National Sealife Centre Birmingham
As most of you will know, I grew up very close to Birmingham and it is a place I am very fond of. One of the things I love about it is that despite its distance from the sea (days out at the seaside were rare when I was growing up!) it doesn’t stop it from having a Sealife Centre. We decided to take the girls as part of our weekend up in the West Midlands. Emily loves seeing the fish whenever we have been out to the zoo, local garden centre or pet shop. In addition to this, Birmingham has its own small colony of Gentoo Penguins and Freyja was particularly excited about seeing these. It was mesmerising watching them swimming through the water so fast, yet gracefully. The underwater windows meant you had the opportunity to see the birds flying in the water towards you, and then turning away at the last moment.
As predicted Emily was over-the-moon at the sight of so many different fish of so many different sizes, shapes and colours. The Sealife Centre have quite a few different clownfish, which of course Freyja referred to as “Nemos”. What I found particularly interesting was that male clownfish are able to change gender if the female dies – something that would have made for an interesting plot twist in Finding Nemo!!
Emily enjoyed watching the native rays in the Bay of Rays. In addition to a close up view through the glass, they also pop up above the water. It almost feels like they are purposefully showing off to the visitors. It’s nice seeing that the Sealife Centre have had a lot of success in breeding these rays, and have even sent young rays out to other centres.
Another conservation success story for the National Sealife Centre Birmingham is the seahorse breeding programme. Seahorses are a type of fish that I find fascinating. Seahorses pair for life and the male seahorse is the only male that has a true pregnancy – the female transfers her eggs to the male’s pouch which he then fertilizes. He will then be pregnant for 2 to 4 weeks, and birth can involve contractions for up to 12 hours. Having given birth twice I have a lot of respect for them – especially as some species have babies once a month! Seahorse conservation is so important as they are vulnerable to pollution and changes in water quality. They are also in danger due to being collected by divers for home aquariums and use in alternative medicines.
Of course there are other marine creatures at Sealife Centre to see. The starfish came in many different colours and sizes and the jellyfish were lit in a way that highlighted their delicate structure.
One of the highlights of the visit was a walk through the “shark tunnel”. There are over 400 species of sharks, and they never get a good press. I bet even at the mention of the word “shark” you will probably have the theme tune to Jaws going through your head. Many species of sharks are endangered and at risk of extinction due to hunting, pollution and the effects of humans on their habitats. It is so peaceful walking through the shark tunnels watching these huge fish swim by overhead, it makes me sad to think that some of these species could vanish in my lifetime.
In addition to the sharks, and even more impressive I have to admit, is Molokai, the green sea turtle. He is about the same age as me, but as green turtles can live to be over 100 years old, with a safe home, he will probably be alive longer than I will. He is enormous – weighing over 20 stone, and apparently he splashes staff when they are late feeding him.
To complete a really lovely morning visiting the National Sealife Centre Birmingham, there was a small soft play area at the end of all the exhibits, so Rich and I were able to enjoy a coffee whilst we watched the girls burn off some energy.
I would definitely recommend a visit to the National Sealife Centre Birmingham but it is quite small so it is a good idea to book tickets in advance as you will be guaranteed entry over visitors without tickets.
Disclosure: We were given a free family ticket to the National Sealife Centre Birmingham in exchange for a completely honest review. We all had a brilliant morning!