Last year, the Bear Grylls Adventure opened at the NEC. It offers a range of activities such as iFly, diving, high ropes, maze and assault course. Its open to everyone but obviously aimed largely at youngsters.
Inside the attraction is a large aquarium tank with sharks, rays and a number of tropical fish. They offer an experience where you can dive inside this tank whether you are a qualified diver or not.
You book a date/time slot and buy your ticket online on their website and I quickly found the dive option which includes archery and an assault course for about £110. I only wanted to do the dive so phoned them and asked if this was possible. They emailed a link to book the dive option only (not on their website) for about £85. They provide all equipment and training. I need quite a large wetsuit and checked they had a range of sizes. They said they had everything from extra small to 4XL. We booked and got a confirmation email within minutes.
It took us about an 1hour and 45 minutes to drive the 100 miles to the NEC which is located just off junction 6 on the M42 and is well sign posted. As you enter the NEC site, there were electronic signs directing you to a particular car park for the bear grylls experience. You go through a barrier, park and then it takes a couple of minutes to walk across the road from the car park, around a lake and up to attraction.
As we walked through the door, there is a small reception area, where we were welcomed by an enthusiastic member of staff who then barked at me that I need to get my trainers ready. I replied I had none, she looked worried and then I confirmed I was only doing the dive activity. She looked relieved and directed us to another member of staff who took our details and gave us some instructions and a ticket.
We arrived quite early so decided to get snack and drink. They have a bar and restaurant inside the venue. Unfortunately on our visit, they had run our of snacks and only had a very limited menu whilst they were waiting for new supplies to arrive. We ordered some nachos. They were tasty, if a barely warm. One of the nachos turned up without chicken and the staff had to return them to the kitchen to add the chicken.
After this we had to wait for our time slot so made our way to the tank to look at the fish. There was a young staff member there who was very friendly and gave us information on the experience and the fish in the tank. You are given a wrist watch that vibrates when your activity is ready. Mine started to vibrate and I made my way upstairs to the dive area. After a few minutes we were met by Kate, the dive instructor. She gathered the six participants into a briefing room where we ran through some basic dive skills, safety and information on the activity. The whole areas is made to look like you are in a ship or submarine.
After the briefing we made our way to the changing room where we were each allocated a shower with a website and boots already laid out for us. Their wetsuits only go up to size XXL, not 4XL as I was told on the phone. We had to shower to remove any deodorants, makeup etc and donned our wetsuits and boots.
We were then led into a small training tank adjacent to the tropical fish tank. Here we spent about half an hour practising basic dive skills such as mask clear and using a regulator. Then one by one we were led down some steps an into the main tank. You do not use fins in the tank and instead walk at the bottom of the tank as the dive instructor and safety diver lead us through the tank and some underwater photo activities. We spent about 20 minutes under the water and it was a great experience to be amongst the sharks, rays and inquisitive fish.
At the end, we were led back up the steps, removed our gear and were given PADI discovery dive certificates. Katie and Rachel the dive instructors were very warm, friendly and supportive to guests who were nervous. One lad who could not even manage to put her head under water before this activity, managed to complete the dive with help from the staff.
As you exit the event, you pass through the gift shop where you also get a discount token for the car park. On the way back to the car park, we passed the resort centre where there are some shops, bars and restaurant and stopped at Nandos which overlooks the lake. When we got back to the car park pay station, we had to pay £7 for about five and a half hours parking. Overall a fantastic experience and worth the £85.