The stand out feature of the venue for us was the competence, friendliness and quality of the staff and instructors. We felt very safe throughout and were clearly in expert hands. The equipment appeared to be top quality and we made good use of the free lockers as we went from one activity to the next.
Our favourite activity was the scuba diving with sharks and rays. There is something very unnatural about putting your face in water and breathing but we had plenty of time in the training pool to get used to it. The aquarium pool is about 4m deep and we had two instructors for our group of four. The extra instructor was very helpful in keeping an eye on Charlie. They were very patient and gave Charlie four opportunities to get to the bottom, as he had trouble equalising the pressure in his ears. Andy wasn’t able to dive as he was supposed to have got a doctor to sign him off due to his colostomy (check the medical details very carefully before arriving) but the other member of our group said it was his best experience ever. Charlie and Amelia loved it and it brought back memories of my diving experiences in Belize. It is an excellent introduction to diving and you get a PADI Discover Scuba certificate.
The iFly indoor sky diving experience was absolutely unique and great fun. Again, we had a reassuring and competent instructor and excellent equipment. They only give you two one minute goes at flying whereas we would have liked longer, but given how stiff we were the next day, I think the pressure on your body means one minute at a time is probably a good idea. It does feel like longer and is certainly worth it if you can buy it on a deal.
We enjoyed the high ropes experience and were pleased we had wrapped up warm as it was very chilly on a January afternoon. None of us is afraid of heights but we did find the rolling barrel on the top level very challenging. Otherwise it wasn’t quite as nerve-wracking as we’d expected due to the very secure harness attaching us to the guidelines. But there were other people on the high ropes course who seemed to be pushing themselves out of their comfort zones more. Doing the assault course (free with all activities) after the high ropes I actually felt more nervous as there was no harness and some of the walls seemed quite high in terms of falling over the other side!
I can’t say much about the escape room so as not to give any clues away but it was a very clever set up. We just managed to complete the first room in time but got something wrong in the second which meant we couldn’t complete it within the allocated time.
There is a general minimum age of 8, a minimum height of 130m and a maximum weight for some of the activities and they are physically demanding so it is important to check the criteria. There is dedicated parking about 10 minutes away from the venue. You get a yellow chip to validate at the venue, but you still have to pay for parking (which we didn’t realise until we were at the barrier). The food on offer is limited– hot dogs, pizzas or sandwiches – but it was delicious and we didn’t have to wait, possibly because we didn’t get round to eating until 3.30 due to rushing from one activity to the other.
A day at Bear Grylls Adventure is an excellent way to entertain older children or even adults who want to push their boundaries and experience something very different. You book a specific time slot for your activity and everything ran to time on the day. Most activities had a one hour time slot, although the diving took two hours in total, so there is a limit to how much you can do, but sheer exhaustion also sets in given the high octane nature of the activities. It is possible to add extra activities when you have booked on one and are at the venue if there is availability but if you are very keen to do a certain activity it is better to book in advance.
Given the combination of exhilaration and convenience that the day offers, I would not be at all surprised if other Bear Grylls Adventure centres spring up around the country. In the meantime, a visit to the Birmingham NEC is the only way to experience this unique day out.