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Interactive South Coast Marine Life Center Reopens Seven Days A Week

The Sea Center is interactive for visitors
The Sea Center is interactive for visitors

What do you think a shark feels like to touch? You can find out for yourself – if you’re bold enough - at a unique interactive marine life center in Santa Barbara, which has just reopened seven days a week.

12-year-old Shaun has his hands in a water tank at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.

He's touching a sea urchin. He says it feels "soft" and "kinda sticky" and the volunteer staff member explains that the creature is stinging but doesn't hurt our skin and just feels sticky to us.

Shaun, his two younger brothers, and his mom are visiting from San Francisco, and say the sharks feel "rough" - after getting the opportunity to touch them.

It's a unique opportunity to get hands-on with the marine life at the Center, which has - like so many businesses that have an interactive element - had a difficult past 15 months.

The Center is reopening seven days a week after going through a year where they had to close, reopen outside only, reopen on limited days and yes, that word, pivot.

"We are super hands-on," says Sea Center Director, Rich Smalldon. "While we were in the thick of COVID, we had to operate outside."

"We are easing our way back to normal," he told KCLU.

A pool holds sea urchins and star fish which visitors can touch
A pool holds sea urchins and star fish which visitors can touch

Smalldon says the ocean is a "magical place", which enthralls the young and young-at-heart alike.

"It's so different to what they see in normal life."

"The majority of our animals are local animals from the Santa Barbara Channel, " explained Smalldon.

The Sea Center on Stearns Wharf is back open 10-5, 7 days a week, throughout the summer.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

Since joining the station she's won 10 Golden Mike Awards, 6 Los Angeles Press Club Awards, 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards and a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for eleven years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.