When we decided to move from the city to the Highlands of Scotland with two young children, one of the things that we naturally took into account was whether or not there would be enough “attractions” near by to visit as they grew up. Of course one of the reasons we moved was because we wanted to get away from it all and connect with nature a bit more so we were so pleased to discover the perfect balance right on our doorstep in the form of the Scottish Sealife Sanctuary, Oban.
At our last home we lived close to the Scottish Railway Museum so we had annual tickets and I kid you not, we went weekly! The guy at reception was on our Christmas card list (shout out to Phil!) Before kids, I use to think there wasn’t much point in annual passes because surely once the kids had been once they wouldn’t want to go again. I have however, found the absolute opposite to be the case and surprisingly my two regularly pick familiar places over new options. Now we live in Oban I was looking to find somewhere that we could all enjoy visiting regualarily as it was always so nice to see my two and their love for the train museum grow.
The Sealife Sanctuary is open all year round. 10am – 5pm during Summer season and 11am – 4pm during the Winter Season. It offers very reasonable entry prices and even a parent and toddler day rate of just £9.20. For those who don’t know, the Scottish Sealife are part of Merlin Entertainment and as such are covered by their annual pass which covers all 32 of their sites. If like us though, you wish to opt for just a Sealife annual pass, you can get just that which covers both the Oban and the Loch Lomond venues. If you plan on visiting three or more times in the year then the pass is the way to go. I know they do great themed events throughout the year too so we are sure to be here at least every month.
General Price: £75 for an individual, £60 per person for a family of 3+ passes
As well as entry for the year, the annual pass also entitles you to 20% off in the gift shop, 20% off hot drinks in the coffee shop, discounted guide book and 10% off the VIP feeding experience packages.
To give anyone who is thinking about going to the Sealife Sanctuary or indeed buying a pass, a bit of a sneak peek inside, I thought I’d show you some of the things we got up to on this visist. Firstly, the staff were excellent and went out of their way to be helpful and friendly to not only myself but my kids directly which goes a long way in our family. Aiden wouldn’t normally have put his head in the seriously funky viewing dome but he was completely engrossed by the talk on turtles and terapins that he didn’t hesitate to take a closer look at these amusing creatures.
We had the same exceptionally knowledgeable woman giving all our talks so by the time we met her again at the touch pool, Faye had a pal for life and well and truly got stuck in having a go at touching everything offered to her. I was pleased to see all the talks were very popular and well received as they ran at a good length of time to keep the kid’s attention and also be informative for adults.
The last talk we went along to before my children demanded lunch themselves, was the seal feeding. Now I have always absolutely adored seals. I know most people think dolphins are the bees knees when you think of smart and stunning marine mammals but dolphins actually really creep me out. Seals on the other hand are just so beautiful. They look so graceful in the water and so cheeky when they scoot along the land, and they are super smart to boot. What’s not to love?
The Sealife Sanctuary has four seals that are permanently houses there as they can’t be released back into the wild for a number of medical reasons. They also, being a sanctuary rather than a zoo etc, take in any injured seals and often those are pups. They monitor them, build their strength and their survival skills and them release them when they know they will survive. All the animals at the sanctuary have found their home there because they could not survive on their own. A lot come from the often illegal pet trade in exotic animals and I think this is a great solution to a horrible problem. I won’t attend zoos that breed animals into captivity purely for human pleasure, but I think it is great that thus dual purpose sanctuary means the kids get to see these beautiful animals close up and I know they are being properly cared for.
Faye seemed to be as big a seal fan as I am and was mesmerized watching them. The set up for the seal feeding and the pool is ideal for kids and adults as the viewing glass is the right height for little ones and grown ups can see over. They aren’t made to perform pointless tricks much to my relief, yet clearly enjoy interacting with the staff at the sanctuary. Whilst we were there one seal was having a lot of fun playing with a brush as a staff member was trying to sweep up.
The Sealife Sanctuary also has a cafe and gift shop which is well stocked with all things Sealife Sanctuary related as well as some great Lego kits that Aiden of course had to have. I was happy to note there was A great variety of good quality less expensive items such as the £6 stingray Faye bought. I hate coming away from simular places with cheap over priced tat but the gift shop here does actually offer a great selection if you do wish to treat the kids.
We all had a great day and although it was your typical grey West Coast weather, we none of us even notice till we got back in the car because we had seen so many things and been so emyertaibes. Aiden is already asking when we can go back for our next visit, and with the annual pass I can safely say not long at all.