I have been to  the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham on a number of occasions, but each visit offers something new; this is an attraction that is continually evolving with new creatures and exhibits to experience.  This time around there were three new notable additions, penguins, SEA STARS and Lego®! Lots of it.

I arrived at the centre early and for once I was sans my children (much to their chagrin, they really enjoy it here) - it was a pity, as in hindsight they would have loved all the aforementioned additions.  I was taken around by George who gave me further insight into the amazing creatures on display – over 2,000 of them!

First up a relatively new addition, the delightful Gentoo penguins, who were busy waddling, diving, swimming and jumping around in their icy world – these cheeky penguins are a charming addition to the centre and bring lots of personality with them. 

I tried to get a good photo but they are darn fast critters – blurry pictures of fish swimming past would become a feature of my time here!

During the school holidays SEA LIFE is hosting Lego® Deep Sea Explorers - it runs until 31 August.  Throughout the centre lost items of dive equipment (fashioned out of Lego®) have been submerged in some of the 60 or so displays - Explorers must use their log book to note the locations of the missing pieces. 

This treasure hunt is a fun way of getting the kids to look more closely at the exhibits and each Explorer gets a pack which includes DIY Scuba mask, origami fish, log book, certificate and stickers. (Check out my new & improved notebook!)

I made a rather good Explorer - here are some flippers and a ray.

One room has been designated especially for playing with and constructing Lego®

There is a whole chest of the stuff! Not as much as Will Ferrell has admittedly, but still enough to get me thinking about an expedition into my mom’s loft to retrieve mine.  Here are some of the impressive nautical themed constructions so far...

SEA LIFE are big advocates of conservation and their Breeding, Rescue and Protect (BRP) programme is commendable.  Some of SEA LIFE Birmingham’s biggest successes are the conservation of otters and seahorses.  In fact they are the biggest breeder of seahorses worldwide having successfully bred and reared nine different species. 

Another endangered species I saw was the Golden Mantella frog - these are critically endangered but I am told that there is a possibility that one may be pregnant.

Some of my favourite spots this time were the Zebra shark (donated from the BBC who wanted to film it hatching), Black Tip sharks, the Black Chin Guitar fish, the Blue Spotted rays and Banana eels.

Next up another new feature – the SEA STARS (p.s. I’m not angry, it’s branding!)  These star fish are huge, in fact the Giant Sun Star is the largest in the world and can grow up to one metre in diameter! You can get a great up close view of them through the plastic pop up bubbles. 

I asked George what his favourite creatures in the centre were – he told me the Gentoo penguins were his favourite as they were the most relatable for the staff.  This was much better than my daughter’s answer to the same question – she said her favourite thing was Tyler the Turtle.  This seems like a reasonable answer on paper – but Tyler is a guy dressed up – to be fair these characters are very knowledgeable and offer some brilliant insights into the habits of the marine life.

At the pinnacle of the centre is the 4D cinema – it’s currently showing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where you follow the adventures of young Ned in the submarine Nautilus.  Air blasts, bubbles, leg ticklers, 3D fish and a giant squid attack with motion are a thrilling addition for the plucky child.

One of my favourite experiences in the centre is watching the jellyfish – they look ethereal, floating around in an ever changing light display.

George showed me the piranhas – he tells me these guys are not actually as notorious as they are made out to be – they have a bad rap as they were once starved for a presidential visit – and when they were given the food they ate it hastily.

Near the end of the centre is its pièce de résistance the huge 360 tunnel where you can get a great look at the sharks, rays and one of my favourite creatures at SEA LIFE -  Molokai the Giant Green turtle.   This fine looking gentleman recently turned 39 (just a drop in the ocean for his lifespan) – for his birthday treat he was given a broccoli birthday cake.  Molokai is quite a cantankerous fellow; I was told if he spots a camera he will turn his back.  I have also read that if he isn’t fed in a timely fashion he starts to splash the staff.

At the end of the experience there’s one final look at the penguins through a large porthole in the wall. This is an amazing vantage point and it’s a magnificent sight to see them gliding through the water - especially as Gentoo are the fastest underwater swimming penguins.

If you want to make your visit extra special you can shell out (sorry, this has been a fairly pun-light blog) VIP experience where you can feed the penguins, sharks and turtles up close.

My favourite fact of my nautical journey however had to be the name of the Rays – there’s Jeff-Ray and Beyonc–Ray.  George told me they are looking to mate Beyonc-Ray with...any guesses? ...yep Ray-Z – genius! 

And if the kids aren’t suitably entertained enough at the end there’s a soft play centre to finish them off.   If they are asleep they are guaranteed to wake up as you tip toe through the amazing shop – there is some great stuff in here.

I love the SEA LIFE Centre and my advice to anyone visiting is to take your time – the more time you spend looking in the exhibits the more becomes apparent.  I certainly notice something new with every visit such as this fabulous... thing (sorry George I forgot what’s it’s called).

The best place to book tickets for the SEA LIFE Centre is online you get guaranteed entry and can save up to 40% - and I better do this sharpish as the kids haven’t let up about the fact that I left them landlocked! 



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