“ Address: Sea Life Brighton, Marine Parade, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1TB „
We wanted to take my nephew somewhere for his 6th birthday and as the weather hasn't been brilliant for somewhere such as Paultons Park we decided that we would visit here as some of his favourite characters from The Octonauts would be here the day we were going.
The Sea Life Centre
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There are currently 14 Sea Life Centres in the UK and the one I am reviewing is Brighton. Brighton Sea Life Centre offers a wide range of different animals to look at. This particular Sea Life Centre has certain features and attractions that other Sea Life centres don't have. The Sea Life centre is only about a 40 minute drive from where we live so we were going to go early and make a good day of it. As well as watching and learning about the animals in the Sea Life Centre they have a new Octopus Garden, Glass Bottomed Boat, Interactive Rockpool, Feeding Demonstrations and a Cafe where you can purchase hot & cold drinks, snacks sandwiches and cakes. Although I have visited 2 different Sea Life Centres before I always find that they are always very different so I was looking forwards to visiting this one. There is parking at the sea life centre which is rather pricey at about £8.00 for 3 hours; how-ever there are other car parks which are approximately a 20min walk away, which is where we parked.
When we arrived at the sea life centre there were 2 separate queues, one of which was for pre-paid tickets which had been purchased online and another queue for people who need to purchase tickets. Although these were separate queues they actually went to the same till area which consisted of 3-4 tills where you purchased your tickets. After paying for your ticket and helping yourself to a map of the centre you walk past an area in which you can leave your buggies if you don't wish to take them with you. As it was half term week this area was really busy and there were lots of buggies there already. My younger nephew didn't want to get out of the buggy so we decided to take it with us.
Inside the Sea Life Centre
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When entering the areas which contained different creatures I was quite surprised at the layout. The first area is actually called Victorian Arcade which looks kind of old and has glass tanks down each side containing different animals. This area was quite large so we weren't really sure where to start. We decided to walk down one side and then do the other side afterwards. The glass windows to enable you to see into the tanks are quite big and there is a small wooden platform by each tank so smaller children can climb up and get a better look into the tank. The first thing I noticed about this area is that it was quite dark and the tanks were rather dark too. You could see various different fish in the tanks, how-ever not as well as I had hoped. I was planning on taking some pictures; how-ever they ask you not to use flash, so because of this the pictures came out looking very dark. In previous sea life centres I have been to I haven't used the flash on my camera but the tanks have been much brighter so I was able to get some good pictures. In this area were various different fish including Lionfish, turtles, a very large spider crab and more. The tank which had the spider crab was very dark which was a shame as I would have liked a decent picture of it. In the Victorian Arcade is also a cafe area with table and chairs so as you can imagine this area gets quite busy and rather packed. I personally thought it was a silly area to have a cafe and expected the cafe to be in a separate area. There was some information next to each tank about the creature in the tank, how-ever there wasn't as much as information as I had expected. This information was also quite low which was great for children to look at but not so good for adults.
Interactive Rock pool - This is in the Victorian Arcade and here you can see a wide range of familiar creatures such as crabs and starfish. You can even hold a grab or touch a starfish if you wish. The rock pool is open all day. This area sounded really good and I was looking forwards to maybe touching a starfish (I certainly wouldn't be touching a crab that's for sure!) I was so disappointed when I found this area which was a small round area which contained some sea urchins. I couldn't see any other creatures in here such as crabs. There was a few starfish which you were allowed to touch. I did this and was surprised that the starfish felt rather rough to the touch.
Ray Pool - This is also located in the Victorian Arcade and contains some rays swimming around. You can walk around the whole of this area and see the whole tank. You can also go up and see a view of the rays from above the water. I didn't do this as there were some steps and the area was also quite busy as well.
Ocean Tank/Auditorium - The only way we could find our way to this area was to go up and then down some steps. We were a little surprised by this considering that this it states disabled access is available in the sea life centre. We couldn't find any ramps to get to this area so it took two of us to carry the buggy down to this area. This tank is huge and contains various different sharks, fish and a huge turtle which you can see swimming around. This also contains the glass bottomed boat which was rather busy so we didn't go on it. This is apparently the UK's first glass bottomed boat in an aquarium which gives people the chance to see everything in the water. On the boat you get a snorkellers eye view of their huge turtles, tropical sharks and colourful reef fish. The glass bottomed boat does cost extra money that isn't included in the entry price to the aquarium. You cannot purchase these tickets in advance nor book a time slot to go on the boat. Tickets for the boat must be purchased on arrival at the reception. I personally didn't think this actually looked like a boat as it was very square shape & just went up to one end of the tank and back again. I'm not sure how long the ride is but it didn't look very impressive. In this area there is lots of seating and a lot of people were eating their lunch here.
Ocean Tunnel - This tunnel was a lot smaller than I imagine in width and in height. In you are a very tall person you would most likely need to bend down slightly in order to walk through here. There are wooden benches on the side so children can climb up and get a better view, this makes the width of the tank slightly smaller and it was so busy and compact in here that we just walked straight through. This area was also extremely hot as well. There are lots of colourful fish and different sharks which swim over your head though. This is actually the Ocean Tank above you which you will have seen from above where the glass bottomed boat is.
There are various other areas in the Sea Life Centre including Tropical Lagoon, Harbour, and Kingdom of the Seahorse. Although these areas contained a few different creatures they weren't that impressive. The area where they had the Octopus, although they had a good 3-4 tanks, there was only 1 tank with an octopus in which was rather disappointing. There was a small section with poison dart frogs in and other Tropical creatures. On the map we noticed there was something called Jellyfish Discovery and unless we somehow missed this area the only jellyfish we saw were in a small tank with a few coloured lights on them. There were more jellyfish in the other sea-life centres I have been to.
Meet the Octonauts
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During our visit here which was the Easter Holidays children had the chance to meet some of their favourite characters from The Octonauts including Captain Barnacles and Peso. You can join in the fun and activities with your favourite characters and even have you photo taken with them as well. If your children choose to join in the fun they can become an Octonaut roaming the ocean in search of adventure and fun. You can help take part in exciting missions and join in with the Octonauts activities. Children can take part in the Quiz Trail and will receive an activity pack and your own hat which you can take home with you. My older nephew wanted to have his picture taken with Captain Barnacles so we joined a queue to wait. There were at least 15 people in front and we still had another 30mins to wait. In the end my nephew got bored of waiting so we decided to leave the sea-life centre. I imagine a few people were frustrated by this as the queue for this actually blocked the views of at least 4-5 tanks so people who hadn't yet seen in these tanks wouldn't be able to see in them until the queue had gone.
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You can purchase tickets at the door on the day or you can purchase them online where you will save some money, because you are buying your tickets in advance. I would also advise to keep a look out in any newspapers as they sometimes have coupons and offers that you can use.
* Adult Ticket - £17.40 walk up price or £12.40 when booked online
* Child Ticket - £14.10 walk up price or £9.10 when booked online.
* Groups (10+ people) - £17.40 walk up price or £9.00 when booked online.
You can also purchase Birthday packages and a Sea Life Annual Pass which is valid for 12 months. Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by and adult. Children under 3 and carers are both free entry.
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I was really looking forwards to visiting this Sea Life Centre after visiting various others in the country. I was unfortunately disappointed by my visit here and was unimpressed at the range of creatures here. The tanks seemed very dark to me which made it hard to try and spot some of the creatures and it meant that I couldn't get any decent pictures either. The Victorian Arcade is set out in a very strange way and you don't really know where to start. This area also looks rather old and in need to a good coat of paint and a good tidy. As the cafe was in this area it made it a little chaotic and rather busy and also very noisy, you could just hear an endless noise of other people's chatter. I was really disappointed by the rock pool as this was nothing compared to the one in Weymouth. The Ocean Tunnel was ok, but wasn't as spacious as others I have been too and there seemed to lack space in here due to the wooden benches that children can stand on. Although it states that this centre is suitable for disabled access we seemed to come across a fair amount of steps and couldn't see anyway other way to avoid them unless we happened to miss some ramps somewhere! I didn't think there was a lot of information about the different creatures next to their tanks which was a little disappointing as it's always interesting to learn about the creatures. Some tanks there wasn't any information at all just the name of the creature that was in the tank. Due to visiting here during the Easter holidays, it was of course very busy, how-ever I don't think this would have made nay difference to my visit even if I had visited here when the schools were back. In terms of value I don't really think it's worth the £17.40 for an adult ticket. In fact I recently visited the Portsmouth, Blue Reef Aquarium and thought this was much better than the Sea-Life Centre in Brighton and it only cost me £10.00 to get in. I won't be visiting here again and it's not really a sea-life centre that I would recommend to others.
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Sea Life Centre, Marine Parade, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1TB
Phone: 01273 604234
Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 10am - 5pm
Sat & Sun: 10am - 6pm
(review may also appear on ciao)
On a recent weekend break to Brighton, we had some free time on Monday morning before our afternoon train, so after a little walk down to the seafront, when we spotted the poster for the Sea Life Centre, we decided to make a spontaneous visit. The Centre is open daily from 10am until 5pm in the week and 6pm at weekends and is located on the Marine Parade, almost opposite the Pier (the one that isn't burnt down). It is wheelchair accessible through a slightly different entrance. They claim they are the world's oldest aquarium.
The staff member on the admissions desk was faffing about a bit and struggling with this ticket machine. He informed us that there was some building work going on due to a new exhibit being built and that the glass bottomed boat was closed for maintenance, The cost for admission for adults was £15.82 (inc VAT), which I think is rather steep.
Walking into the main section, my first thoughts is that it was quite dark. Once my eyes adjusted I could see the shabbiness of the building - paint was chipped and floors were wet (yellow A-Boards were out to warn people) in quite a few places. We started to look at the exhibits, as after all, that is what we were there fore. I wasn't really sure how we should approach this main room. Tanks went down either side and there were lots of things in the middle. These included boards with info and games for younger visitors, smaller tanks and a café. We weren't sure whether to circle the room or just wander back and forth, and in the end settled on the latter plan of attack. I don't think it really makes any difference how you approach it, I doubt the layout would be any more cohesive. I understand that the building is Grade II listed, so this would mean that they probably can't change the layout of the building too much. The layout of the types of fish seemed a bit random me, it was not divided up into regions such as tropics or temperate for example. There seemed to be some large, slow fish in some smallish tanks, while much smaller fish were darting about in more spacious tanks. I have seen this before and think that the particular larger fish are more sedentary. Nevertheless, my boyfriend decided to ask one of the staff members, who informed us that the the decision was often down to the popularity of the fish! He said that the sharks were always popular and that was why they were in the large tank in the main auditorium. He seemed to have missed the point that they probably wouldn't have all fitted into one of the other tanks anyway. I am sure there must be some sort of official regulations in place, so after I accepted his polite offer to stroke a sea urchin, we moved on.
I have to say I didn't think the signage by the tanks was particularly good. They were placed at quite a low level so able to be read by younger visitors, which is a nice touch, but it means that adults, even petite ones like me, virtually had to bend double to read some notices. When I did get down there I found them hard to read as the lighting was so poor. It indicated how endangered the species of fish were, but said very little about their habitat or lifestyle (what they ate, how long they lived etc). There was a small Amazonia exhibit which was quite dark and they used mirrors to give you a feeling of disorientation. I appreciate that they tried to make it interesting but again, I didn't really know what I was looking at due to the poor signs. The highlight of the visit was the main tank in the auditorium. Once upon a time it was used for dolphin shows before they were banned. The tank is maybe 30 foot across and is quite deep, they do have a tunnel that you can walk through to see the exhibits swim over your heads. Inside are some very sad turtles that seemed to want to try and get out of the tank. There didn't seem to be any 'land' within the tank for them to get out onto if they wished. Keeping the turtles company, amongst other fish, were the sharks. I must have missed the sign that said what type of shark they were but I am guessing they were reef sharks (they certainly weren't any great whites!). We did see the glass bottomed boat that was closed, it seems to travel across the tank but I don't think we had missed much to be fair. I did enjoy the experience of the underwater tunnel though, which is very much a prerequisite in an aquarium these days.
As we left there were a few displays of old funfair machines which seemed a bit out of place and an afterthought, and perhaps should have been left to the pier. There was also a 'Deep Sea Adventure' type simulator ride. This was free so we decided to wait a few minutes to give it a go. It was obviously quite old judging by its design - the benches were supposed to wobble , but some didn't seem to even work. As it was midweek during term time, there were no kids on the 'ride', only adults. I think we were all a bit embarrassed by how poor and out of date it was when we got off and I suspect most children over toddler age would be unimpressed these days.
Overall I was disappointed with my visit. The fish were lovely and as expected, but I felt the layout (albeit one that they may not be able to change due to its listed status) was a bit all over the place and cluttered. The place looked very unloved and in need of paint and possibly even a clean (it was too dark to be sure). However as long as the exhibits were loved and cared for, and I saw no evidence to the contrary (other than the turtle who seemed to want to get out - but that may just be a turtle 'quirk'), then all is well and good. I would like to have seen more staff, especially ones that were knowledgeable and passionate about their jobs, as they can pass on their enthusiasm to the visitors. They do advertise feeding times on their website, something we missed as spontaneous visitors but I would suspect would be worth scheduling into a visit if they do a little talk or presentation at the same time. The centre seemed very keen on the environment and sustainability which is highly laudable. There were a number of boards supporting this and encouraging donations, but the poor lighting was not conducive to reading them. When I visit aquarium or a zoo, I do expect to pay a bit more as I appreciate that the maintenance of such attractions are expensive, however I didn't think the £16 full price adult admission charge offered good value for money for an hour's 'entertainment'. There are a lot of interactive games for children here, so possibly they are the target market, but I dread to think how much it would cost to bring a family here.