Reviewed by Victoria Thacker
We visited Birmingham’s SEALIFE Centre on a Monday (7 August 2017) during the summer holidays. We didn’t initially look at the information on the website so got rather lost, so I would advise taking advantage of the directional information provided as it really does help. The closest parking is at the Barclaycard arena, and follow the brown signs if driving rather than just satnav to the venue. The SEALIFE centre is in the centre of Birmingham and surrounded by pretty canals and places to eat.
Entry is £20.95pp (on the door price) or £17.95pp if 2 or more people are purchasing tickets, under 3’s free. Discounted tickets can be bought in advance online from £12.95pp, and as part of the Merlin group entry its included for annual pass members and they have also teamed with several products to offer special entry rates with purchase.
To add to your visit, you are also able to book on to a behind the scenes tour and a range of feeding experiences.
On entering we were straight into the penguin enclosures and first of 3 staged official group photo opportunities with pictures available to view and purchase next to the gift shop.
The aquarium was rather busy with families so there were lots of pushchairs, and as would be expected – excited children darting around, especially in the penguin and starfish areas.
I carried our little one around most of the way as I felt it was too crowded for her to be sat in the pushchair and as most of the tanks are waist height up, she would have missed a lot being so low. Though a few of the larger tanks are glass down to ankle height to allow easy viewing for all, and there are ramps and lifts to make it accessible and easy to get around.
A firm favourite was the (Nemo) clownfish children’s tunnel which really showed the little fishes colour off well, similarly the jellyfish and seahorses were really well lit and beautiful to watch. As you work your way up to the top of the building passing serene tanks of fish of all sizes swimming happily, and smaller tanks of unusual creatures and shark eggs you pass various classrooms, restrooms and vending machines. As you reach the top there is a great addition of a 4d cinema showing an Octonauts special film. The highlight of our trip was taking our time to slowly walk through the glass viewing tunnel which has a 180-degree viewing section so you feel like you are really under the water. It’s a very special experience to be able to watch sharks, rays and turtles amidst an array of fish friends swim up close to you.
As a couple, we have been to several aquariums across the country but going for the first time as a family with our baby and with granny was a completely new experience; seeing a little person watching the penguins come over to see her and watch the fish swim by was wonderful.
While this felt like the smallest aquarium we have visited it was very clean and tidy and has all the creatures you could wish to see, including some of the biggest of their kind in the UK and it’s nice that you can return the same day for free, so if it is rather full and you miss seeing some of the inhabitants first time around you can have lunch or a walk nearby and go back around the centre again later in the day.
Having the opportunity to view these creatures is amazing and it makes you fully appreciate and applaud the conservation work that goes on to ensure their continued existence.
Tickets cost from £12.95pp (if purchased online in advance).
For more information or to book tickets online visit www.visitsealife.com/birmingham.