17 May to 8 June 2014
Reviewed by Cheryl Wesley
The children were very excited with hopes of fun adventures with Captain Barnacles and the crew as we drove down to Brighton for the day to visit the SEA LIFE centre which had been taken over by the Octonauts. We decided that with a 3 year old and 20 month toddler, the best option for us was to travel by car. It was not hard to find the SEA LIFE centre as it is literally right outside the Pier. As the weather threatened to rain all day we decided to park outside the centre in the Marine Parade. Other parking options available are a 10-15 minute walk but with toddlers in the rain and getting soaked before we arrived was not a pleasant thought. Be warned though, the parking charges are a £5 for 2 hours, £10 for 4 hours etc… We decided to swallow the cost for the sake of a good start to the day.
As it was raining when we arrived, we decided to carry our toddler and pram down the 30 steps to the entrance, rather than finding the easy access.
The centre opens at 10am, and we arrived at about 10.30am and there was no waiting, straight up to the friendly staff where we were given a quick talk of what was happening and where to go for the special Octonaut activities.
We were handed the Octonaut quiz trail mission for each of the kiddies. It was a card which you had to go around the SEA LIFE centre and find 9 signs which contained a question and three possible answers. When you worked out the correct answer you had to scratch off the correct dot to see if you were correct. Once completed you handed the card in at the gift shop at the end to claim your prize of a sticker. The 3 year old really enjoyed helping us scratch off the correct answer. Unsurprisingly the 20 month did not get what was going on but it was nice she could claim her prize too at the end of the trip! We were also given a Dive Log book, which held 9 different activities for the children to do, after which you stamped the activity and claimed a prize in the gift shop. The children just liked holding this book so we never stamped it but we did do the first activity of touching a starfish and crab.
Our first stop was the Octonaut play room, inside you found an area where the children could watch an episode or two of the Octonauts, get their face painted, colour in some Octonaut posters, play with an Octopod and generally have fun. There was also a photo booth where your photo could be taken and inserted into the Octopod as keep sake of your day; this cost £9 for a photo. The staff in this room were very helpful and directed us to the first question on our mission. How they kept so cheerful with the same three episodes of Octonauts playing all day is beyond me!
After we spent about 15 minutes in the room we decided to head out and check the main SEA LIFE Centre. You have your photo taken at the entrance so on your way out you can pick a second keep sake in the gift shop if you liked. Once inside you can leave your pram in the pram park if you wanted to, we decided to keep ours with us as it was handy for the wet coats and back pack.
Once in the main area it was almost 11am and we were told at reception that a meet and greet with one of the Octonauts would be happening above the Sting Ray Pool at that time. So we headed there to find a sign to meet Peso penguin. The children were quite excited by this idea and there was already a queue of little ones waiting as we joined them. After a bit of a delay we noticed Captain Barnacles in the distance making a slow progress to the area. Loads of people where stopping for hugs and photos, all the children which had been waiting were so excited by now as they could see him but all waited very patiently! When it was our turn to say hello, Captain Barnacles bent down to give our son a hug and a high five to our daughter, who was slightly put off due to his size. We were not rushed and our son loved it. It seemed that some kids where given a sticker after this encounter, but our children were not offered one, which was a shame.
Different areas of the SEA LIFE Centre had been renamed in an Octonaut theme using banners dotted around each room. Another Octonaut area we found was the auditorium / ocean tunnel where, the Octonauts were talking to you through the radio system telling you to come on an adventure you won’t forget! In the middle of the massive fish tank in the auditorium was a glass bottomed boat where you could pay extra for a ride up and down with a member of staff. This can be brought at the entrance or gift shop but we decided against it as it meant dragging the pram up and down steps again. We felt that this could have been mentioned more at the entrance so you can decide then rather than having to go back to purchase a ticket. We headed straight down the steps to walk through the tunnel underneath where you could see all the sharks and turtles. The children loved this bit the best.
We then decided to head outside and take our picnic lunch to the pier as with your day tickets you can go in and out as many times as you like. After a couple of fun filled hours inside it was lovely to get some fresh sea air, as it got a little stuffy in the centre.
The SEA LIFE Centre itself had a varied and good selection of creatures on display, ranging from your usual coral fish to exotic frogs in the Rainforest Adventure! Interactive areas were dotted all about the place with lots of activities for children to do and lots of information was around.
There was a cafe in the middle of the first room, which seemed in an odd place as there was lots of hustle and bustle around it. The facilities where very clean and plenty of them!
Overall we had a great day out and the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The Octonaut theme with the meet and greet and playing in the special activity room at the beginning certainly was their highlight! We would rate this as 4 out of 5 for a day out.
Open every day from 10am to 6pm.
Book tickets online from £9.95 and save up to 30% off the on the door price. For more information on ticket prices or to book tickets visit www.visitsealife.com/brighton/buy-tickets.
SEA LIFE Brighton, Marine Parade, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1TB | 0871 423 2110