I’ve visited NAUSICAA, (French National Sea Experience Centre) in Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France several times now and never tire of it. I love that NAUSICAA isn’t just massively entertaining but it’s also educational with a strong focus on sustainable tourism.
A visit to NAUSICAA is a great way for the whole family including the youngest members, to appreciate the importance of looking after our oceans now and for the future. Throughout 2017, NAUSICAA will showcase sustainable tourism in the tropical Mangrove area with the arrival of new animals such as land hermit crabs, Atlantic mudskippers and Kaho stick insects. No visit is ever the same thanks to an ever increasing and changing population and to regularly updated exhibitions.
NAUSICAA is one of the most visited tourist attractions in this region and it makes for a fabulous family day out. One of my favourite parts of NAUSICAA, and the first place I always head to, is the penguin enclosure. The large, friendly African penguins that live here in a pen are fascinating to watch. There is one penguin though who is very special – Opal! Like all the others here, she was born in captivity and is used to human contact, call to her and she will rush over to have a look at you! I was lucky enough to be there on a very quiet day and the keeper Simon let me meet her in person. Without doubt it is a memory I will treasure for ever.
This year there’s a new arrival in the penguin pool – a baby girl was born in the spring. The breeding programme at NAUSICAA is very important and the keepers work tirelessly to ensure that the animals are kept in the best conditions possible. I was lucky enough to see and fall head over heels for the gorgeous fluffy bundle in its nursery where the keepers made sure it got the best attention before joining the grown-ups in the pool. She is adorably cute!
Of all the species of marine mammals, NAUSICAA decided to show the public Californian sea lions. In fact, NAUSICAA’s Californian Reserve has seven Californian sea lions, a species that was hunted by Man for many years. On the west coast of America, Californian sea lions were endangered. To protect them, America’s Channel Islands were turned into a national park. The same environment has been recreated at NAUSICAA.
These intelligent creatures love to perform for an adoring audience so you must clap when they do something special!
Enjoy a wander through the lagoon, the shark tank and meet around 3,000 animals here before taking a break in the café or restaurant. And definitely don’t miss getting up close to some of the animals in NAUSICAA’s touch pool – it’s a great place to take the kids to introduce them to aquatic life. The joy on their faces as they are able to stroke a ray or other fish that enjoy contact is something to treasure. It is definitely a magnet for kids of all ages!
I’ll be going back with my kids for the summer exhibition: The Tropics. It’s an exhibition which aims to present ways in which everyone can make a contribution to the important subject of sustainable tourism.
I’d recommend a half day visit because there’s so much to see.
Discover more at NAUSICAA website
After your visit, why not head to the old town for a wonder around and stop for something to eat? There are loads of restaurants to be tempted by and discover the local cuisine. Whatever your taste, this is a place to channel your inner gourmand!
For a fun day out, I greatly recommend experiencing Sand yachting (char a voile in French) which is a fun and thrilling activity for all the family (8 years upwards) to enjoy . It doesn’t matter if like me you’ve never done it before, there’s an instructor and even if your French is not great, it’s not hard to understand the instructions. Whizz along, the wind in your sails, the sound of the sea, the smell of the fresh air – there’s nothing quite like it. Find out more at the tourist office of Boulogne-sur-Mer, right next to NAUSICAA.
There’s so much to do in this lovely area of outstanding natural beauty where sustainable tourism is close to the hearts of the people who live here that’s it’s hard to know where to begin but here are just a few of my favourite things that are brilliant for the whole family:
Carry on the bird watching theme with a relaxing trip on a barge in the Clairmarais in the marshes of St Omer just a short drive from Boulogne-sur-Mer. These ancient marshlands are farmed today for lush vegetables as they have been for centuries. Peppered with tiny islands, this is the only place left in France where the postman delivers the letters by boat! You can hire a boat and drift in peace with a picnic or take a guided tour on a barge. Altogether, there are 3,700 hectares of wetlands in the region, with 160-kms of navigable waterways. You’re sure to see a wealth of waterfowl and other wildlife while you’re here. (You can find out more here at the website of Isnor the boat hire company).
While you’re in the area, why not take it easy with an electric bike ride in and around the pretty town of St Omer. The countryside in these parts is absolutely gorgeous and mostly as flat as a crepe! The town centre has plenty of restaurants and some of the best boulangeries and patisseries in the region. If you’re there on a Saturday, don’t miss the morning market in the centre, it’s one of the best I’ve ever been to and the fresh produce is outstanding. You can hire an electric bike at the tourist office in St Omer.