As some will know, we were off on our holidays recently at Haven Primrose Valley near Filey in Yorkshire (https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/haven-heaven/) and had a fantastic time. There’s plenty to occupy anyone onsite, but there’s also a wealth of activities in nearby Filey and Scarborough. One such activity is the Sea Life Sanctuary in Scarborough, and thanks to fantastic charity Merlin’s Magic Wand (Sea Life is owned by the Merlin group – http://www.merlinsmagicwand.org/) we were off!
The centre is at the north side of Scarborough, but can be easily reached by public transport. The excellent Filey Road or Seamer park and ride ( http://www.scarboroughparkandride.co.uk/) will take you to the beach front, and there’s an open topped bus that will take you to Peasholm Park where a small railway is located that can take you to Sea Life. Its not too long a walk either from there and there’s also a pay & display carpark on its doorstep, so basically, access is excellent despite its location.
There’s a wealth of education for kids and adults alike at the centre. There are regular talks and feeding sessions at the various displays where the excellent staff will go through the history of their animals, how they live, what they eat etc. The various tanks and habitats are laid out in a logical order to let you visit each in order until you’re familiar with where everything is so you can re-visit your favourites, and get to the feeding sessions on time.
We’d been there before, and the boys knew their favourites that they had to see. Penguins and seals were top of the list for them. They’d built an affinity with penguins largely due to their love of the penguins in the movie series Madagascar. So it was a more-or-less bee-line for the penguins! But even then, there was plenty getting in the way to see! Matthew loves nature, and has given an appreciation of marine biology from the excellent Cbeebies series The Octonauts. From that, he loves to read about and see the real thing. All the exhibits at Sea Life fascinate him.
Matthew and Daniel charge about, and you’d think they weren’t taking any of it in, but the truth is there is so much that grabs their attention that they want to see it all. Its really a bit of sensory overload for them both. There were the odd little outburst, but I think that was only as a result of their excitement. After seeing their beloved penguins, it was on to the seals. Unlike some aquariums, Sea Life don’t have performing seals. Their primary function is conservation. They rescue seals, bring them back to health in their “seal hospital”, bring them up to fitness in the seal tank before releasing them into the wild once more.
Conservation, as I said, is at the heart of everything Sea Life does, and that take me to the high point of the visit for me. I love turtles (we’ve got four at home) and love to see the pride of Sea Life Scarborough, Antiope, the giant loggerhead sea turtle. Antiope lived in the Med before being struck in the head by a propeller. It left her permanently brain damaged, and because of a lack of facilities to treat her, it meant an eight hour road journey to get her the help she needed. Antiope is unable to recognise food, and when she does eat, it will be anything that’s at hand (or flipper.) When she starts, she doesn’t know when to stop. So, it was off to Sea Life for her where she lives the life of riley. She’s lovely and its beyond criminal how these creatures are treated.
Of course, we had to buy a Save the Sea Turtles wristband at the boys’ insistence! But its worth it. The £1 per band go to funding the EarthSeaSky (http://www.earthseasky.org/) turtle rescue centre on Zakynthos, Greece. They carry out vital conservation and rescue work in the med, providing the treatment and help that Antiope couldn’t get.
I think seeing Antiope again made the visit for all of us, but that’s not to take anything away from the rest of the centre. The boys swallowed the educational experience whole. Matthew loved seeing the spider crabs, another favourite from the Octonauts, and Daniel was fascinated by the jellyfish.
When it came time to eat, it was off to the café in the centre. Despite it being a largely captive audience, it was reasonably priced, good quality food with a reasonably varied menu. The boys went straight for hot dogs of course, with lattice potatoes. At just over £20 for the four of us plus drinks, it was very good fare.
Finally, after we’d seen all the animals, visited Antiope several times, taken in the feeding sessions and the talks, it was time to leave via the shop after a 6-hour visit. We made our purchases to remind us of our visit, including a hand made turtle keyring for me to make another donation to the rescue centre in Greece. All in all, it was another great visit. If you’re near Scarborough, make it a must-see. The staff there are dedicated, informative and helpful, and Sea Life carry out vital conservation work. We can’t wait to see Antiope and friends again next year!