Thursday, 23 August 2018

Our Day At National Marine Aquarium Plymouth: Devon Days Out


Last week, the boys & I headed along to National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth for an afternoon of shark-spotting much to the delight of my ocean-obsessed littlest!

We'd been to the Aquarium once before a few years ago when my eldest, now 5, was around a year old and I was keen to see how much things had changed since then.

The aquarium itself is really easy to locate - I have to admit I'm really not Plymouth's biggest fan when it comes to finding my way around, but google maps took us straight to it with no hassle and the car park was very conveniently located right next door. 

When we first went in to the Aquarium, we found ourselves in a nice light and airy space with tanks containing lobsters and starfish among other more unusual creatures such as cucumber fish. The boys loved running up to each tank and peering inside to see what they could spot, and they were particularly enthralled by the open top tank.

There was a member of staff walking around holding a model star fish, and my eldest son Tyne was really keen to have a closer look at it - he went up to the staff member to ask if he could see it, which was quite a big step for him as he usually gets a bit nervous approaching people.

The guy's name was Jack and he could not have been more friendly and accomodating with the children. He showed them the starfish, and then asked if they'd like to go for a tour of the tanks so he could point out some"gross facts" about some of the fish - the boys jumped at the chance!



We followed Jack around as he told the boys some rather grim facts about how lobsters communicate (by weeing on each other from their eyes!) and how cucumber fish breathe (through their bottoms!) - all 3 of the boys were in fits of giggles at this! Jack then asked them each to touch a small hole on the starfish he was holding before informing them that they'd just touched a starfish's bum - again, more giggles! Jack was honestly fantastic at entertaining the children and getting them interested - he's a huge asset to the aquarium!

After this, the boys were in fantastic moods and really keen to keep on exploring so we thanked Jack and headed off to explore the rest of the aquarium on our own.

There were all kinds of delights to gaze at - from an octopus demonstrating its ability to change colours, to tiny little spider crabs - the boys were enthralled!





The center point of the aquarium is an absolutely HUGE tank containing an assortment of fish - there are seats set out in front of it and it's a lovely place to spend a peaceful 5 minutes just taking in the sights. The boys were happy to spend some time just standing and gazing in at the vast tank and the fish inside, it really was beautiful.

Then it was time for the shark information session so we headed up past the jellyfish tanks, on to the shark area - this was the main event - the thing we'd all come to see!

And it did not disappoint.





The aquarium have done a fantastic job of giving you optimum views of their sharks and rays from every angle you could hope for. 

First you take a walk through an area with a glass floor allowing you to see beneath you, and a glass ceiling allowing you to see the sharks swimming over head.

Then you head around the corner where floor to ceiling glass allows you to get a side view of the same sharks, rays and giant sea turtle swimming around the huge tank (complete with faux plane wreck to add to the atmosphere!).

And then you head up the stairs, where there's a long glass tunnel area giving another perfect view of the sharks - this is where Jack, the staff member from earlier, was giving a talk about how the sharks are fed and some facts about them.

The boys were keen to listen to this and sat down at the front - much to my amazement my usually shy and reserved eldest son put his hand up to volunteer to help out in the show and was chosen to do so, to his absolute delight!

After the talk, we headed down to the last few areas of the aquarium where we found some beautiful tropical fish (or, in the words of my boys, we found Nemo and Dory of course!).






We then decided to let the boys run off some steam in the soft play area that they'd seen earlier on - this was an additional cost of £2.75 per child which, I have to be honest, I did feel was a little steep considering that the price of entry to the aquarium is quite high. The soft play area itself was quite small and I'm not entirely sure I'd have been happy to be charged extra for entry to it if I'd paid the aquarium entry price.

But the boys had fun, which is good.

Afterwards we had a browse of the gift shop where the boys were allowed to choose a gift each, this cost me £15 which isn't too bad for 3 children and they left with big smiles on their faces.

We spent around 3 and a half hours in the Aquarium, with around half an hour of that spent in the soft play area.




At £16.95 per adult and £12.95 for children over 3, or family entry for 2 adults and 2 children (or 1 adult and 3 children) costing £53.50 the day out would have cost our family of five around £66 which I do feel is a little on the expensive side but if you're going to make a full day of it and attend more of the talks and feeding sessions (there are several on throughout the day, you can check times of these upon your arrival) then I'd say it's worthwhile as there is lots to see and it was a lot of fun and also very informative.

However, I do feel that charging that additional fee for the soft play area is a little too much considering the entry price in comparison to other attractions in the area.

It's worth nothing though that you can also get discounted tickets if you pay in advance online.

If you're in the Plymouth area and you fancy visiting the aquarium, take a look at http://www.national-aquarium.co.uk .

They also offer some themed Sleeping With Sharks sleepover events which look and sound like great fun, they're certainly something we're going to be looking in to!


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