Ever since we've lived in Dunkirk, Nausicaa in nearby Boulogne has been on our list of places to visit but, for one reason or another, we've never actually made it there. The main reason was that I've always thought the kids were a bit young and would get bored after looking at a few tanks full of fish. However, when the chance came up to go there on a press trip and to take the whole family along with me, we jumped at the chance. The girls, aged 9 and 5, have been getting more and more excited as the big day approached. And that day was today!
Nausicaa is really easy to find as it's located on the seafront and you drive straight past it if you follow the main road to the town. The building is literally behind the Boulogne cross-Channel ferry port but if you arrive at Calais, either by ferry or by the Channel Tunnel, you're still only about 20 minutes away. There's a car park on the seafront a couple of hundred yards away.
We arrived bang on midday and wandered straight up to the reception. There are ticket booths outside but these are closed off season so you queue up (if necessary, we didn't need to) inside the building in the warm and out of the wind or rain. There is a fairly posh restaurant in the reception area where you can eat (but they seem to work on a booking system so you may be advised to book in advance if you want to be sure of a table at peak times). We decided to grab a quick sandwich in the Tropical Lagoon bar, which offers prepackaged sandwiches, pasta pots and drinks. One thing to note - there are toilets just opposite. Go there as soon as you've finished eating because it's really hard to get back to them afterwards (you need to take the disabled people/pushchairs lift because it's not accessible by the escalators - as we discovered after going up and down twice !!).
The visit follows a logical journey through various themed sections - The Mangrove, The Coral Reef, Man's Ocean, etc - and there is a huge amount of information that you can read (in both English and French - audioguides are also available at the reception desk) to learn about the diversity of life in the world's oceans and things you can do to help protect the planet. However, the girls were so excited, they were constantly running ahead to the next thing to see what else they could discover so we didn't read many of the information boards !
The girls still learned a lot using the interactive displays, pushing various buttons and turning the numerous globes. They particularly loved the little house where you can learn how to be green and the dark passage with animal noises and creepy gusts of wind as you pass through little hidden holes in the wall. "Eeeeeeek something keeps touching me and blowing in my ear", screeched Sophie, grabbing hold of my leg, before giggling and running back to the end so she could walk along it again !
There are lots of steps and escalators to the various displays but they have thought about people with pushchairs or mobility problems and have a little photocopied sheet telling you where to go, via a series of lifts, so that you can see all the exhibits without using the stairs. Everything has been created with kids (and big kids !) in mind so there are child-friendly little extras, like the ladders with viewing bubbles so you can stick your head up inside the aquariums and the sealions area where you can walk through a glass viewing tunnel where you can even see them swimming beneath your feet.
Other reviews you may be interested in :
Keycamp - Château de Drancourt parc, St-Valéry-sur-Somme, Picardy, France
Build A Bear Workshop
Brewers Fayre family-friendly dining
DRAGON HUNTERS : A family feature film in 3D animation
Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch ?! Kids Eat Free at Pizza Hut until Jan 9th 2011