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Help the seals
National Seal Sanctuary (Helston)
Member Name: lyndsey1989
National Seal Sanctuary (Helston)
Advantages: A great cause, lots of talks and feeds throughout the day, friendly staff
Disadvantages: Quite expensive for only a few hours entertainment
We have just returned home from a short break in Cornwall. When we were planning our visit we knew we wanted to go to The National Seal Sanctuary. Me and my partner have visited twice before but this time we took his daughter and my niece with us and knew they would enjoy the experience. Even better, because we all have Merlin Annual Passes admission for us was free so it seemed like a good idea to visit, especially as we were only staying 20 minutes down the road.
==Where is it?==
The Seal Sanctuary is located in Gweek, near Helston in Cornwall. Gweek is a small village so I imagine getting there using public transport would require some planning but if you are driving it is easy to get to from Helston. Gweek is well signposted and once you get to Gweek there are plenty of brown signs telling you which direction it is so it really is quite simple to find. If you are using a sat nav the postcode you need is TR12 6UG.
==Arriving at the Sanctuary==
The Seal Sanctuary has a large car park which is on a steep slope (please check your handbrake before leaving the car!) We arrived at about 9:50am and there was only us and another family waiting for it to open however we have often seen the car park quite busy but never full.
When we got out of the car we went to get our admission to the park. We showed the member of staff our passes and she said they were fine and offered us a guide book at the reduced rate of £2 (I think they are usually £4) I declined because we already have 2 and she said that was fine and then gave us a list of feeding times etc. I thought she was very polite and helpful and not at all pushy.
The sanctuary is actually a short walk away from the admissions and it is up a slope. However, a bus does run up and down the hill all day (starting at 10:30) for those who don't want to or are unable to walk. We decided to walk otherwise we would have been waiting for the bus for half an hour and we have always walked before anyway. It took us less than 5 minutes to reach the beginning of the sanctuary so it really doesn't take long.
The first thing you reach when you get to the top of the hill is the seal hospital for any poorly seals they may have. Thankfully none of the seals were ill on the day of our visit so this was empty however last time me and my partner visited there were 2 baby seals in there who had just been rescued. They were very cute and it was great to see them up close. Next to the hospital there are also toilets and a kiosk but the kiosk has not once been open in any of my 3 visits here. I believe these are the only toilets in the actual sanctuary itself (there are some at the admissions) so it is worth making a toilet stop here before you go down, especially if you have young children.
You then walk down a steep hill and will reach the Common Seal pool. There are usually only two seals in here but this time there were 3. They were very playful and active and the kids really enjoyed watching them swim about for ten minutes. The pool is of a good size and it has glass all around it so younger children can see easily without being lifted up.
Next is the main pool where there were 13 seals during our most recent visit. This is the most we have ever seen in this pool but there is usually around 10 in here so plenty to see and this is the pool that we always spend the most time at. You can view the pool from ground level or go down some steps and you can see the seals in the water through various viewing windows. It is great to watch them swimming and because there are so many currently in there you are guaranteed to be entertained for a good ten minutes. In the building where you can look at the seals swimming there is also information about whaling and during our last visit children could make a badge if they wanted to (the first one was free and additional badges were something like 50p so good value).
We watched the seals being fed in the main pool as we always do and this was very entertaining and interesting. The keepers begin by telling the audience a little bit about various seals and it is wonderful to learn about their characters and also how they ended up being at the sanctuary.
Next to the main pool there are currently two African Fur Seals called Andy and Chaff who are father and son. They were having their pool cleaned out during our visit and they were hilarious to watch. One was right up next to the glass and doing a little dance which of course the kids (and partner!) found hilarious.
Next are the penguins who as usual are very entertaining. You can view them both inside and out. Inside there are windows set back into the walls so you can literally touch the penguins swimming past the window. My niece thought this was great fun and spent ages watching them go round.
The penguins are next to the rock pool which has various creatures in it such as crabs, starfish and fish. When we arrived a keeper was just bringing out various things in tanks so people could have a closer look. My niece stroked a starfish and held a hermit crab which she found really enjoyable.
You then meet a sort of market square where there is places to get food and drink, a shop and a playpark. The playpark is like a pirate ship and was quite good, it looked very well looked after.
You then have a 350m walk to visit the otters if you wish to. I would recommend going to see the otters as they are very funny and interesting and last time we were there one of them was holding my partners finger through the wire which was adorable! However, this visit they were curled up together in their house having a snooze!
After you have visited the otters you have to walk past it all again in order to get back so we always have a second look!
==Eating and Shopping==
There are a few kiosks dotted about the place to buy food and drink from, we didn't eat at these as we were only at the park for a couple of hours but the prices seemed about average for this type of place.
There is a gift shop in the market place which sells various bits and bobs and there is also one right back at the beginning which is the one we always visit. Prices seem average, fridge magnets are £2, small notebooks are £2, small seal teddies are £5.
==Our opinion of the Sanctuary==
We enjoyed our visit to the Sanctuary but we only spent an hour and three quarters here. We could have probably dragged the visit out another half hour and if we had stayed for lunch we could have probably stretched our visit to 3 hours but for us we had seen it all and were all happy to leave after an hour and three quarters.
The seals all seem very relaxed and happy in their environment. The pools seem of a generous size and they are all clean and in a good condition. The keepers all seem very fond of each seal and know them all personally which makes me feel as though they really care about each seal as an individual.
We love the seal sanctuary and we visit every time we go to Cornwall as it is a lovely way to spend a morning or an afternoon. Everyone else at the Sanctuary seemed to be enjoying their visit too including toddlers, teenagers and pensioners so it really does seem to appeal to everyone!
==A little bit about the Sanctuary==
The Sanctuary is a Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release centre meaning therefore that if they resuce a seal, they will do their best to return it back into the wild. However, there are of course some seals who would not survive out in the wild and these seals become residents of the Sanctuary. They rescue around 40 seals every season.
The Sanctuary opened in 1958 when a man rescued a seal washed up on a beach and took it home to care for it. The Sanctuary moved to its current location in 1975.
Current admission prices are around £13 for adults, and £8 for children. However, please check in advance before visiting as these are ballpark figures as we did not pay to get in. A family ticket was around £40. Do look out for vouchers before you go as at our holiday park they were offering a family ticket for something like £25 if you bought it in advance. Reduced price tickets are also available from the website.
The Sanctuary is open every day apart from Christmas Day from 10am. Closing times vary throughout the year but usually are around 5 or 6pm.
Dogs are allowed in the Sanctuary as long as they are on a lead and are well behaved.
Adoptions are available for a reasonable price (£50 for adults and £30 for child seals).
For more information visit http://www.sealsanctuary.co.uk/ or telephone 0871 423 2110.
A wonderful place to visit but very expensive for just a couple of hours entertainment. However, all of the proceeds from admission goes to a very good cause and its great to see what is being done to help to seals. Recommended.
Summary: A brilliant cause