Sunday, 30 December 2012

Fishy Family Day Out!

We were lucky enough to receive some tickets to visit the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth as part of a Family Days Out voucher initiative run by to find Britains Best Family Day Out. This felt like a lovely opportunity because aquarium holds special memories for us.  This was one of the places we visited as part of Katie's Adoption Day celebrations in November 2010.  Katie was only 3 when we visited previously and she sprinted through at top speed and was more interested in the gift shop at the exit.

I'm not sure why but every time we visit this aquarium it is raining.  We took our nephew there a number of years ago and it was a wet, blustery day. It rained on Katie's Adoption Day and it was raining again yesterday.  The aquarium is located right on the seafront so we got the full blast of the elements that are currently sweeping across the UK.  Because it was so wet and windy we were lucky to park right in front of the building at the pay and display meters (actually we've done that every time).

Compared to aquariums such as the Sealife Centre in Brighton Blue Reef is much smaller.  It's a lot cheaper to visit as well (although not cheap so vouchers would be a good thing to get in advance).  I would say that this is a good aquarium to visit with a younger child because you can walk around easily in 30 minutes.  Older children will enjoy spending time reading about the fishes and other amphibians that they are seeing. We certainly spent more time there yesterday than we did last time we visited with Katie.  It's actually a nice place to visit in the rain and out of the summer season because it was quiet.  I hate anything like this when it's really busy as I like to wander back and forth without getting caught up in a claustrophobic scrum. You could also visit as part of visiting the whole of Clarence Pier (the funfair is just down the seafront) or take in some shopping at the nearby Gunwharf Quays.  Your hand is stamped on arrival and you can go in and out of the aquarium all day long.  Blue Reef has a cafe next door that you can escape to for a coffee and a snack.

I must say that I love looking at fish (I got a lovely fake fish aquarium lamp for Christmas - not at all circa 1980s either!).  Aquariums are probably the only exhibit that I can happily walk around and around.  I love art but get easily overwhelmed when visiting galleries because there is just so much to absorb and think about.  Fish are so much more restful.  Daddy and I have been lucky enough to visit The Maldives twice and love snorkeling over the reef accompanied by the brightly coloured shoals of fish and, if you're really lucky, the turtles.  We keep talking about whether we could take Katie there for a holiday before she gets to the age when she wants organised activities (will I really have to have one of those holidays in the future? *groan*).

Katie and I shared a fascination of the rays as well and this is where we spent a large proportion of our visit.  Actually the rays gave us a good show yesterday and were very friendly, although one gave Katie quite the shock when it suddenly popped out of the water next to where she was standing.  Her scream can be heard on the film.  It was so funny.  She was worried she was going to dream about them last night! One of the rays looked like he was waving to us which delighted Katie no end!


There is a lovely selection of fish to see at Blue Reef.  The walkthrough tunnel was a big hit with Katie as the fish swam over her head.  You can see the fish in the tunnel being fed at certain times of the day.  I remember going to Singapore with Daddy, many years ago.  On Semtosa Island there is an enormous aquarium with a walkthrough that has a conveyerbelt that you stand on and glide through the walkway.  It was one of the most amazing experiences.


I have a real love of seahorses and I particularly love gazing at the seahorse nursery at the end of the centre. One day I would love to have my own seahorse aquarium but they take a lot of careful tending and careful temperature regulation and now is not the time with Katie being young; another child on the way and two crazy Maine Coon cats.  I might risk having a general fish tank though and see how we get on with that, so far the cats seem to be ignoring my fishy lamp - we might just get away with having a proper tank!

 It's hard going around any attraction with a young child in tow.  I don't think I can really stop to look at things like I used to.  I am always too anxious about where Katie is and what she is doing.  Being distracted seems to be a common feature of my brain since becoming a parent (along with its accompanying memory loss!).  Visually though you can walk around and just take it all in rather than doing the whole educational bit of reading up about each of the tanks.  There were some lovely tanks with starfish in and a few beautiful tanks filled with jelly fish light up with ultra-violet lights giving them a beautiful purple or blue hue.  I just wanted to stand and gaze at them for ages.  Katie had other ideas though and sprinted off excitedly.

Daddy was on star form for the visit and showed Katie the fish and spent time telling her what all the fish were called.  I love watching them together.  Katie still likes to give Daddy a hard time, telling him she chooses Mummy instead so I try very hard to step back and let Daddy take the lead.  Having the excuse of photographing and filming as we went around was really useful because Katie could see that Mummy was busy and gravitated towards Daddy for attention instead.  This is a good trick for encouraging bonding generally I think.  Katie is used to me meeting most of her needs because I'm the parent at home.  She likes to keep me onside as much as possible so feels more able to tell Daddy she doesn't want him.  I don't believe she means it but she just feels safer pushing him away than me.  He is amazing with her though and doesn't ever let it get him down.  His persistence has been rewarded and she skipped around happily with him all afternoon (except when begging me for sweets of course!).  It was a lovely change after the dramatic behaviour we have been experiencing from Katie over the festive period.  It was lovely to see her so engaged and very well behaved.

As well as the fish there is a small selection of reptiles.  These are firm favourites of mine (and another animal that I would quite love to have at home one day).  There are also frogs and turtles and otters (although the otters weren't around yesterday due to a lot of scheduled maintenance going on in the centre).

As well as being an attraction for the public, the centre is actively involved in the conservation of species and has a little nursery of seahorses and turtles, baby Nemo's...I mean clownfish, rays, pipefish and many more.  It's nice to know that some of the entry fee is going towards helping such projects and helping to keep these species alive.

It was a lovely afternoon.  It wasn't actually what we were planning to do yesterday.  We had planned for Katie to stay at her Auntie's for the day and we would go out for lunch and finally get to see Skyfall.  Unfortunately Katie's cousin fell ill and has been really poorly so we've had to postpone that visit for another time.  We needed to get out of the house and having these tickets handy was really useful so we bundled up in the car and drove down to Portsmouth (mostly avoiding the heavy rain which was travelling in the opposite direction to us).

We drove home in the setting sun (after a mad dash through heavy rain back to the car!) and all commented on what a lovely afternoon we had had.

Thank you for the tickets and a lovely family day out!


  1. Sounds fantastic. Know what you mean about it always raining in Portsmouth though...

    1. LOL I guess that might mean I'm waving down the motorway to you?

    2. Depends which end - I've visited Portsmouth and been through in the rain, however in my city we tend not to admit liking the place ;)

    3. I think we might live very close to each other lol

    4. Perhaps so! Coincidence is not unusual in the blog world, I've found.