We were recently invited to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek down here in Cornwall for a day out as a family. The sanctuary is around an hour away from us and although I am pretty sure I went there as a child, I couldn’t remember it at all.
When you arrive at the sanctuary, you pretty much have to drive through a housing estate and then you’re faced with a smallish building that didn’t look that promising. I have to admit at this point, I did wonder if we were going to be disappointed with our visit. However, once we were inside and the really friendly member of staff chatted to us and gave the boys a special scratch card quiz trail, things seemed to be looking up.
We also bought a guide-book for £3.50 at the reception and I would definitely recommend picking one up. Not only does it tell you a lot about the individual long-term residents of the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and have activities for children in, but it also has discount vouchers inside for you next visit. Plus the proceeds go towards looking after the seals, it costs around £1500 to rehabilitate just one seal pup!
As you go around the seal sanctuary, there are colourful boards with questions and a selection of answers on for the scratch card quiz trail forms that we were given at the start. I do love a bit of sneaky education for children and although the trail was fun to do, the boys (and us!) were learning new facts as we did it.
One of the first places that we popped into with the hospital on site, where the seals who need extra care are kept. Some are on antibiotics or have wounds that need to heal outside of the water etc. They’re in there for all manner of reasons and sometimes when you visit there may be no seals in this area, which is obviously a good thing. With the awful weather recently, there were so many seals everywhere at the sanctuary when we visited.
After the hospital there are some stunning views that are pretty much breathtaking! It is based in such a pretty area and I could have just sat and looked at the view for ages. There are picnic benches and normal benches dotted around if you fancy doing exactly that.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary isn’t only home to seals, there are also sea lions, ponies, goat, sheep, penguins and otters! When we were there the otters were snuggled up indoors so we didn’t really see them much, but they seemed to have a lovely big area to swim and play in. If they had been swimming, then you can actually watch them below the water through a glass window.
**Before I forget to mention it and get told off, a lot of the photos below were taken by Si, as annoyingly he managed to take mostly much better photos than I did. Though, he was using a camera of mine, so I could still claim ownership…
How many animals and seals you can see at the sanctuary during your visit depends a lot on how many of them have needed rescuing in recent weeks or months, as essentially rather than a tourist attraction it is a working sanctuary. The tourism side of things helps to fund their work to rescue and hopefully then release healthy seals after they’re recuperated.
Although we were given free entry in order to write this post this time, we are planning to go back in the spring when it’s a bit warmer and I love the fact that when we pay to visit we’ll be doing our bit to help keep the sanctuary open and rescuing beautiful creatures like the ones below.
Some of the residents of the sanctuary are just that – resident, they won’t be leaving due to various reasons such as health issues that need continuing care. I really liked that as we walked around we could read about various different seals and sea lions, learn their names and a bit about why they were there in the first place.
Seals are so cute, this was the first time I remember ever seeing them quite so closely and they seemed to be watching us as much as we were watching them.
There are a couple of different areas where you can watch the seals and sea lions underwater. The one below seemed to like us and came to peep at us through the glass. I love the photo that Si managed to take through the slightly murky sea water.
The area that we saw him/her in was the underwater viewing area by the convalescence pool. This is where the seal pups ready to be released soon are with adult seals in order for them to get used to how to socialize, before they’re released into the wild and expected to fend for themselves again.
I loved the giant whiteboard in this area with the pups’ names on – notice a strong Poldark influence anyone?! – and also has a massive amount of facts and information on seals written on.
Although every map I have seen of the Cornish Seal Sanctuary makes it look as if every part of it is in one small area close to the reception, there is actually quite a bit of walking to do to get down to the pools and then again to get to the area where the otters are. They do though apparently (according to a comment on Tripadvisor) allow people with disabilities to drive down to the main area if they ask at reception (it may be worth ringing in advance) and there is a land train in the busier months.
Just remember to have shoes on that are suitable for walking though! We went after it had been raining and skipped doing the walking trails around the sanctuary due to it being muddy, so waterproof shoes or wellies might be an idea too for some of it. Walking to the otters wasn’t too muddy though and there were some beautiful views of the river as we walked along there. The walks are part of why we want to revisit as well.
Also at the sanctuary but not used by us were a cafe (they mostly appeared to sell pasties, sausage rolls and sandwiches), a rock pool experience which was closed during our visit and a fun looking children’s play area – I’ll try to write a follow-up post to feature any bits that we missed next time we visit. I’ll also write about the talks and feeding etc then as well, as we were so busy watching the seals we forgot to pay attention to the timetable.
The timetable is reduced in the winter months understandably as they’re much quieter, however I would say that visiting in the winter months is still perfect as it was lovely and quiet, plus it tends to be one of their busier times of year for seal rescues with new pups being born during bad weather and rough seas.
Our verdict: We LOVE the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, all of us even the Teen and Tween who are much harder to amuse these days and we can’t wait to visit again. I highly recommend it for all ages. Pop to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary website for more information – they’re open all year by the way!
Check out my post over 100 places to go and things to do in Cornwall post for more ideas of places to visit in Cornwall.