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Scarborough Sealife Centre
Sealife Centre (Scarborough)
Member Name: micksheff
Sealife Centre (Scarborough)
Advantages: Provides a home for injured wild animals
Disadvantages: Very expensive
The Sealife Centre in Scarborough is one of the town's most popular tourist attractions despite an admission price of £14 per adult. I visit Scarborough several times every year and had so far been put off by both the charges and the length of the queues at the door. I finally paid a visit to the Sealife Centre on Saturday 18th July 2009, swayed by half price admission tickets and a cloud full of rain.
We arrived quite early, around 9.30am and the queues weren't too bad but despite this the check in process seemed to be frustrating slow and it still took us the best part of an hour to finally get inside. Once inside the doorway the reason for the delay became obvious, there were just two tills and no organised queue to either of them, so people were pushing in front of us and it was all rather chaotic. When we finally reached one of the tills we discovered that the credit card machine at that till wasn't working. All those wanting to pay by plastic were then dashing over towards to the other till, fortunately I was paying by good old-fashioned cash and so I wasn't delayed any further.
After the very annoying start to my trip we were finally inside the building and beyond the reception so we followed the signs pointing us towards the aquarium. Before you reach the aquarium part there is a large area behind the reception area that contains a gift shop and restaurant above it as well as toilets that are equipped for disabled visitors and a baby changing area. If you follow the correct route around the centre your journey will however bring you back to this same point so we didn't linger too long here and headed straight towards the aquariums
The lights inside the aquarium are very dim so as not to disturb the animals although there are lights inside the tanks so it is easy to see inside. There is no flash photography allowed in this area and the corridors are quite narrow so you have to shuffle along at the same pace as the people in front of you. There is plenty to look at with tanks of fish on either side of the corridor and in places above your head too but I couldn't help feeling that the design of this area was a little bit claustrophobic. There are information signs at the side of the tanks telling the visitor about the species inside and with my initial moans quickly put aside I did find this part very interesting. There will be a few more negative comments about this place later but for the moment I will try to keep things positive.
The tanks are not just filled with fish although these do form the biggest part of the collection and there are species from all over the world including exotic brightly coloured ones and unusual ones that are half fish/half amphibian and climb out of the water onto the rocks. It is true that the brightly coloured fish swimming around the coral probably attract the biggest crowds but I found all of them interesting. My favourite section within the aquarium was that dedicated to jellyfish. It is not often that you can get so up close to these creatures that you can look inside their transparent bodies. Some of the jellyfish species were very strange and they come in all shapes and sizes. As they swim up to the glass it almost seems like you could touch them.
At the end of the corridors that cut through the aquariums you eventually find yourself in a large outdoor area. We had checked the times for the otter talk and feeding and the seal talk and feeding, which were at 11am and 12 midday respectively. It was only a few minutes before 11 so we rushed towards the otter holt but discovered that the area where the talk was about to take place was so small that we couldn't get anyway near it. We certainly couldn't see any otters and the young lad giving the talk didn't have a microphone and on top of this he seemed to be very nervous and sounded like he was reading from a script. We managed to just about hear every other word but we didn't glimpse the otters. We did however hear the announcement that the otters were not actually going to be fed today until 3pm which was followed by a series of loud grunts and groans. We stood around for about 20 minutes and as the people began to drift away after the talk had ended we finally caught a glimpse of one of the others.
The outside area contains two large pools. The one closest to the otter holt is the penguin pool and the other one is full of seals, connecting the two is the seal hospital, where the sick and injured seals are kept and to get from one pool to the other you have to walk through this.
There was no denying that the penguins were very cute and since they were so used to being stared at every day they were more than happy to pose for the camera. However we had only been enjoying the penguins for a few minutes when we realised that it was nearly midday and time for the seal talk. Remembering the fiasco of the otter talk we dashed through the seal hospital, in which there didn't seem to be a single animal around, and into the seal arena. The seal talk was much more organised and surrounding the pool that were lots of rows of elevated seats so we all got a seat and a decent view. The girl that did the talk did have a microphone, she wasn't nervous and allowed people to ask lots of questions, which she answered professionally and in a way that made us believe she knew these seals intimately. Not everything was perfect though as we soon found out that due to a problem with the water pumps the water level was too shallow to feed the seals and so they wouldn't be fed until around 2pm when the water levels had risen sufficiently. We also learned that the seal hospital was currently empty but I guess that no sick animals is a good things, although I did quite fancy seeing some bandaged up seals.
After the seals all that remained was the turtle sanctuary, which is brand new for 2009. With or without the turtle sanctuary to look forward to I was beginning to feel that this place did not offer value for money. Even with half price tickets I felt dissatisfied and pitied those that had paid the full admission price.
The turtle sanctuary was, as you'd expect full of turtles. There were huge adult ones, tiny baby ones and even turtle eggs incubating in heaters. This was another of my favourite areas but it was quite small so there wasn't a great deal to see.
Beyond the turtle sanctuary we found ourselves back in the gift shop and after a quick giggle at some of the extortionate prices we decided to check out the café. Unfortunately this seems to only be able to be accessed by a set of stairs and as we had a pushchair and a 4 month old baby with us we decided to give it a miss. Perhaps that was just as well as we overheard a couple as we were leaving saying that the prices in the café were the most expensive they had ever seen.
On a plus side I enjoyed looking at the animals and the kids loved it but within 2 hours we had seen everything so I can't say that this place represents very good value for money. They obviously play an important role in conservation and the seal hospitals cares for injured seals prior to releasing them back into the wild, whilst the turtle sanctuary cares for lots of abandoned pets so there are obviously some positive things to say and the toilets were spotlessly clean too. I was obviously very disappointed overall and would not recommend it to others unless they decide to have a free admission day. I was also surprised to find that the café seemed to be out of bounds for wheelchair users and people with pushchairs.
The Sealife Centre at Scarborough is part of the Sealife Europe group, which has aquariums at 11 locations in the UK, 8 in Germany and a further 9 elsewhere. Some of the animals at Scarborough had arrived here via their other sites.
It is open daily throughout the year (except Christmas Day) from 10am until 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm). Admission prices are:
Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children): £39.95
Telephone - 01723 373414
Summary: One of Scarborough's most popular attractions
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