Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Henry goes to ..... Sealife

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Family outings. I've said it before and you'll probably hear me say it again, can be tricky with children, regardless of whether they are neurotypical or neurodiverse. When you add in neurodiversity, outings can become a whole lot trickier - overwhelming sensory inputs, noisy and busy crowds, bodies tire easily and many more factors.

Since having Henry with us, outings have become a whole lot easier and as such, we are branching out and stepping outside of the little superheroes comfort zone. Henry is really our saving grace, he knows instinctively when L needs assistance and his training kicks into action.

Last weekend we ventured up to Sealife on the Sunshine Coast. L went on a school excursion to Sealife when he was in prep, three years ago as he keeps reminding us, and ever since he has wanted to take us back there.

As a teenager, I had my heart set on gaining tertiary qualifications as a marine biologist after doing my year 11 work experience stint at our local Museum in their marine sciences section. Any time there is an Aquarium, I want to go. So visiting Sealife has always been on my to do list.

We kept our outing destination as a surprise, but gave the little superheroes hints as to where we might be going - it was somewhere that has animals, it is somewhere where most members of our family including Henry haven't been before, we need to drive to get there! We had some really odd guesses, but eventually as we drove closer to where we were going, both little superheroes got it right!



First up on our stop for the day was a break to stretch the little superheroes and Henry's legs. We'd left home with plenty of time just in case there was a lot of traffic on the road, and as it usually is when we leave early, we arrived at out destination way ahead of time. Neither little superhero had explored the esplanade in Mooloolaba (yes that is the name of the town!) so we took a short walk. As soon as we began walking, Henry immediately spotted that L was headed for a road, and his training kicked in. He began nudging L and made sure that he was between L and the road. I haven't seen Henry doing this before without being prompted, so it was just awesome.


If you are intending to visit Sealife, make sure that you have pre-booked your tickets. We did but unfortunately quite a number of people in the line hadn't. Luckily for them, there were still a few free spots in the time slot that we had purchased tickets for. As soon as you check in using the QR code (for Covid tracking purposes) and have your tickets scanned, you have the opportunity to have a souvenir photo taken. The photographer was suitably impressed that we were able to get Henry to sit still and look in the direction that we wanted - using a small treat of course. The way to his heart is definitely through pats and food!



The first few exhibits when you enter Sealife are open top aquariums and a huge touch tank. Henry was fascinated by the rays and fish swimming in one of the tanks. I have a feeling that visiting an aquarium was a first for him.

Both little superheroes were immediately drawn to the touch tank and without any hesitation, they both (after washing their hands) began to explore the textures of the sea stars in the tank.



The sea horses and Leafy Sea Dragons put on a show, just beautiful.


We'd purchased two of the Sealife explore packs for the little superheroes. L loved using the mini magnifying glass. The fluorescent corals and anemones were beautiful. 


L was fascinated by the moral eels and wanted to pat one, until he realised that they had big sharp teeth!!

 

The display with the Wobbegong Shark, Stone Fish, Lion fish and Scorpion fish was also a hit. All are odd looking creatures and beautiful in their own ways. And all except for the Wobbegong are quite dangerous! Got to love Australian animals!!

 
 
 

L is fascinated by sharks, so he just had to have a few photos in the shark jaw! His fascination with sharks began last year when he found out about the largest shark in the world, the now extinct Megalodon Shark. He was convinced that that this set of teeth was from a Megalodon.

 

We stopped off for a break in the children's play area and both little superheroes had a ball exploring the area while Henry had a mini snooze. It was quite a small area but every bit of equipment had a learning purpose behind it. The maze of slides and tunnels was based on the sonar abilities that whales have. The orange tubes (above left) were based on the currents that turtles and other ocean creatures use to travel on. It was a really great little break and a little bit of unschooling play.


Henry did really well while we were at Sealife. For the most, he ignored the majority of the exhibits but there were a few that he appeared interested in. While we were at the penguins, they were calling to each other which caught Henry's attention. He and L sat for quite a while looking at the penguins.



The catfish also caught Henry's attention. But when they started moving, he was not impressed!


We weren't able to go in and watch the seal presentation, and not because we had Henry. We were just that little too late walking to the presentation area - too many colourful creatures to look at on the way. But both little superheroes and Henry enjoyed watching the seals swim through the windows into their enclosure. Although asking the little superheroes to sit next to each other for a photo, didn't quite work the way I thought!!



Both were fascinated by the Gloomy Octopus!

One of Sealife's main attractions is their 80 metre long Ocean tunnel - think lots of sharks, rays, BIG fish and little fish. We spent quite a lot of time wandering through the tunnel, several times! L was very much in his element spotting all the different species of shark and rays.

 

The cownose rays were very amusing to watch! Throughout Sealife both little superheroes (and both myself and Daddy superhero,) had fun spotting the different marine creatures from Finding Nemo and Finding Dori. Much to both little superheroes delight, they spotted a few Mr Rays (Nemo's class teacher!) cruising around the Ocean tunnel! Then they both began a little scripted speech by singing "Let's name the species!" song that Mr Ray sings!

 


L ... the workers here, are they marine people?
Us .. Marine biologists?
L ... yeah, marine biologists. Are they.
Us ... some of them would be, why?
L ... Cos when I get bigger, I want to be a marine biologist so I can play with sharks every day. And so I can do scuba diving for work.
Setting his long term goals young.

After our visit, we spotted a Diving School, so we just had to go and have a look around. Much to L's delight, we spoke to one of the staff members and found that you only have to be ten years of age to do a junior Scube certificate. So guess what we're now saving a few dollars for!


 

There were a few of these majestic fish, the Giant or Queensland Grouper, lazing around in the Ocean tunnel. I've encountered these on a few of my Scuba dives. They look intimidating but are just gentle giants.


There's just something calming watching the rays glide over the tunnel with their goofy looking smiles!



Every time we went to exit the Ocean tunnel, we had to stop and say hello to L's new friend, a leopard shark that was having a good snooze in the corner.


While both the little superheroes weren't overly interested in this tank, it piqued my interest. Without the fish swimming through the tree, you'd think that it was a little bonsai. Do you think that I could get a photo without the fish in the tree???


It's Nemo! There were actually lots of Nemo's!!


The sea cucumber is a curious creature. They are the bizarre, yet marvellous butts of the oceans! They are a delicacy in Asia and are commonly known as Trepang there. Here, they are the creature that is like a vacuum cleaner of the ocean as they filter sand and water. And they breathe through their bottoms! Always the butt of the joke!! Or as O said in her year two speech at school on the sea cucumber, an unusual animal - "talk about bad breath!" Sea cucumbers have a pair of "respiratory trees" that branch in their cloaca just inside their anus and as they draw water in, the oxygen is drawn out of the water through the respiratory trees.


To exit Sealife, you walk through the jelly fish display. So many jelly fish of different sizes, shapes and colours. Both little superheroes kept saying that they were so satisfying and calming to watch.



One of the wonderful things about Henry is that while he is trained specifically to assist L, Henry also picks up on when O needs assistance. Both little superheroes needed quite a few hugs and laps on our outing, but yet again it was a very successful day. We could have stayed for longer, but both were tiring.

Sealife were absolutely brilliant and very accommodating to us and Henry. There weren't any restrictions on places within Sealife where Henry couldn't go. And it's definitely an attraction that we will return to at some stage.