Sea Life Centre – Brighton…… Mad, Bad and Sad.

Every now and then we like to spend a proper family day together – we go out to somewhere special in the morning and enjoy a lunch together before heading home. Today we chose the Sea Life Centre in Brighton for that special family time together.

We had one of the pay for one and the other goes free vouchers from a Frosties box so armed with our cut out bit of cardboard we headed down to Brighton. Now Emma hates being in the car seat but we are onto her trick and have discovered that the Frozen soundtrack makes her stop protesting. This lead to two adults walking along Brighton seafront on a hot sunny day humming ‘do you want to build a snowman’ which amused us no end.

The amusement pretty much ended there though. We arrived at the Sea Life Centre to find an enormous queue of people waiting to go in and their matching shirts identified them as a tour group. We were feeling dead sneaky when we found the pushchair friendly entrance that allowed us to skip one group but soon got stuck behind two others. This is the point we should have walked away as going in was clearly a mad idea.

We thought to ourselves “surely an experienced company like Sea Life wouldn’t let all these people in at once though….surely though wouldn’t” but the answer is yes, yes they will.

Having paid £17.50 to get in – which seems an equally bad idea – we walked into a photobooth type thing to have our photo taken in a couple of amusing different green screen. Problem was we’d been queuing for a while by this point and Emma was furious. If your toddler won’t stay still when they can see fish behind the photographer as well I don’t recommend you try the photo idea!

Emma is two years old and the size of an average two year old and the Sea Life Centre have thoughtfully provided little steps for small people to stand on…. Which is all very well until you are three people back and can’t see anything because of the people in front of her and there are lots of people in behind her waiting to see.

There were simply too many people there. Too many people in one place makes for a noisy, rushed, hot and overcrowded experience. Too many people who don’t care about other people around them because they are also feeling hot, cramped and annoyed by too many people around them. Too many people who shoved and pushed each other round because there is no space to do anything else.

Pretty soon we were caught up in a wave (please note deliberate nautical reference) of people all moving from exhibit to exhibit. This is where Sea Life Brighton becomes bad.

The place has a terrible layout that means unless you operate on a grid pattern you are going to miss something and if you’ve paid £17.50 per person you don’t want to miss anything at all.

The main attraction if we are all honest is the underwater tunnel which should have been a magical experience. It wasn’t. Imagine you are on a conveyor belt unable to stop and look at the wonders around you but craning your neck to look behind you at what you can’t see / just missed. It’s annoying – especially when you know that your little girl who loves fish would have loved to see it but can’t.

We wanted to take a break and stop for some lunch but there are about 10 small tables in the middle of the main room that seat 4 each. That’s about half the amount of tables that are actually needed and we only found two high chairs – both filthy and covered in food. We did not eat, drink or sit at the Sea Life Centre.

But out of everything – the stupid queuing, the totally overcrowded facilities, the ridiculous café, the extraordinary entrance fee and the entire disappointing experience the bit that bothered me the most were the fish.

All over the place are signs saying no flash photography, do not bang the glass and do not touch the animals as it hurts them and yet we saw all of these things happening repeatedly. I asked a couple of people to stop but that shouldn’t have to happen.

Where are the staff? Where are the people making sure that the rules are followed and the entire ethos of Sea Life Centre is followed?

My husband and I are keen marine conservationists and feel it is important for Emma to learn how important our oceans are. Now until she is old enough to take on a boat or snorkelling (both of which are a while off) the best ways for her to learn are books, DVD’s, movies and the internet but sometimes you need to ignite that passion by showing them. We chose the Sea Life Centre specifically because of their track record in rescue, rehabilitation and (where possible) release.

I wanted Emma to see the sharks, turtles and rays swimming over her head and around her – I wanted to hear her say WOW as she does when she sees something she thinks is magic. I just felt sad. Sad for the creatures in Sea Life care aren’t being looked after as well as I hoped they would be. Sad for the missed education opportunities and sad for wasting one of our very few and precious family days out on what turned into a wasted, over crowded and expensive waste of time.

So no. I don’t think this is a good place to be. No I wouldn’t recommend you spend your hard earned pennies going there. I really wish I could as I wanted to like it – I really did but Sea Life need to take a long hard look at the whole experience and do some major re-evaluating on the whole experience.


3 thoughts on “Sea Life Centre – Brighton…… Mad, Bad and Sad.

  1. Max Leviston says:

    Dear Mrs Bennett, My name is Max and I am the General Manager of Brighton SEA LIFE Centre. I was really disappointed to read about your experience and would like to start with an apology for not meeting your expectation. The City of Brighton experiences 2 weekends in July every year when we are overwhelmed by huge numbers of visiting language schools, and this puts a huge amount of pressure on the local infrastructure, especially the retail and tourism sector. Whilst we welcome the business it also brings with it some very temporary challenges, and it would appear that in the case of your SEA LIFE experience we failed to deliver on the experience that you should have had.
    You are absolutely correct when you referred to our strong ethos of BREED, RESCUE AND PROTECT and Emma’s experience should have been Fun and Educational and filled with amazing discoveries. With regards to the design and layout of the building and café space, we are a little limited being a Grade 2 underground building built in 1872, but we do the best we can with the flow we have available. obviously when we are quieter this is never a problem and our visitors are free to roam throughout the building, for as long as they wish, and as return as many times as they want on the all day ticket. The only part of your review that I would like to be a little defensive about is your reference to the animals not being looked after. All of our creatures receive the very best care from a very skilled team of specialists, and it would be a little unfair to allow the crowded nature of the aquarium from some language students that may not have displayed the required level of compassion for fellow humans or indeed our display creatures, to cloud our judgement of the husbandry levels of our animals. During these weekends we do increase our staffing levels to ‘police’ the behaviour and enforce our flash photography and no touching policies, so I am a little surprised that despite the warnings and instructions given to the students they failed to comply with our requirements and requests.
    What I would very much like is for you to contact me directly so I can refund your experience, and offer you a complimentary family ticket to come back at a time of your choice, and enjoy the experience that you and your family were expecting and should have experienced. I would the hope some day in the future to read a review that matched all of our others, and said “WOW, don’t miss out on this un-missable experience. Not only did we have a magical experience, but we all learnt things about the underwater world that took our breath away.”

    • muminpractice says:

      I’m so impressed – thank you for not only coming back to me but for also addressing my concerns in such a positive way. Its great to see that organisations do listen to customer comments and will respond to them. Thank you.

      I’ve emailed the main Brighton email address with my complaint so you should have my contact details so I’ll wait to hear from you on how to get the pass and refund. We’d love to give the Sea Life Center another chance and I’d be happy to post a new blog with that experience.

      Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

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