you may be surprised to see that the exterior of the building is quite small, however, upon entering you are dazzled with innovative fish tanks on different levels with ramps meandering between them. The entrance has several large sets of double doors that are heavy and can be quite tricky to open, especially if you have a pushchair, however, these act as a safety feature, as it prevents younger children from leaving the building alone.
The entrance is quite spacious, and it is quite unusual to find yourself queuing, although if it is busy during peak times then there are plenty of attractions at the entrance to keep little ones occupied. Children are attracted towards the open fish tank which has water cascading from above, it is conveniently situated next to the tills to keep them interested whilst you pay and collect your tickets. There is also a fast track queue which is used during busy periods for visitors who have either pre-purchased tickets on-line, or for annual pass holders. Once you have paid the entrance fee, if you wish to come and go throughout the day, then you are required to get your hand stamped.
>>> Meeting the Fishy Inhabitants
> ~ Life beneath the ocean - Tropical Paradise ~ <
The Ocean Tunnel is one of the main attractions of the centre; it is a fully transparent acrylic tubular tunnel that runs through a one-million-litre underwater tank. The tunnel is a spectacular experience, as you get to go on a marine voyage under the sea without getting wet. The occupancies of the surrounding tank are a visual delight, as you get to observe and encounter a multitude of magnificent sea creatures.
The ocean tank is home to two giant green sea turtles named Molokai and Gulliver; these beautiful and mystical creatures move gracefully in the water, it is fascinating to watch them and to be able to view these enormous turtles so closely. Alongside these peaceful giants, the tank also plays host to a number of species of shark such as, black tip reef and hammerhead sharks, these legendary powerful creatures are striking, they look menacing and fearsome, however, they are gracious and fascinating to observe. The ocean tank is also populated with a host of tropical fish and marine life that inhabits the ocean; it is a tranquil environment that is peaceful and awe-inspiring.
Being encapsulated in the tunnel is serene and peaceful, it is incredibly relaxing to just gaze out into the water as sharks, giant sea turtles and a whole host of tropical fish flutter by, it is quite something to have an enormous giant sea turtle swim overhead. It feels like you are out in the middle of the ocean as all manner of sea life surrounds you, it is breathtaking to be able to get close to these remarkable creatures, it is a truly magical experience. It is amazing to be able to experience marine life under the sea and the way that these fascinating creatures interact with one another.
>> Otter Sanctuary
The Otter sanctuary is home to an adorable little family of otters. The sanctuary is a decent size; you can view these marine animals from indoors through glass windows, where you can observe these energetic little creatures playing and chasing one another. The sanctuary also has an enclosed outdoor area for them to roam about. These semi-aquatic furry otters have their very own stream which is embedded in a risen valley. These energetic little creatures are a joy to watch, as they propel themselves through the water and burrow in the dirt, they are mischievous little creatures that are always getting up to tricks.
>> Bay of Rays
The rays are housed in a large open pool which can be observed through the water as they glide along the surface, or above the water when they swim to the surface in their waist high tank. You can walk around the entire tank, and there are steps which allow you to view the tank from above. These marvellous, large but peaceful marine creatures are very popular with all visitors. They are charming to watch as they gently glide across the bottom of the pool; these curious creatures will occasionally swim up the side of the tank to greet you.
>> Other Creatures to Lookout for
A popular attraction is the Rock Pool where an expert team member will talk about the creatures and answer any questions posed. You are also invited to hold or touch a crab, and you can even touch a starfish. There is a small sink close by so you can wash your hands after handling the sea creatures.
The poison dart frogs at Mangrove Swamp are dear little creatures, they are tiny, however, the vivid colours that they exhibit more than make up for their small size. They are incredible to watch in their miniature rainforest, as they seem motionless before they suddenly move, if you blink, you might miss them in action, as they are speedy little creatures.
Nemo's kingdom is another appealing feature, especially with children who have seen the popular animated Pixar movie. The cute clownfish is every bit like Nemo and the rest of the main characters can be found here too, children are captivated and enthralled when they get to encounter a real life Nemo.
There's a staggering amount creatures for you to meet from deadly piranhas, to mystical seahorses, all of which are fascinating. There is so much more to discover, and on each and every trip we manage to notice different creatures, and the experience always feels unique. There are all different kinds of aquatic creatures to see, however, I won't tell you about any more of them, as you will just have to see them for yourself.
>>> Taking the Fish Home
Upon exiting the Sea Life Centre you have to walk through the gift shop, which is conveniently and cleverly located, as there is no way to avoid it. The gift shop is quite small, however, it is crammed to the rafters with a massive array of toys and souvenirs, all of which are reasonably priced, in fact, I was surprised, as everything seemed like good value for money, and they even have a pocket money section, so you don't need to spend a fortune to take home a reminder, or to appease any children you have with you. The gift shop has a lovely selection with lots of plastic marine toys, soft toys, and even T-shirts and jumpers.
The cafe is also located at the rear of the building overlooking the canal, however, unlike the rest of the attraction, the cafe is rather drab and dull looking, and it is easy to miss. It really needs some colour injected into it to tie in with the rest of the centre. I have never seen anyone actually making use of the cafe, in all the times I have visited. It always seems desolate which gives the impression that it won't be up to much good. The soft play area is a good feature to let the little ones burn off their energy, and it always seems to be busy.
>>> Our Voyage Under the Sea
Once the warmer weather was upon us I decided to have a look on-line to see what attractions were nearby that would appeal to my little boy. After having a search, I came to the conclusion that the Sea Life Centre in the neighbouring city of Birmingham would be a fun day out for all the family, although not a cheap day.
When we arrived at the Sea Life Centre for the first time, I immediately thought how small the building looked, on entering my initial thoughts soon faded as I was dazzled by the displays, I was excited and I couldn't wait to go on a fishy adventure to explore the aquatic life. I was captivated by all of the beautiful and colourful creatures, as was the rest of the family. I wasn't sure if it would keep my son's interest for the entire duration, as he was only 24 months old when we first visited, he was memorized and he thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of the creatures. He was so entranced when we was in the Ocean Tunnel, as I held him he actually fell asleep, which gave us the opportunity to walk around for a second time to have a more adult look at the place.
On the first visit after walking through the maze we came to a large tank, which looked dark, gloomy, and empty. Most people walked past this without taking a second to look, I decided to take a closer look, as I would hate to miss anything. How glad I did, after searching around I finally spotted something dangling from above, the water is incredibly dark and murky, once my eyes had adjusted I finally managed to see the incredible creature - an octopus - wow! I was mesmerised, I was not expecting to see such an incredible creature, it was quite far away so I couldn't see its body, just a cloudy outline, I could, however, see its legs dancing in the water. I waited in hope that it would come closer; however, it was quite shy. On our next visit, I was astounded to see this beautiful creature leant against the small glass window with its legs flailing about, I was in awe. On our most recent visit, I was saddened to see that the Octopus was no longer a resident.
On our next visit we opted to purchase the annual passes, as we frequent Birmingham regularly, and I could see it being put to full use. We have visited quite a few time since, and we have enjoyed a trip there recently and will be going back again at the end of the month for my son's third birthday. It is always an enthralling and unique experience each and every time we visit, as there is so much to see. It is generally under two hours of entertainment, you can spend as little or as much time there as you like, depending on how long you watch each display for. My enthusiastic little boy usually leads the way now, and in his excitement we are usually finished within 30 minutes, however, we usually have a second walk around.
In all the number of times that we have visited there has never much of a queue to get in, however, it is usually fairly busy any time of the day and it is no different during the week, as there are usually school trips. It is reasonably warm inside, so it is advisable to wear light clothing.
>>> Outside the Centre
The Sea Life Centre exits onto the Birmingham canal, which is nice to walk along when the weather is pleasant, however, because it is a functional canal there are no safety barriers running alongside the canal bank, so care is needed if younger children are with you. There are plenty of eateries within the local vicinity to suit all palates and budgets. We usually stop off somewhere for a bite to eat, as there are so many tempting places that all offer different cuisine. There is also plenty to do in Birmingham so you can make a day of it; it is a shopper's paradise with a vast array of oversized shops, however, if shopping isn't your thing, then there are plenty of other attractions and sights to take in.
>>> Access all Areas
The Sea Life Centre has easy access and is fully accessible to wheelchairs throughout. It is easy to negotiate with a pushchair, and my son was happy to walk around. There is a lift that takes you between the levels. It is a bit of a walk up quite a few ramps.
>>> Tickets Please
Prices accurate as of October 2010
Family ticket (2 adults 2 children) £54.95
Adult (15+) £17.50
Child (3-14yrs) £14.00
Concessions (60+) £17.00
Student (ID Required) £17.00
The prices may seem a little steep to some, however, do have a look around on-line for discount vouchers, as there are usually some good deals to be found. You can book your tickets on-line in advance to save a couple of pounds on standard tickets, and a massive £10 saving on the family ticket. Also you can skip the queues if you book on-line.
It may seem expensive, however, it's not every day you come face to face with a giant see creature.
>>> SEA LIFE Annual Pass
The annual pass allows you to visit any of the 11 Sea Life Centres and sanctuaries as many times as you like for a year, which is great value for money. In addition to this pass holders are also entitled to a 10% discount in the gift shop and cafe.
The Sea Life Centre is also part of the Merlin entertainment, so Merlin pass holders are free to visit anytime.
Open Weekdays 10am - 5.00pm
Weekends 10am - 6.00pm
All of the Sea Life Centres enthusiastically support various aquatic conservations such as, the turtle and otter rescues, as well as this they actively promote awareness and protection of other endangered marine species. Alongside this each of the centres specialises in the breeding of one or more of these endangered creatures, currently the Birmingham centre is active in breeding various turtles, and they have become a subsidiary breeding ground for seahorses, in conjunction with the Weymouth centre.
You can adopt an animal for just £25; creatures that are up for adoption include the sharks, giant sea turtles, otters, and even the residents of Nemo's Kingdom. The adoption is for one year, inclusive of this one off fee you will also acquire a cotton Bag, presentation folder, stationary, a cuddly toy of your chosen creature, a complimentary ticket to visit any UK Sea Life Centre, information and updates on your adoptee, and a personalised e-certificate. This would make a lovely gift.
National SEA LIFE Centre
The Waters Edge
Birmingham, B1 2HL
For more details you can visit their website, where you can also book tickets in advance and save yourself a few pounds.
[Pictures on Ciao]
Summary: An exhilarating and educational underwater experience that will enthral children and adults alike
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