A review – of sorts!
Today we visited Amazonia, the indoor tropical rainforest at M&D’s in Strathclyde Park, Motherwell. We purchased a Groupon offer at £12 for four people. I decided to rate our experience and the facilities in case it helps anyone plan or decide upon their visit. These are rated based on my own opinion of how I found them at the time I visited and are only based on our experience. Each person will have their own experience and opinions and should plan outings according to their own needs.
I took my three kids (ages 5, 4 and 10 months) and went with my sister and two of her children, along with another of my nephews (aged 9,8 and 1 respectively.) We had two buggies between us and 6 kids in total! It was a rainy day and we thought it might be a nice indoor activity.
On arriving outside M&D’s in the front car park, I saw that the parking spaces were not particularly big. This is a bugbear of mine. I know businesses want to fit in as many spaces as they can to ensure ample parking, however for places like this where the main clients are children, a little extra space would be really useful to help them to be able to get in and out of the car. The disabled spaces didn’t appear any bigger than the regular spaces either, just a little closer to the door. Space is definitely an issue for us getting in and out of the car, as I need to get in and lift J out so that he doesn’t get his foot caught or jump out and fall.
Once J and W were suitably restrained in the buggy, the next task was to find the disabled access to the building. This is a large ramp over at the right hand side and takes you up to the main entrance doors, the doors we needed to use were manual and therefore made it difficult to get inside with the buggies.
Once inside we went to the information kiosk to redeem our vouchers and were given a card for access to the Amazonia attraction and instructions on how to get there. In writing this I bear in mind that the theme park section of M&D’s is currently closed and therefore this may not be the usual access route for Amazonia. However, the route was to go right through the building to the bowling and then out of the doors on the right to cross over to the other building. Sounds fine and it was until we got to the bowling and the way in was down a set of stairs (I think around 7-8 steps). There was a tiny open top lift to the right but it didn’t seem to be working and was poorly signposted. I think you required a member of staff to help operate this but when you are at the top of the stairs with your buggy and kids I’m not sure how you are meant to get that person. If you are in a wheelchair I’m sure it would be a lot more difficult too! Anyway, we decided to bump the buggies down the stairs – not an easy task when mine had a big heavy 5 year old in the front (who was driven crazy by all the noise and flashing lights around him) and a 10 month old in the back. Nevertheless with my sister’s help we managed and made our way out to the Amazonia building.
The member of staff on the front desk was lovely and helpful. She greeted us and put stamps on our hands so we could come and go as we pleased. J was a bit frenzied by this time after the ordeal of negotiating all of the amusements, noises and stairs to get there. He was not keen on getting a stamp on his hand. The girl was patient and spoke calmly to him, showing him a frog stamp that was different to ours and stamping her own hand to show him, then holding the inked part of the stamp out to gently press on, rather than stamping it down like ours. He allowed her to do it and we were able to go on our way.
Once inside it was very warm (who would have thought an indoor rainforest would be warm 😂) We had a quick walk around. J was out of the buggy to see if allowing him to explore would help him to settle. It turns out it didn’t and we had to return him to the buggy to have cuddles and some face stroking to try to calm him. My sister and most of the kids headed off to the animal handling session and I stayed out in the rainforest with J and W. There was a waterfall at the back which I parked the buggy next to. I knelt beside it to hold J’s hand and allow him to watch and listen to the pouring water in the hope of helping to calm him a little. While we were there a couple of butterflies fluttered past which he loved, pointing them out and saying his word for butterfly. One of the keepers had a butterfly on her hand as she walked past and she noticed his interest and brought it over for him to see. He liked this and was now beginning to calm a little. Eventually we were able to take a walk round and look at the frogs, monkeys and snakes.
When the rest of the brood returned we had a look at some of the other animals and headed back over to the main building for lunch. Again, having to enter through the bowling, we had to negotiate the stairs. The stairs (and so-called lift) are right next to a punch bag machine which had three men competing with each other to show off how manly and strong they were, though notably not manly or strong enough to help us when we had to lift the two buggies back up the stairs. Thanks lads!
The food on offer inside wasn’t great but we had brought sandwiches as a back up, thankfully! Everywhere indoors is very flashy with lights and machines and very noisy. J finds this hard to deal with so we didn’t stay long before returning to finish our visit in Amazonia.
This time the kids fed the fish, which J loved. So much so that he almost somersaulted himself over the barrier and in beside them! He was so excited by it and didn’t really want to move on. We listened to a talk from one of the keepers in the parrot enclosure as she fed them. She was nice and informative but J did not like the parrots at all. They are very noisy and every time they squawked he winced and put his hands over his ears.
Overall the visit went well. Once J calmed down and got used to his surroundings, we were able to have a good look round and see all of the animals. The others enjoying holding snakes and other such crazy things (which cost £1 extra per person but based on our original price this wasn’t bad.) The ‘Amazonia Interactive’ which was advertised as being included was really aimed at visiting educational groups, as it’s an interactive video presentation which gives information about layers of the rainforest etc. We decided not to bother with this, so can’t say how good or otherwise it was.
Luckily J did not need changed while we were there, as a look inside the disabled toilet showed the changing facilities. A standard wall-fixed plastic baby change unit that we would struggle to fit him on and isn’t designed to hold someone his weight.
On our way out we had a brief visit to the shop where J and B both chose a bouncy ball. I gave them money and took them to the counter to pay for their purchases. I was so pleased when J wanted to do it himself. The same helpful girl who greeted us at the start of our visit was there and she leaned down to take his item and money. He said his version of ‘this please’ and handed them over willingly, patiently waiting for the ball to be returned to him. This is major progress and I was so pleased he was able to do it! Thank you to the girl behind the desk who helped a lot just by being friendly and patient.
After this we left the pleasant space of Amazonia to negotiate our way back through the madness of the indoor M&D’s building and back out to the car. I have to say I enjoyed it on the whole but the experience inside M&D’s did let the visit down. Had I not had my sister there to help, I would have been unable to manoeuvre the building and reach my destination successfully. In my view this makes the disabled access poor and I think this is a major consideration when going on an outing with children, people with disabilities or anyone with any kind of mobility issues or needs.
In summing up, thank you to the staff in Amazonia for being friendly and welcoming, especially the girl on the front desk. Thanks to my mum for buying the Groupon voucher. Thank you to my sister for her help and patience and to her two wonderful kids who were with her and helped to keep B entertained and ran around after J to keep him safe. A special thanks to R for stopping him catapulting in beside the fish!
In rating this visit I took several things into account. Each is rated out of 5. I have included M&D’s in some of my ratings as it was necessary for us to use it to get there and back and therefore contributed to our overall experience.
Availability/Helpfulness of Staff-
M&D’s- ** (based on helpful info desk girl but no staff around to help with lift or facilities when needed)
Amazonia-***** Lovely, friendly staff
Value for money- **** (based on price of Groupon deal we purchased)
Range of activities- *** (Amazonia, we did not use the activities within M&D’s so cannot rate them)
Overall experience- *** (This score does include M&D’s as the experience there was part of our overall experience.)