on June 20, 2008
On a rainy day as we drove from Oban to the Kyle of Lochalsh we dropped into the watery world of The Scottish Sealife Sanctuary 10 miles north of Oban. Fortunately most of it is under a roof so it is possible to watch the creatures of the deep while remaining dry.The Centre nestles among the pine trees on the shores of Loch Creran - one of the most picturesque settings in Britain. Loch Creran is a unique sea loch that lies sheltered among the mountains of Argyll. Strong tides in this basin make it a dangerous environment, however its marine habitats contain many species.The loch is home to two forms of biogenic reef. A worm known as the serpulid worm builds one of the reefs, and the other built by horse mussels grows in the shallow channels of the loch. These reefs make Loch Ceran a special conservation area. These reefs in turn provide shelter for various other creatures. Over 70 different species, such as brittle stars, sunstars and herimit crabs live on serpulid reefs. While the horse mussel reefs provide shelter and food for green urchins, starfish, whelks and many more.In the Sanctuary you can explore over 30 natural marine habitats containing everything from octopus to sharks. During the range of talks and feeding demonstrations the staff sometimes let you hand feed sharks and rays.The Seal Centre rescues and cares for lost, sick or injured seal pups until they are well enough to fend for themselves. In its nursery you can see their progress. Lora a common seal born in 2007 is one of the star performers. Her favourite food is herring and she likes playing with the rescued seal pups or simply sleeping in the sun. Seals in Scotland congregate mainly in the islands. They divide into two main types: common seals and grey seals. The main difference is that common seals are smaller. The male rarely exceeds 1.8 metres, whereas a male grey seal can grow 2.5 metres. Common seals have an attractive dog-like face with a short snout. That may be why our farm dog during my childhood in Orkney used to swim out and play with them to the delight of all. Grey seals have a long snout known as a ‘Roman Nose’. Windows allow underwater viewing of the seals, and many other sea creatures in the aquarium. Perhaps best of all is the skate and ray pond, where you can touch these tame and elegant swimmers as they glide along. You can also watch Canadian Otters as they dive and swim in "Otter Creek". They are out and about during the day whereas the European ones only come out at nights. Fingal born in 2002 loves rainbow trout and chicken and the attention he gets at feeding time. There may be plenty more in the sea but the place to get close to some of the ocean's most interesting creatures is to visit here. The Centre is open from 10 am to 5 pm between March and October. Winter closing times vary.Tariffs: Adults £9.50; Child (3-14) £7.50; Senior Citizen and Student £8.50.
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