A family day out with with sharks and starfish at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre
- Credit: Sally White
With her three-year-old desperate to see sharks, our days-out writer braves a dip into the underwater world of a Sea Life Centre
I love boats, sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking. I love beaches, sand dunes and skimming stones. I love everything to do with being next to or on the surface of the sea. I have no interest in what's below the surface. At a push, I will watch Blue Planet and maybe sniffle at the plight of the muma walrus, but I have a healthy mistrust of sea creatures.
So, because children can smell weakness, my three year old decided he wanted to see sharks. I read him a book about sharks. That was not enough. I bought him a shark bath toy. Nope. In true threenager fashion, he persisted, nagged, tantrumed, hinted, coaxed and cajoled with such efficiency that I relented.
Where can you find sharks at short notice? Why, Great Yarmouth of course! We packed our scuba diving gear, I mean picnic, and set off for GY's Sea Life Centre.
Despite my initial lack of enthusiasm, we made a flying start by finding FREE parking right outside the centre. Not everyone will be as passionate about this but nothing makes me happier than scoring free parking so I went in feeling high as a kite. Alex, the 'strong willed' three year old, went storming in, channelling his inner-Attenborough. Only, he got distracted by those ride-on machines in the gift shop and had to be bribed away with a fruit yoyo and a firm word.
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'Look mummy! Fish!' And weren't there just. Tanks and tanks of grumpy looking, gurning fish drifting aimlessly around. Alex watched them scoot and slide around the tanks, hypnotised. I checked my emails. We traipsed on. More fish. Further in we went. Jellyfish. In further. More fish. I was a little underwhelmed but then a voice on the tannoy announced a chance to pet a starfish and the mood shifted.
The staff at this place are brilliant and shine with enthusiasm, well-rehearsed jokes and a genuine love of their job. Perhaps slightly more Blue Peter than Blue Planet but their energy was infectious and soon Alex and I were rolling up our sleeves, tickling amoebas and discussing whether crabs fart.
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Next stop: crocodiles. Ooh, these beady eyed beasts give me the heebyjeebs. There are two crocodiles in the Sea Life Centre and neither of them moved a millimetre during the whole time we were there. They just lay, half in the water, half out, with their eyes trained on a distant spot. Truly beautiful and menacing.
Round the next bend were the sharks. Hurrah! All of my child's wishes fulfilled! He will be so delighted! I am an excellent parent! His face was a picture of utter fascination. He was spellbound. He was…watching a man clean the tank. Seriously.
So I sat and gazed at the gliding turtle and the zipping sharks and the foul-faced eels while Alex kept his eyes glued on the scuba divers and monitored their progress ('missed a spot') and laughed heartily and inappropriately when they were nipped at by the turtle. I spent some time thinking about how much you'd have to pay me to do a lap of the tank (not enough money in the world) and suddenly it felt like time for tea and cake.
Now, if you weren't convinced to visit before, brace yourself: there is a soft-play in the café! You can have a cup of coffee and a natter/Insta update whilst your darlings run riot. The dream!
We spent about two and half hours there which suits the 'in-between the school run' hours. There's a mid-week parent and toddler deal and, if you book online, you can get various discounts. I think, full price and for a family at the weekend, it might be a tad on the spendy side but then, can you really put a price on seeing a crab fart?
For more parenting and wit and wisdom visit Sally's blog at www.wifeofawigwearer.com