Travels With Bean: The Sea Life Centre, Birmingham

It was raining too hard for a hike, but we wanted to go somewhere, so I had a poke around the Internet for ideas.

“There’s got to be a petting zoo or something,” Trev said.

“What about the Sea Life Centre?” I turned to the Bean, who was standing at my knee, hoping to be picked up so she could have a look at the computer. “Would you like to go and see some fish?” I asked.

“Fffffff!” said Bean. “Vish!”

She’s been doing that a lot lately– repeating a new word almost perfectly once, and then not saying it again for about two weeks, when it suddenly becomes natural.

Anyway, we went. It ain’t cheap, but you can save by booking online, and kidlets under three are free. It’s in Brindleyplace, at the intersection of the canals in town, and they pack a lot of fun stuff into a small place, and appear to do a lot of valuable conservation work into the bargain (we saw turtle eggs in an incubator!).

We got in about half an hour after opening, so it was just us and a troop of Brownies. We hurried through once, to see the otters being fed, and then came back around and went through at a more leisurely pace.

Here are a few pictures– apologies for the quality, but you can’t take flash photos in there, and the phone on my camera’s not great to begin with.  First, the piranhas, which Bean stood pointing and laughing at– in amazement, not tauntingly:


They can strip a cow in eight minutes. Bean strips a packet of biscuits in one

It’s a kid-friendly layout. They design a lot of the tanks to sit on the floor, so that the little ones can get right up close, while adults can stand on their tiptoes to peer over the top. Bean wasn’t sure about this at first–she backed away from the first such tank, full of manta rays– but soon she was dancing in front of them excitedly, pointing and asking “Whazaaaat?”. With the otters, she wanted to know: “Goggie?”

“No, darling,” I said. “Otters, not doggies.”

Sadly, I couldn’t get a picture of the otters. They never sat still long enough. There was a seahorse that obliged me, however (or it may have been napping):


Spot the Seahorse in this dingy photo.

The turtles were lively, particularly this bunch from Australia:

snake-necked turtles

Snake-necked and camera-shy turtles

(Again, so sorry for the blurs!)

We also spotted some giant crabs. Trev has a weird fascination with crabs– he thinks it would be fun to wear one as a hat, he enjoys saying the words “chitinous carapace”. Also on our first date in Chicago, we visited the Shedd, and had a long talk about God and evolution and life in front of a tank that held an enormous Japanese spider crab (there was one briefly in residence at the Sea Life centre this spring, but we missed it).

These guys were not that big. But they were at least as big as my cats:

big crab

Why I don't do open-water swims: exhibit A

And two of them crossed paths and mixed it up a little, crustacean-style.


"Hey, you! Your mother walks sideways!" "Oh yeah? So does yours!"

There was also a really neat tunnel, where you walk and the fish are swimming all around you and under you, including the hammerhead shark and the giant sea turtles. This was the best picture I could come up with:


And it ain't great.

Anyway, it was worth it– they let you stamp your hand and come and go all day, so we were able to sneak out and have coffee somewhere less pricey than the Sea Life cafe, even if it meant running around Brindleyplace in the rain:


In from the rain.

If you came to visit us (hint, hint), we would take you there in a second.



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