The National Sealife Centre, Bray.
We had planned to go to the Zoo on the Monday of our week off in September, but a weather alert changed our minds. A friend had mentioned the aquarium in Bray as a good rainy day activity and since it’s only 45 minutes away (from us in Gorey) we thought we’d chance it.
The official name is the National Sealife Centre, you’ll see it signposted off the N11 at the Bray South exit, and all the official info is all on their website.
I checked out the opening hours and then discovered that tickets are €4 cheaper EACH if you buy online, so I purchased on my iphone in the car en route (No, I wasn’t driving!). Then I panicked when I realised there was no printing opportunity so I phoned ahead and the most pleasant girl answered the phone and reassured me that there was no need to print as long as I could give her the reservation number. First impressions count, and this was a good one.
We arrived after a wet dash across the road, there’s no parking attached to the facility but it’s on the seafront in Bray and there is plenty of parking all around, but bring coins for the meter. We had no problem at all with our phoned in booking and again the staff were notably friendly and helpful.
The place isn’t that big, but a perfect size for our boys, aged 2 and 4. On the way in they are given scratchcards and the kids are to find questions on the wall and scratch the answers to win a prize at the end, a great way to keep them engaged.
It’s arranged as a walk in a fairly dark area around different tanks, some set in the wall and the larger ones set on the floor. We found Nemo, watched the rays, spotted turtles, saw sharks, prawns, starfish, and many many more.
We went to a talk in the tank area at the end, and our four year old asked a question, which was patiently answered by the presenter who pointed out shovel head sharks, a leopard shark, rays and the striking looking lipstick fish. We saw the sharks being fed, they’re spear fed and are target fed as if they weren’t they would eat the other fish (It’s not just small boys that turn nasty when peckish!). We were all very relieved to hear that shark attacks on humans only happen when the sharks mistake us for turtles or seals, but I think that’s little consolation to those who have been attacked! The information on the walls and in the talk was a mix of science and environment, not too preachy and well presented. The parents all learned a lot, and I was felt better educated for the visit!
At the end after the talks area there’s a very small soft play area and some tables with colouring in an area with a couple of vending machines, and then the inevitable shop full of fishy delights.
We presented our completed scratchcard quizzes on our way out and the boys were thrilled to receive gold medals on ribbons as their prizes, a big hit for small boys who had to be convinced later that night to take them off at bedtime.
All in all, a great day out, fun for the boys and an experience made all the better by the kind of staff that every tourist attraction should have. Highly recommended.