Mr NJC and I are both off work this week – hurrah! I used my birthday voucher to book us a night in Scarborough and we decided to take Stripe to visit the SEA LIFE Sanctuary there. The usual ticket price is £18.00 per individual (aged 3 or over) and free for under 3’s. By prebooking online our tickets went down to £9.50! That’s a huge saving but I can’t help but feel that the on the door price is massively inflated if they can offer such a discount.
We arrived at the Sea Life Sanctuary around 1pm. There is plenty of parking at the Centre but this is council operated and therefore Pay and Display. There is free parking a short walk away but this is up a steep hill so we opted to pay. After a little picnic lunch in our car, we made our way into the centre. As it was a week day during term time there was no queue and we were welcomed and our prebooked tickets issued within minutes.
We availed ourselves of the toilet and baby changing facilities before heading through the barrier. The first thing we encountered was a member of staff trying to muster some enthusiasm to persuade us to have our photograph taken – “The first thing we’re going to do is pretend some piranhas are nipping at your toes!” Fine if you’re into that kind of thing or have some excitable children with you but we’re not and our 1 year old just stared at her blankly! Luckily they were happy to go along with our request just to take a smiley photo.
Once inside we found ourselves at the Ray tank. The room was darkened and the tank beautifully lit, Stripe’s jaw dropped when he saw it. It took him a while to really notice the fish but once he did he was keen to point them out to me! There was a large variety of rays, some I didn’t even realise were there at first as they were so well camouflaged against the sand. Others were less restrained and kept popping up above the water in the hope of food.
Next we wandered through an area filled with tanks of jellyfish. The tanks change colour periodically making for an interesting display. I didn’t realise that there are actually thousands of different species of jellyfish (although not at the Sea Life Sanctuary!).
Next we made our way outside to see the penguins, otters and seals. We didn’t arrive at Penguin Island at the best time. The keeper told us that he had just been clearing up and rearranging their sand so they’d all scooted over to the opposite side of the pool. Only one was brave enough to go for a swim. You can get very close to the penguins which is good and there is an underwater display area which would have been great if they were actually in the water!
Just up from Penguin Island there was a small playground and outdoor eating area. There wasn’t really anything suitable for Stripe to play on so we didn’t stop but it would be great for families with older children. When we arrived at Otter River it was part way through their feeding display. This meant that the otters were at their keeper’s feet and we couldn’t really see them through the people that had gathered. We decided to keep walking up to the Seal Pool.
We made it in good time to watch the feeding display so we settled down in the seating area to wait the 10 minutes. Stripe was very happy to be released from his stroller for a while. A few more families arrived and I have to say he was far more interested in the other children than the seals! The keeper arrived right on time and gave a short talk about the individual seals and how they came to be at the sanctuary before beginning to feed them fish. A rather brazen Herring Gull arrived and started stealing the fish that the seals didn’t get to in time. Must be a gull’s idea of fast food!
We made our way back into the centre and into the Ocean Tunnel. The tank contained a replica shipwreck as well as rocks and corals to replicate the ocean floor. There was a huge variety of different fish in here and it was great to look up and see them swimming above you especially the rays who always look like they’re smiling at you!
When we came out of the tunnel we found ourselves at the bottom of some stairs which was surprising given that we were pushing a stroller around. Between us we lifted Stripe to the top of the stairs only to find that there were more stairs up to the final display areas. We looked around but there were no members of staff in sight. Eventually we spotted a door marked as the ‘Wheelchair Route’ so we nipped through there but found ourselves back at the start of the exhibits. Unable to find an alternative and unwilling to carry Stripe plus stroller up any more stairs we decided just to end our visit there.
Perhaps I should have researched more thoroughly beforehand but since our visit I have read on the Sea Life Sanctuary’s website that prams and strollers are not to be used in the centre and must be left at the ‘Buggy Park’. However none of the staff that we spoke to mentioned this to us.
All in all we were pretty underwhelmed by our visit. I would probably go again when Stripe is older and more interested in the displays but I certainly would never pay the full ticket price of £18! Have you visited the Sea Life Sanctuary? What was your experience like?