Myself and Editorial Director Peter Stonham visited the French National Sealife Centre, Nausicaa, in Boulogne towards the end of last year. We travelled over from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries and, once on the Continent, it was less than an hour’s drive to Boulogne, straight down the motorway.
At the centre, we enjoyed a back stage tour with keeper Simon Becue, which allowed us to see a tiger shark being fed, and I was introduced to a ‘walker’ shark, so called because they ‘walk’ along the sea bed by wriggling their bodies and pushing with their fins rather than swimming. Nausicaa itself has 140 sharks in total, spread across 13 species.
A huge amount of coral growing takes place within tanks behind the scenes too – in fact, the centre does most of the coral cultivation in France, and this was something I also discoverd on our backstage tour. I also met a very interesting sea urchin, which felt like rubber to touch!
It was an eye-opener to learn what goes on behind the scenes to keep the centre functioning and, back within the public areas, I was able to learn all about the African penguins that are bred at the centre to help preserve the populations that are endangered in the wild in South Africa and Namibia.
Nausicaa welcomes an average of 600,000 visitors per year. In 2013,147,000 group visitors passed through its doors, of which 38,000 were English, so it’s certainly becoming a popular option. Groups of between about five and 10 people can go back stage at Nausicaa and the attraction runs a varied education programme for both adult and school groups. Many thanks to Press Officer Claire Dessaint for inviting us over and showing us around.