“When your greatest fears are laid bare, you have to keep your nerve and dig deep.” – This is your challenge from famous adventurer Bear Grylls himself as you enter the brand new attraction, opened in his name.
Merlin’s Bear Grylls Adventure, at Birmingham’s NEC, invites visitors to test their mental and physical limits with a series of activities that will have you climbing, diving, flying, zipping, leaping, scrambling and more.
But Grylls does not just throw down his gauntlet to the exceptionally fit or intrepid amongst us. Indeed, the winning formula to this adventure centre is its accessibility to all.
For instance, how often does a complete novice swimmer get the opportunity to walk in off the street and, an hour later, be scuba diving with sharks and rays – or maybe freefalling in a wind tunnel?
If you’re brave enough to immerse yourself in a tank with aquatic creatures such as Black Tip Reef Sharks and Rays, you’ll make memories for a lifetime. This unique experience is, in my view the headline act at the new adventure venue and difficult to top.
But, for those who want to stay dry and, for instance, prefer the idea of chucking themselves out of a plane, the iFLY indoor skydiving experience is a must.
Trickier than it looks but, apparently, you can have a great deal of fun learning in the safe hands of highly skilled parachute experts. This is no time for staying grounded.
Other separate activities on offer include climbing – with a choice of routes inspired by famous terrains – as well as High Ropes – the highest and most extreme high ropes course in Europe over 20 metres above the ground. And you’ll arrive at your high ropes challenge in style – via zipline from a Chinook helicopter! I kid thee not!
But before you pit yourself against all the elements, there is a ‘small’ matter of Basecamp to conquer.
Here you will come up against a series of mini challenges with your assigned group where you’ll need to dig deep (some of us deeper than others!) to draw on your mental and physical strengths to overcome Survival Maze, Assault Course, Target Archery and Escape Room. None of this is as fearsome as they might have you think. That said, don’t expect an easy ride of it – especially on the assault course! Fitness not essential – but it certainly helps!
The Adventure Centre mission is to ‘test us to our limits’ and the whole experience is cleverly designed to do just that, regardless of our personal thresholds.
And of course, there is no pressure on you to complete every task if you’re not comfortable. This is not boot camp!
When it’s time to fuel up or cool down, there’s a large cafeteria area that has not resisted the opportunity to join in the theme.
But, like everything else on offer here, some elements of its menu are not for the faint hearted. You can swig down a cocktail or take on the Sriracha Scorpion Challenge with the attraction’s Scorpini; a combination of tomato juice, Sriracha chili sauce, and topped with a scorpion, added for extra spice.
Visitors can also add a unique new topping to their pizzas in the form of (actual) chilli grasshoppers.
For me, the food offering was the only disappointment on the day. The menu was both limited and overpriced. But when you’re there potentially for a few hours, you’re forced to shell out for their food and drink.
The adventure centre itself though is well thought through and I’m confident will prove to be a big hit once word gets around.
And not too ‘challenging’ on the pocket, ranging from £20 for the basic Basecamp experience through to £160 for the Go All In Pass for a full-day of adventure incorporating ALL the activities.