The kids and I were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the brand new exhibit ‘Night & Day at the Sealife Centre in Brighton. It is the major part of the £2.7 million renovation and is a one of a kind in the UK. It offers visitors the chance to experience the wonder of the coral reef as day becomes night.
Brighton Sea Life is the oldest operating aquarium in the world and work began on the building 150 years ago and it first opened in 1872, costing £133,000 (equivalent to around £5.5 million today).
The building was requisitioned during the war by the RAF and used as a radar centre in the hope to pre warn London of possible attack. During the 50’s and 60’s it was turned into a music venue and every Wednesday, played host to The Who. It was also in the 1960’s that it was home to the largest collection of vintage cars in the country.
With a history like that, it is rather charming that this fabulous building is now home to the largest collection of sharks and rays in the UK. However it is not all about the sharks. There is also a plethora of fascinating marine life in both a day and nocturnal environment.
Housed in a whopping 700,000 litre display are an impressive 840 marine creatures. Including, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Zebra Sharks, Honeycomb Stingrays and Fan Tail Sting Rays amongst many other spectacular reef dwellers.
The kids loved the ocean tunnel. You become totally emerged into the reef. Starting in the brightly lit and bustling daytime reef you slowly wander down the tunnel, with the sea life just inches from your fingertips, as it becomes a mysterious and dimly lit reef at night.
It was fascinating to see the atmosphere change as day becomes night. At one end, you have breathtaking coral outcrops forming a backdrop to a stunning array of turtles and reef fish, such as Sweetlips, Sailfin Snappers, Butterflyfish and Clown Triggerfish. At the other end, nocturnal creatures such as the Popsicle Squirrelfish and Nurse Sharks emerge from their slumber and bring a new dynamic to the spectacle. There are submerged caves and hidden corners that reveal the mysteries of the ocean under darkness and the soft corals exude their mysterious glow.
With all of the excitement of the brand new and star attraction, the rest of the building could almost get forgotten. However, that would be a mistake, on a grand scale. The refit has added so much to the whole experience.
The first room you arrive in on entry is the Victorian Arcade. Set within the beautiful Victorian architecture, you are welcomed by numerous individual aquariums of varying environments. You can literally bounce from side to side, exploring British rock pools, stunning rays, intelligent Octopus and so much more.
Housed, off the Victorian Arcade is the Conservation Cove. A little gem of a section. It was lovely to watch the little lady play and learn at the same time and then inform all that would listen that turtles get confused by plastic and accidentally eat it and why trawling the seabed isn’t so great for the environment.
As you reach the end of Victorian Arcade and just before you find the Ocean Tunnel, you turn into The Rainforest Adventure. Approached the adult way or via a little tunnel through some roots (you can probably guess the route I took), you arrive smack in the middle of the humid rainforest environment. You are greeted by some little frogs, a giant snake and a wealth of knowledge.
The great thing about the ocean is, it isn’t all about the submarine environment. You can learn so much from the surface too. The Sea Life centre have this angle covered by a fascinating glass bottomed boat. In small parties of approximately 12, you get to glide gracefully across the 700,000 litres aquarium, as one of their expert staff explain the life below you. They get the kids and adults interacting and it really adds to the experience of seeing the submarine life from an aerial view.
For me, it was great to see the kids mesmerized by the underwater world.
The little lady loved meeting Gulliver and Lulu the turtles and the Lionfish selfie.
The teenager surprised me the most. As soon as we entered the building, our phone reception was lost and rather than log on to the free WIFI, he found himself immersed in the entire environment. He even found out that male sharks have two dangly bits underneath and that is how you can tell the difference between a male shark and a female shark. The look on his face when he discovered this new knowledge was priceless. The confusion on his face as it dawned on him that male sharks have two penises was even better.
The middle boy, who is 12, enjoyed it the most. It filled his every desire. I honestly think, he would still be there now, if we didn’t have to leave.
Would I go again? Yes
Do I think its value for money? Yes, if you are a bit savvy.
If you just turn up and pay on the door it is a little pricey. £20.50 for an adult and £15.00 for a child. However, if you are a little savvy you can save some money. I have seen several deals of buy one get one free (fast food places and cereal boxes). Or, by booking online and in advance, adults £15 and kids £11.50, with same day return entry.
When I return with my lot, which I will. I will head over in the morning and spend a few hours there. As lunch approaches I will head to the beach, pier or one of the other free and outdoor attractions that Brighton has to offer and have a picnic. Before heading back to the Sea Life Centre and enjoy the bits we had fun at previously for the remainder of the afternoon.