Many of us are opting for holidays in the UK this year so we, at Aspinall Ink, thought we’d give you some inspiration for a great value day out ‘up North’ – whether that’s with – or without kids. And, as ‘we Northerners’ are known for liking value for money, we thought we’d start with a tourist destination guaranteed to make your money go a long way…
The Deep is in Hull – only a couple of hours’ drive from our home in West Yorkshire – and even less time from our holiday base near Whitby, which is where we were staying when we visitied this time.
The Deep opened in 2002 and it has been continually updated with new fish, art exhibitions and interactive learning resources so, there is always something new to see. This was our third visit to this amazing public aquarium – or submarium, as they like to call it – and we’ve seen something new each time.
Unlike its rival ‘Sea Life’ centres, The Deep is a registered charity and all the proceeds from admissions go into running The Deep – and its many conservation, research and education programmes.
The largest tank at The Deep is one of the biggest in Europe, known as ‘Endless Oceans’. It is ten metres deep; so deep in fact, that there is a glass elevator taking visitors from the bottom to the surface, pausing at regular intervals so you can see the rays and the sharks from different angles.
When it comes to feeding the fish, the staff have a strict regime of food preparation (of sustainably sourced and, where possible, locally caught fish and seafood) and they monitor every morsel eaten by the larger fish.
It takes over three months for the divers at The Deep to learn the safety procedures and feeding routines in order to participate in hand-feeding the inhabitants of ‘Endless Oceans’. Each shark and ray is trained in how to approach the divers for food – in pretty much the same way you would train a dog: good behaviour is rewarded with food and bad behaviour means ‘no food’. Like dogs, the rays have to ‘sit’ before getting fed! The overly friendly rays, can on occasion, knock the divers’ regulators out of their mouths, so training and routine is vital, especially when sharks are present.
As well as ‘Endless Oceans’, there are also other large display tanks such as ‘Lagoon of light’ and ‘Coral realm’. There is also a section with intriguing ‘flashing’ creatures in the ‘Twilight Zone’, which will mesmerise young and old alike.
In addition to the marine aquaria, there are also some tropical freshwater habitats where you can see amazing Red-tailed catfish and Silver arowana. Sadly, despite the great size to which these fish inevitably grow, you can still see them for sale in tropical fish shops across the UK. The Deep is working with other public aquaria to educate the wholesale trade, retailers and the public to ensure that large fish are only obtained for experienced fish-keepers with the ability to keep them for life. All too often, The Deep and other aquaria are approached by members of the public whose fish have outgrown their tanks. The staff help where they can but it places an unfair burden on them – and their systems. Visitors can clearly see how much effort the team has put into carefully balancing their stocks in the limited space available and adding a large fish into any mature tank is always a delicate operation. Let’s hope their campaign is successful and that they see the number of unwanted, over-sized pets reduced in time.
Behind the scenes, the team is working with companies in the marine trade to develop nutritious food for captive fish to ensure optimum health. They are also engaged in breeding programmes and conservation. The Blue Poison Arrow Frogs on display in ‘Living Rivers’ have been bred in The Deep.
If you’re thinking of taking children to The Deep, rest assured that there is plenty to keep them occupied, however they like to learn. There are audio visual learning aids in abundance, as well as the chance to get ‘hands on’ with some marine life (all carefully monitored and timed so as not to cause stress to the creatures).
For adults visiting without children, a top tip from staff is to visit in term time in an afternoon as school visits always take place in a morning. Another tip for getting the most time to enjoy the exhibits in peace and quiet is to go on a sunny day as The Deep is often seen as a ‘wet weather destination’. Sunny days mean no queues and great views from the viewing deck – and the opportunity to couple your visit with a trip to Hull marina.
The Deep’s ethical policy doesn’t just extend to the fish’s food; it is also in evidence at their cafe, where local produce features prominently alongside Fairtrade products. There are plenty of healthy choices and it’s reasonably priced too.
And, if you’re looking for something that bit different as a memorable dining experience, how about dining with the sharks? Don’t worry, you won’t be on the menu! The food is strictly for the humans: and the menu promises ‘local produce with a Mediterranean twist’ in the Two Rivers Restaurant. Every Friday and Saturday, staff at The Deep transform the main visitor area into a pop up restaurant, with the magnificent backdrop of the rays and sharks. Now that’s a reason for us to go back for our fourth visit!
So, if you’d like your UK tourist pounds to go that bit further, then a trip to The Deep will ensure that it does. And, if you Gift Aid your admission, you can go back as many times as you like in the year (except on certain bank holidays). Now that’s what I call great value for money!
The Deep is open every day (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day) from 10am – 6pm (last entry 5pm). There are sometimes special offers for booking tickets online so, please check the website: http://www.thedeep.co.uk/