Mini breaks are the best, right? There is nothing quite like getting away for a few days, soaking up the atmosphere and exploring your new surroundings. At the end of last week my other half and I went off to Birmingham for two nights. For me it was a chance to reminisce about my university days and show my boyfriend some of the sights.
One of the places we stopped off at was the Sea Life Centre. We’d visited the one in London and mister was keen to compare the Birmingham one. I was simply excited by the prospect of penguins and otters. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.
Our tickets were for 11am but we got there early. The Centre opens at 10am and even within less than an hour it was very busy. Unlike in London, however, we were able to get close to the tanks and see the fishes and animals. Much to my delight, the tour began with the penguins. Needless to say there was quite a crowd gathered around to watch them showing off in the water. One penguin in particular kept doing somersaults much to everyone’s amusement.
After the penguins we followed a winding path that steadily climbed upwards. There was a large tank with all manner of small sharks and tropical fish, including a very cheeky puffer fish. He looked like he was smiling and he was such an exhibitionist, swimming right up to the glass to stare back at us.
Next stop on the tour were the clown fish. There was a cool little tunnel for children to climb in so they could see the fish swimming above their heads. It made me wish I was still little enough to have gone inside!
As we moved from tank to tank, one spotted shark caught my eye. He was just sitting at the bottom of his tank, not bothering about anything. We crouched down to get a better look at him and his eye lazily tracked our movements. It was only when I looked back at the photos that I spotted a small cut just before his gills. Maybe he’d been bullied by some of the other fishes.
The Bay of Rays was up next – a huge, square tank with rays and other fishes. There were lots of rays from plain to spotted. Most of them stayed close to the sand, but we were lucky enough to catch a couple coming up to the surface.
Beyond the Bay of Rays was the starfish tanks. Again there were little tunnels for the kids to climb into so they could get a better look at these amazing creatures. Naturally, my boyfriend decided he was going to climb into one for a photo opportunity. Luckily he didn’t get stuck and he did get some really good pictures of the starfish.
One of the most impressive sights in the Centre were the jellyfish. I never thought I would find these alien-like creatures nice to look at, but seeing them glow as the water changed colour around them was mesmerizing. It reminded me of being at a light show.
As well as the penguins, I was super excited to see the otters. I’ve loved otters since I was a kid and was eager to see one in real life. Imagine my disappointment when they were nowhere to be seen. We peered in every window of their exhibit, but there was no sign of them. My heart sank and I reluctantly moved on.
Our next encounter was with some turtles, who were just hilarious to watch. One was trying to climb out the water and making a terrible job of it. He ended up falling back in. I shouldn’t have laughed at the poor guy, but I couldn’t help myself.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the aquarium was the underwater tunnel. This is the kind of thing that has to be seen to appreciate how amazing it is. We walked along, fishes, sharks and a giant turtle swimming above and around us. There was so much to take in; it was utterly overwhelming. Pictures wouldn’t have done the tunnel justice, so we ended up filming it instead. I did manage to get one (very bad) snap of the giant turtle as he swam away.
Still completely spellbound by the tunnel, we made our way round the next corner and my heart leaped. We had arrived back at the penguins, only this time we were seeing them underwater. Like a child, I rushed up to the glass and stood there cooing. I could have spent all day watching them. In the end, the other half had to drag me away but not before we both got some brilliant shots of them.
Our aquarium experience was almost over…but not quite. We had booked tickets for a behind the scenes tour. This turned out to be the best decision we ever made. Not only was the talk really interesting and not only did we get to see what the fishes and animals are fed, but it just so happened that as we left the behind the scenes area the otters were getting fed. Needless to say I was thrilled to finally catch a glimpse of them.
We had a great time at Sea Life Centre Birmingham. No matter your age, this is the kind of the place that both educates and entertains. There is so much to see and I would certainly take my children there if I was a parent. Right now I’m off to gush over my penguin and otter photos again.