This time last week I awoke to Little Bean’s cries of “I’m going to see the fishes today Mummy” – I can never decide whether its a good idea to tell her in advance what our plans are. On the one hand she gets really excited, which I absolutely love to witness but on the other if something goes wrong with the plans then I’m left with a very upset little girl on my hands!
Thankfully this was not the case last Thursday. When we arrived we were greeted with a friendly smile and warm welcome which I think makes a difference. They were keen to point out that our ticket was valid for the whole day so we could come and go as we pleased. The Sea Life Centre know what it can be like with children who just want to run from one tank to another without taking a breath. With an all day ticket you can make the most of your money and come back for the various feeds and talks throughout the day.
I wasn’t sure what Little Bean’s reaction would be to the fish, she loves her goldfish but obviously these fish are on a totally different scale. She loved the Rays, especially when they swam up the side of the tanks and she could see their ‘smiles’. She thought they looked like butterflies in the water. She surprised me the most with the rock pool when the lady asked her if she wanted to stroke the starfish. Little Bean is very funny about textures and touching things with her hands so I was sure that she would recoil at the offer but she tentatively put her hand into the container and stroked it. She said it felt ‘a bit scratchy’ and that the rock pool was ‘a bit stinky’ (this is Little Bean’s favourite comment at the moment!). Then she was asked if she wanted to stroke the crab and I was adamant that she would say no, but again she surprised me by gently stroking the back of its shell as the lady put her fingers over his claws to save on any nasty nips. The highlight for Little Bean was when the crab was placed back in the water and the crab ‘blew bubbles’.
We arrived just in time for the penguin feed so Mum took Little Bean up to viewing platform and they watched as the penguins toddled their way to the fish bucket and awaited their turn for a fish. We were lucky enough to see a baby penguin too which Little Bean was quite taken with.
The highlight of our visit had to be the shark tank which is huge! Little Bean’s face was a picture and even Beanie Boy managed a squeal of delight when he was confronted by the biggest fish tank he had ever seen. My favourite had to be the very large spotted shark (not the technical name I’m sure but I was laid on the floor in the tunnel taking photos when the talk was going on!) she was just beautiful and almost impossible to take a photograph of. I did learn something new though, because I was under the impression that all sharks had to constantly swim but actually not ALL of them do, the black tipped sharks have to keep swimming but most sharks are actually quite sedentary and will rest from time to time, I’m so glad that they did because I was able to take these cool pictures . . .
Little Bean’s favourite was the giant Turtle named George, she was fascinated by him and kept calling his name – when we walked through the tunnel under the tank George made her day by coming down to the glass right by her face and just watching her. She screeched with delight “George is saying hello to me Mummy” and was so happy we had to buy a George the Turtle in the gift shop before going home. Unfortunately we lost George somewhere between the Sea Life Centre and the car so I will be trying to find her a replacement next time I am near some shops.
We made two visits to the Sea Life Centre throughout the day and I can definitely recommend going back later in the day once the initial rush has died down. It is much easier to look at the tanks, speak to the assistants and get a better view during feeds/talks. We spent much longer on our afternoon visit than we did in the morning. Another point worth making is that the Centre is fully wheelchair/pushchair accessible so it is open to everyone.
When you first arrive at the Sea Life Centre you are given a scratchcard with 9 multiple choice squares on it, as you travel through each room there are questions boards on the wall and you need to scratch off the square which corresponds with the answer you think is correct. If you get all 9 questions correct you can hand the card in at the gift shop to receive a 10% discount. This also gives the children (and adults) something else to keep them entertained as they go around, even Little Bean had a go at answering some of the questions.
The Gift Shop is stocked to the rafters with gifts to suit every pocket and there are activities which the children can do such as ‘Sand Bottles’, Pottery Painting or even ‘Create a Teddy Bear’ and for the parents a well earned drink and meal can await them in the restaurant as there is a soft play centre to keep the children entertained. I was pleased to note that the entrance/exit to the soft play area is directed into the restaurant area though it is so busy you need to ensure that you are situated very close to be able to keep an eye on the children.
The restaurant in the Sea Life Centre was the first place that I had seen displaying a sign which read ‘Breastfeeding Mothers are welcome to feed their child here’ in the restaurant and they had a separate baby changing facility.
Our visit to the Sea Life Centre was fantastic from start to finish, we saw more fish than we could possibly have imagined, we saw two crocodiles (in Great Yarmouth!) and jellyfish, seahorses and eels, we panned for ‘gold’ and gems and even saw an underwater bathroom! You’ll have to visit to find out more about that one! The only thing which disappointed Little Bean was the lack of an octopus like the one painted on their signs at the front of the Sea Life Centre but I got away with this by telling her he, like us, had gone on holiday.
Disclaimer: For the purpose of this review we were granted free admission to the Sea Life Centre on full day passes. All words, opinions and photographs are my own and may not be copied without my express permission.