Reviewed by Lucy Lowndes
We visited the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham during February half term. Our party consisted of 2 adults, 1 child (aged 8) and 1 infant (aged 16 months).
We found the centre very easily by following the brown attraction signs, which were located frequently throughout Birmingham.
On our approach to the entrance we noticed a lot of people waiting outside on a bridge, we then quickly realised that this was actually the queue to get into the centre. I therefore had a polite word with a member of staff and explained to him that I was at the centre to do a review and he led us up through another door and to the express ticket line. This is the line for people who have pre-booked their tickets online (recommended). At the ticket desk the staff were very helpful and friendly. We were given a daily activities leaflet, which had times for the different talks, and feeding sessions. We were also handed a quiz scratch card, to complete as we went around.
Because we went in half term the centre was very busy and we had a very slow walk past the shark lagoon, up the first path to the interactive rock pool. At the rock pool we saw a member of staff showing off a small crab and some starfish.
After the rock pool we walked through Nemo’s Kingdom, here we could see all the fish that were featured in the film ‘Finding Nemo’. We then headed through the coral cave and into the Bay of Rays. This room was buzzing with activity, with a craft area for children along the top of the tank. Here my daughter coloured in a picture and had it turned into a badge to take home (for free!), she was also handed an activity pack to take home, this was a little booklet with word searches, facts and pictures to colour in.
We then went through into the kingdom of the seahorse, and on into my favourite room – Jellyfish Discovery! These little creatures are amazing to watch! This was followed by the Mangrove Swamp and Otter Sanctuary.
We were then greeted by a member of staff who offered to take our photo for us. We sat down as a family on a box in front of a green screen and were told to do different expressions (happy and scared!) We viewed our photos straight away on a computer. They had superimposed us onto 3 different backgrounds – in a bath tub, being attacked by piranha fish and in a hammock with turtles below! There was no obligation to purchase any photos but we decided to buy the piranha one anyway as it was quite funny. For the 1 photo it cost £9 and came in a SEA LIFE Centre folder. You could also purchase key rings, magnets and photo frames.
Straight after the photo point you get the opportunity to enter the 4D cinema (this is included in the entrance fee) but unfortunately there was a technical problem with one of the projectors and the queues were quite big whilst they were waiting for it to be repaired. We therefore decided to give this a miss and carry on to the next area of the centre – the turtle sanctuary.
From the turtle sanctuary we had to get in a lift which took us down to the last (and my daughters favourite) area of the centre – the ocean tunnel. It is a surreal experience walking through the tunnel surrounded by fish, turtles and sharks.
At the end of the centre there should have been a shop and play area, but due to an exciting new attraction (a penguin enclosure) being built this was no longer there. There were however 2 members of staff standing at the exit who gave us a stamp on our hands so we could re-enter the centre at any time during the day. We also handed one of the staff members my daughters quiz scratch card which she had been filling in, and although she had got 2 of her questions wrong he still handed her a SEA LIFE Centre medal, which she was over the moon with!
One problem that we did encounter was that there was no cafe at the SEA LIFE Centre, just a couple of vending machines. We would therefore take a packed lunch with us the next time we go.
The cost to get into the centre is £19.20 per person (adult and child) if you pay on the door. However if you pre-book online you will only pay £10 per person, which I personally think is a much more realistic price for the length of time you are in the centre (We spent a total of 1 hour 30 minutes in the centre).
Overall we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and will be definitely returning in the future once the new penguin enclosure has opened.
I give the Birmingham Sea life centre a rating of 4/5.
For more information or to book tickets online visit www.visitsealife.com/birmingham.