Ever since I heard you could swim in the main tank at the Sea Life Centre Manchester, I have been dying to have a go. So when I received an email inviting me along to experience Sea Trek for myself, I was beyond excited!
On Monday, I arrived at the Manchester SeaLife Centre At the Trafford Centre), armed only with my swimsuit, towel and excitement!
I was taking part in the session with 4 other people – including Karen from Grumpyish Mum and Heather from Note From Lapland. When we went inside, we had to fill in the Liability Release Form. (This took around 5-10 minutes to do). You can print it off and fill it in at home, if you like)!
Next, we were lead through the Sea Life Centre, and into the changing rooms. We were each given a wetsuit and a pair of Crocs to change into, and instructed to pop our belongings into a locker once we were done. There were private cubicles to change in, and mine had it’s own shower in it. Once we were all ready, we were shown into the “classroom.” Here, we were given a demonstration of how the helmet worked, and exactly what would happen in the water.
After the briefing, we went back into the changing area to “wet down” our wetsuits before being lead up some stairs to the top of the tank. Here, we had weights fastened to our ankles to help us balance in the water. We then took it in turns to get into the water (via a ladder). I was the 3rd person in our group to get onto the ladder.
The helmet weighs 30kg, but once you’re underwater, it feels much lighter. It was lowered down on a winch, and then fitted into place by a member of staff. Once it was on, I was instructed to climb down the ladder. On the way down, my ears popped a little, but no more than they do on a plane.
The water temperature was fine – I didn’t feel hot or cold, so I assume it was somewhere around body temperature. The helmet has more than 3x the oxygen you need pumped into it via a tube (which is out of your reach the entire time), so you don’t need to wear an oxygen cylinder like you do when you scuba dive.
Once I touched down on the tank floor, I was lead to the rest of my group (a few steps away). We waited for a few minutes while the final two members of our party came down the ladder. I spent this time gazing around, looking at all the different types of fish and coral. I watched Ernie the Giant Turtle swim over our heads, and held my breath whenever a shark swam by. The Rays were incredible to watch, too.
Once all 5 of us were down, we were lead around the giant statue in the centre of the tank. Once we reached the other side, we could see our friends, family and other visitors through the viewing glass. I was a bit surprised by this. It felt a little odd waving at my husband and children from inside. They loved being able to see me, though.
When I stood still, I noticed bubbley type feelings on my wetsuit. I looked down, and spotted some fish “cleaning” me! This was amazing! I don’t want to spoil everything that happened in the water, but suffice to say, it was an amazing experience!
My face and most of my hair stayed dry during the Sea Trek. There’s an opening at the front of the helmet for you to put your hand in to scratch your nose or to help relieve ear pressure by holding your nose – if you need to. If you look too far downwards, the water level rises a bit and your chin gets wet. If you look too far upwards, the back of your head gets wet. I spent a lot of time looking upwards at the sharks and turtles swimming overhead, so that’s why my hair didn’t remain dry.
Before I got into the water, I was concerned that the Crocs would fall off my feet in the water. They didn’t though. I guess the pressure of the water on them stopped them from slipping off.
When the Seatrek was finished, we all took it in turns to climb back up the ladder, have our helmets removed and climb out of the tank. Once we were all out, we were lead back into the changing area. The saltwater had slightly irritated my face, but only as much as the sea does. The hot shower really helped ease this, though.
Once I was showered and dressed, I made my way out of the changing rooms. We had a chat with the staff at this point, and were able to ask any questions and say thanks for the amazing experience. I have to say, the staff were brilliant. They all seemed to genuinely love their jobs, and the creatures they care for. The experience was definitely something I would recommend to others, and I enjoyed it so much, I now want to learn how to scuba dive. Once the experience was over, you are free to go and enjoy the Sea Life Centre’s facilities.
The entire experience took around 90 minutes, including filling in all the paperwork, and getting dressed afterwards. The website says it lasts approximately 60 minutes, but I’d make sure you don’t make arrangements for immediately afterwards, as you’ll probably want to go and check out the underwater photos they take during your experience. These can be viewed and purchased at the photo booth next to the gift shop at the exit.
The Sea Trek experience currently costs £60pp (including entrance to the Sea Life Centre, wetsuit and croc hire). If you are already a Merlin Annual Pass holder, the experience will cost you £46. Most people aged 8+ who can walk and climb a ladder are able to do Sea Trek. You don’t even have to be able to swim!
I would definitely consider purchasing this experience as a gift for a sea life loving friend or relative.
This is not a sponsored post.