As we head towards colder months, the days can seem to drag. The nights become darker, and we barely want to leave the house. I get that. But if you’re looking for a sign to get your butt in gear before the festive season (or even after) – now is your opportunity to do something about it. I want to share with you my recent experience on the new adrenaline-fuelled Bear Grylls Adventure attraction in Birmingham, located next door to Resorts World. There will be no direct spoilers but I want to tell you a bit more about the place.
If you’ve been wondering around the NEC area lately, you’ll have spotted this attraction from across the pond. I’m not going to lie, my heart started racing a bit when I spotted the Jeep and High Ropes assault course from afar. When walking in through the entrance, you’ll spot the huge tall frame (probably with people wondering about the top) and a huge heliport in which you’re likely to see people jumping off. Even before you enter the building, you’re given a taster of what is to come if you’ve booked on for that specific activity. Just be aware, if you’re afraid of heights, you might want to give this section a miss.
So what is the purpose of the attraction I hear you ask. To be honest, I didn’t really have a clue either until arriving on the day. But as the website tells us, it is home to a range of challenges designed to ‘test your limits’. Ranging from climbing to diving, zip-wiring to flying, and running through the assault course; do as Bear does and prepare to be shown what you’re really made of. I think the place would be great for a team building session or even for a birthday surprise. There’s something for everyone here, and you don’t have to be physically fit or have prior knowledge of the tasks before you do them.
Once inside, there’s an impressive yet gigantic explorer space designed to give you a feel of the ‘adventurer’ life. Grab a bite to eat at the restaurant where they serve pizzas with critters – as well as mooching around the space to find replica Bear Grylls climbing up a rock. We couldn’t leave before having our photos taken with it, that would be just too rude. There’s also a fake tree in the centre and a diving tank which is the main eye candy of the room. There’s something to see at every head turn. Before you arrive on the day, you must book online to choose which challenge you would prefer to do. All of the packages have different prices, so if you’d rather just do Basecamp (£20) + 1 activity, prices will vary.
On the day, Josh and I did Basecamp and dive experience. All options do include ‘Basecamp‘ which consists of a 90-minute action packed challenge. In groups you tackle your way through an escape room, survival maze, assault course and archery. The marines-grade assault course totally kicked my ass and I have no enthusiasm for crawling under a net, army style. There’s also a bloody impossible escape room and a mildly terrifying maze to sink your teeth into. And some creepy crawlies. As previously mentioned, you don’t need any prior experience to take on any of the activities and don’t need to be ‘fit’ – although you must be able to walk and crawl through enclosed spaces. Personally I thought it was an immersive experience, but feel the survival maze could have been more challenging. Again no spoilers, but if you’re a lady attending on the day, I advise you to wear a supportive sports bra for the assault course as I didn’t which was a huge mistake!
As we couldn’t take our phones in (lockers are provided to keep all personal belongings safe) I wasn’t able to take any snaps. To be honest, I think this was a great shout because I was fully immersed in the entire experience without having to take out my phone every 5 minutes. There are photo opportunities as you go around each activity which can be bought at the end, albeit pricey. It’s best to arrive at least 20 minutes before your designated time slot as it’ll give you the chance to wonder around and absorb the adventure experience. I personally loved doing archery and each group is given a leader to show you around each of the challenges. So remember you’re never left alone and you’re encouraged to make the most of the 90 minute tasks. You must be over 15+ to take part and wear appropriate clothing. If you have any questions, visit the Basecamp webpage or the FAQ page, just to be sure.
Once you graduate from Base, you’re shown to the last ‘hero’ activity of the day and for us it was the dive. I was looking forward to diving as I’ve done a tiny bit before and always thoroughly enjoyed it. Beforehand you are shown into a room to fill out a medical form. On the day – it was a small group including myself, Josh and two young men. When answering if I have ‘asthma‘ – I ticked yes, even though my case is mild and haven’t needed an inhaler for 20+ years. When doing this activity it’s best to be safe than sorry.
My heart sank though when being told both myself and another man couldn’t do the experience because we didn’t have a doctor’s note. I just want to forewarn that although there is a medical declaration form on the website, this was not highlighted in any way and so we couldn’t do the dive on that specific day. We could snorkel instead and had to get a doctor’s note, and rearrange our visit. It was sad but please make sure you know about this and enquire before you dive. Otherwise there’s a very good chance you will be refused as I was. P.s – the snorkel was good too – just not as immersive as the dive.
Three weeks later, after picking up a doctor’s note, I returned to the Bear Grylls Adventure centre. There is a wonderful instructor there named Jasmine who went above and beyond to rectify the situation and make sure we were re-booked to do the dive. Her face when she saw us again was a picture and said how happy she was that we returned. Although at the time of writing this, I must mention there still doesn’t seem to be any update on the website to make it 100% clear about doctor’s notes. The aim of this blog was to test-try everything before the public start going – so if you’re reading this Bear Grylls team, please help so more people don’t get turned away.
We were told no video equipment was to be taken in (unless you’re a certified diver) and sod’s law the tank camera wasn’t working on the day we went back. Nonetheless, whilst slipping a scuba suit over the top of my bikini, one by one we were asked to enter to a shallow pool to put on our equipment. Jasmine showed us some breathing techniques beforehand and then asked us to mimic the actions under water. At one point you have to remove your breathing equipment from your mouth all together, throw it behind your back, then find it again by using slow hand techniques. This could really help if it just so happened to pop out whilst you were under. Once we were all suited with masks on, I was the first one behind Jasmine to enter the tank.
Once at the bottom, I looked around at 40 different types of fish, baby sharks and rays. We were told they’re more cautious of us than we are of them, so the chance of something happening is minuscule. The fish kept swimming up to my mask, saying hello, then shooting off again which was super cute. The baby sharks kept their distance at the top of the tank as we worked our way around slowly. The weights help you to walk on the bottom of the tank so there is no need for swimming here either. We were down there for a good 25 minutes, and Jasmine used sign language to tell us about the different types of fish. It was magical watching small children and adults wave at us through the outside of the tank, I really want to do it all again. Though not cheap (it’s £100 to dive, including Basecamp), it’ll 100% worthwhile if diving is something you aspire to do. You might not get another chance like this in Birmingham.
There really is no other experience like it, and if you’re not afraid to try something a little bit different, the dive challenge is one to take on board. All equipment is provided on the day, including wetsuits, goggles, masks and weights. For the dive, you must have stamina as once you’re underwater, it’s up to you to enjoy the experience. Bear in mind, owing to the amount of people likely doing the dive, you only have time to walk around the tank once so enjoy every second. I forgot how strange it was breathing through equipment but once you get the hang of it, it feels like second nature. As Josh and I were in the tank with 2 certified divers, even they said it was an incredibly professional and worthwhile experience. We felt proud after that and received a certificate afterwards to say we had completed the dive. Happy faces all round.
To take on the Basecamp + Dive activities on the same day, I recommend having a good breakfast beforehand as you’ll certainly burn a lot of calories. Bear Grylls Adventure with diving takes around 3.5 hours to complete with a package price of £100. I personally would pay that much for the diving bit alone. After taking a hot shower and getting dressed, diving instructor Jasmine spoke briefly about the importance of sharks. I’m aware of the backlash the centre has received owing to using live animals, but in fact they’re trying to motivate people to learn more about sharks, fish and how we can keep work to keep them safe. I would like to say thanks to the Bear Grylls Staff and PR team for arranging this once in a lifetime opportunity for myself and Josh. It was a fantastic day, and putting aside the doctor’s note niggle, this is a worthwhile experience and would encourage anyone to take part. You won’t regret it.
If you would like 10% off your visit, be sure to book your activities through this link.
National Exhibition Center, Halls, Marston Green, Birmingham B40 1PA
Please note: I was invited to Bear Grylls Adventure with a +1 in return for honest feedback. All activities were complimentary. The Bear Grylls Adventure team can be contacted at [email protected]. Or by calling 0121 274 0680.