“ Address: Loch Lomond Shores / Balloch G83 8QL / Scotland „
For my birthday in 2011 my husband decided to take us away for a few days and we headed up to Loch Lomond for a weekend away while there although we found it very relaxing it was difficult to keep the children entertained and while looking at tourist information we found they had a local aquarium so decided we would check it out.
**Parking and getting there**
The sea life centre is located in Loch Lomond shores which are a shopping area and information centre with an extensive car park meaning it was very easy to find a parking space and then it is just a five minute walk to the sea life centre itself. It is around a 20 minute drive from Glasgow and if you do not drive the Balloch station is just a five minute walk away making it very accessible.
Loch Lomond Aquarium SEA LIFE, Loch Lomond Shores, Balloch, G83 8QL
**Walking around and the Creatures**
The centre is very welcoming you can tell it is well maintained and the whole area is clean and the tanks and clear and very easy to view all the different creatures. The toilets are easy to access and also very well looked after and clean. The whole centre is split on to different levels so that you move around the area to see different tanks and features. Moving on to most floors can be done by lift which is handy when you have a pushchair but there are a few steps to get to the upper level of the centre which is the cafe and terrace although this was not too difficult even with a pushchair.
As you walk around the centre there are lots of staff around to answer any questions you may have and there are also interactive points for children to learn more about the creatures and what they like to eat with interesting facts. I liked this as it made my children more engaged with the whole experience rather than just walking around looking at the different things around them they were also learning. There are also interactive points for older children that are a trail that includes a quiz and a clue trail for them to follow.
There are so many different types at this sea life centre you have the usual fish, sea horses, crabs and star fish you also have a few added specials that my children enjoyed as they are a little more unusual.
Green turtle - My children were excited to meet Cammy the green turtle but when we got there she was resting and so my children were disappointed not to find her moving around and doing anything interesting although I think she would be a great attraction usually.
Sharks - There are different breeds of sharks in the ocean tank and although my children were scared at first when we mentioned sharks once they realised there was no way for them to get close to them and they could view them through the glass they thought it was great. The whole tank is set out to resemble their usual habitat and it is great to see them up close.
Otters - The otters were one of my children's favourite parts to visit you can see them from the inside of the centre in the tank but if you go out on to small terrace area you get a much better view as it is not as crowded and you can see the otters playing and having fun with each other. My children thought it was fantastic they had toys to play with and really enjoyed seeing them play around they thought it was hilarious and we actually visited them again before we left.
In one section you get the chance to interact with some of the creatures with the interactive rock pool. There are a number on staff on hand to assist and you can hold a crab or touch a star fish as well as learning about the creatures them self and playing fun games spotting things in the tank. This was one of the busiest parts of the centre and there was a long queue of excited children waiting to hold the animals. When we offered my children the chance to wait and interact with the creatures they were less than interested and my son actually squealed and tried to run away but I think that is because he is a little young and would rather be behind the safety of the glass and I am sure other children would jump at the chance.
There is an option to watch all the creatures are fed and they run throughout the day at different times so depending on different times of day that you arrive at the centre there should be a chance to catch the action. When it is feeding times it does draw in a large crowd so it is best to get to the nominated tank a little while before so you can get a good view. Then a member of staff comes along and gives a presentation with some really interesting facts about the creatures in tank they make sure it is engaging for children and although my youngest two children were not too keen on standing around my eldest son loved learning all about them.
When we went along to the ray feed it actually was not on but there was still a presentation held for us to learn all about them and as this was my sons favourite tank in the whole of the centre he really did enjoy it. We made the mistake of turning up exactly at the time of feeding and unfortunately did not have the best view we needed to lift the children up so they could see.
When you move up the levels in the lift you are greeted by a large cinema when we entered it was showing a film about creatures of the sea and it was completely empty there were around 4 people in the whole of the area which was rather large. We stayed for five minutes but my children were un amused so we moved upstairs to the cafe.
**Cafe and top terrace**
When we got to the top of the building we were greeted by a cafe which had a large seating area although we did not eat here as we had just come from having lunch it did offer a large roof terrace for us to go out on to. This had an amazing view of the local scenery and we spent a good twenty minutes just enjoying the view although it was rather cold. There was a large telescope that you needed to pay for I think it was 20 pence which gave you a closer view of the lovely surroundings and my children absolutely loved this. There is plenty of seats and although it was April and chilly when we visited on a nice warm day I could have spent hours up there just taking in the views.
On the way out there is a gift shop with lots of interesting sea related products although a little overpriced there is a wide range to choose from and although we only glanced around before leaving there was a lot to choose from and I am sure you could find a nice souvenir.
It costs around £13 for a ticket and under three the children go free but if you shop around you can always find deals on entrance to sea life centres including booking online before which I think is a saving of around 20%. You can also redeem club card vouchers towards tickets and they are often part of the 2 for 1 promotion you find with many different products and stores so always find a discount before you go as it brings the cost down on what could otherwise be an expensive visit.
We really enjoyed our time at the sea life centre there is a lot to do to keep the children interested and even for us adults it's fun to look at all the different creatures. We did find our children were a little worried at first as it was rather dark inside but once they were near the tanks they seemed to forget their worries. It is easy to get around and the layout is logical and keeps it interesting moving to different levels for different tanks. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable and my children really enjoyed the demonstrations they held. There was a lot to see and take in and I liked that there was lots of information on the creatures they held. My only downside is we spent an hour and a half there max before we had been around the whole centre and even visited some tanks twice so I do not think you could spend to much time there it would become boring. For the full price ticket I do think it is a little overpriced however if you get a promotion it really is a fantastic visit.