I’ve been a fan of Bear Grylls for a while now, I’ve read his book, watched his TV shows AND NOW there is a Bear Grylls Adventure experience at the NEC in Birmingham UK. I’m writing this 2 days after my visit and I’m still in pain…in a good way. Me and my sis did a couple of the ‘upgrades’, we had a full on day and I used a lot of muscles that I’m not sure I’ve ever used before, so they are currently in recovery mode!
Bear Grylls Adventure Review
Being located at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre), I had the impression that it was going to be a temporary attraction, but it very much looks like it’s going to be there for the long haul. It has its own building that is attached to the NEC, rather than inside it.
When I booked, there were 6 different elements: the Bear Grylls Adventure Basecamp, High Ropes, iFly, Dive, Climb and Shooting. Everyone had the Basecamp experience but then you could pay extra to do additional activities. Each activity aims to test out different skills and personality traits to push you to become a ‘surviver’!
Since my visit, they have now got rid of the Basecamp package which is sad because I liked the mental challenges as well as the physical challenges.
You also can’t take cameras or phones into any of the activities (including GoPros), so sorry in advance if this Bear Grylls Adventure review is a little text heavy!
The Bear Tag
In theory the Bear Tags are great…in reality mine packed up about 2 hours in to my day. They are like big chunky watches that have the time and all your activities listed. 10 minutes before your activity time slot, it vibrates and lets you know to go there. It’s also your locker ‘key’ (press and hold the locker button in with the watch face until it stays pushed in. The lockers are free and can fit a regular sized backpack comfortably).
Before you get to the Bear Grylls Adventure, you can ‘attach’ your bank details to it and then create a pin number, so you don’t need to carry cash around, you can just charge it to the tag. Lastly, every time you have a photo taken, the staff scan the tag so it’s then linked to your ‘account’.
My screen went blank after a while, it kinda looked like the battery had gone flat. But it did still open my locker and was scannable for photos and activities, I just personally couldn’t see the display. As I was there with my Sis and hers still worked, they said we could just ‘work off hers’ so I didn’t have to join the massive queue to get it reset.
Bear Grylls Adventure Basecamp
The Bear Grylls Adventure Basecamp is made up of 4 activities: an escape room, a survival maze, archery and a Royal Marines style assault course. It takes around 2 hours to complete and you can do the activities in any order. You also receive free downloads of the photos taken as part of the base camp activities, although they are more ‘green screen’ style pictures, rather than action shots taken while doing the activities.
The Escape Room has 2 different rooms where you have 7 minutes to complete each room. This is a lot shorter than the standard escape rooms which tend to last for 60 minutes. Having only 7 minutes certainly puts more pressure on you to figure out the clues, but that’s the idea of the challenge, to stay cool under pressure and think logically.
We ran out of time on the 1st room but completed the 2nd one really fast…which is ironic because one of the staff said usually people struggle with the 2nd room! I liked the Bear Grylls explorer theme too.
It takes a lot to freak me out, I’m a proud thrill seeker and was pretty confident with all the things I was signed up to do at the Bear Grylls Adventure…except the Survival Maze! It’s everything I hate and although there’s not much of a hint as to what’s involved before you enter, I knew EXACTLY what it was going to be like!
Part one is a blind folded ‘maze’, where you have to hold onto and follow a rope. I’ll say no more. The second part is all about small spaces…crawling through a tunnel and squashing yourself through ‘squeeze walls’. Part 3, snakes. Part 4, eating bugs.
For the Brits reading this, it’s a bit like a Bush Tucker Trial in I’m a Celebrity. You are given a spoon full of dehydrated mealworms and various other bugs, you have 1 minute to eat them all and then smack a buzzer once you have swallowed them. Now the room is dark so you can’t really see. I was convinced that they felt like Twiglets or was actually a handful of trail mix. They asked if anyone had nut allergies etc. I’m still not sure if it really was bugs, but that’s probably for the best though!
Royal Marines Assault Course
Not going to lie, the Bear Grylls Assault Course is tough going. I pushed myself to complete as much of it as possible, but a lot of people seemed to skip a lot of the elements. Bear Grylls himself completed the course in 1 minute 3 seconds. There are currently 9 people that have completed it faster than him which is crazy.
Looking at earlier pictures from when it first opened, to now, it looks like they changed a couple of the elements to give people/younger visitors an easier option. There’s a lower set of monkey bars…which is good, because as someone that’s only 5ft 4, I couldn’t even reach the first bar of the ‘original’ monkey bars. Even then I couldn’t complete the upwards inclined bars, but I could do the downward section.
The only other element I skipped was a 6ft wall. I tried and tried and just couldn’t do it. This is another one that changed to make it ‘easier’. They added side walls to create a solid corner that the shorter people could try to climb up.
Other than these 2 sections, I pushed myself and completed every single other element on the course. I opted to wear a timing chip for my own ‘records’ and I finished in 6 minutes 22 seconds. I got to the end and the sweat literally poured out of me!
As part of the Bear Grylls Adventure Basecamp, you got an Archery taster session. I had read other reviews that said you only get 8 arrows. During my session you had one round of 5 arrows, shooting at your own target. Then a second round of 5 arrows where the guide would shout a target number and you had to aim at that one instead.
If you’re not wearing sleeves, I’d suggest pulling the arm guard right up to your arm pit. The guides say ‘over your elbow’ but I found that the bow would still slap into my ‘bingo wing’ and I do still have a bruise from it! By the way, you have to sign waivers that you may get injured blah blah blah so it’s ‘expected’ and they can’t be blamed for things like this.
As mentioned above, the Basecamp package is no more. The Survival Maze and the Escape Room has disappeared completely. Archery is now available as a stand alone activity, rather than a taster session. The only part of the Bear Grylls Adventure Basecamp, that is left in a ‘free’ capacity is the Assault Course.
The first activity upgrade that we opted for was the High Ropes. This course is the highest ropes course in Europe! It’s supposed to start with a short zip line out of the back of a ‘Chinook’ helicopter but there was unscheduled maintenance on it during my visit so we missed out. This did give us longer on the course though as we didn’t have to wait for people to be attached to the zip line. Usually you’d only get around 30 minutes of free climb time but without the zip line, we had 45 minutes.
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There are 4 levels on the High Ropes course, with different elements that test balance and nerve. I’ve been on courses like this one before and the thing that makes it challenging is that the static line isn’t tight…it’s got a bit of slack that makes it feel like if you lose balance, you’re going to have a bit of a drop before it catches you. I told my sister to reach up as high as you can WITHOUT touching the metal work that attaches you to the course. This way it feels more stable and if you do slip, hopefully your ‘stretched up’ hand grip will give you the time you need to correct your balance without the ‘drop’!
The iFly indoor sky diving wind tunnel was the thing I was most looking forward too and it’s something I’d never done before! I’ve done a real sky dive out of a plane but the wind tunnels are a completely different experience!
You only get two 1 minute flights. Personally I would have liked it to have been longer especially for the price. But on the other hand, my body probably couldn’t have coped with much longer, especially as it was our last activity of the day and I’d already been put through my paces!
You’re kitted up with a jumpsuit, ear plugs and a helmet. Once you are in the tunnel, you can’t hear anything! You communicate through hand signals. The first flight is getting used to the tunnel. The instructors try and let go of you as much as they can, but they are always right alongside you.
The second flight was the one I’d have liked to have been longer. You have the opportunity to pay another £7 to have an instructor take you up to the top of the wind tunnel (they hold on to you the whole time during this but you can’t really feel them). This is squished into your 1 minute flight time. I’d have preferred to have the 1 minute of solo time and then if you pay the £7 you should then get an extra 30 seconds.
Everyone is given a participant certificate and then you can pay £10 to get video footage of both flights (from 3 different angles) and then 2 GIFS. There are no still photos though and the videos are download only. There is a viewing platform next to the wind tunnel where non participants can stand and take photos and videos. If all members of your party are flying though, you can’t take cameras or phones into the tunnel waiting area.
The instructors are absolutely brilliant though and if you can catch them practising/warming up, they are amazing. Some of the stunts they can do are awesome!
Other Activities at Bear Grylls Adventure Birmingham
We didn’t do the rock climbing walls, the shooting range or the snorkel/scuba diving. The tank is pretty cool though, it’s filled with fish and sharks. I’ve been snorkelling multiple times before and have gone scuba diving a couple of times. If you haven’t done them before it’d be a good introduction to the sport! They do advise that if you do the scuba diving, you can’t then do the iFly within 12 hours though.
There are a couple of other activities that you don’t have to prebook. Including hanging on to a bar for 2 minutes to win a goodie bag of Bear Grylls merchandise which costs £3 and a parachuting simulator for £7.
You’ll also find a Costa Coffee and a canteen which serves pizzas and a couple of other hot food options. You can pay for these using the Bear Tag.
Bear Grylls Birmingham Tips
- Go Early – We got there at 9am when it opened and there was no line to collect the Bear Tag and we didn’t have to wait for any of the Basecamp activities. By late morning and throughout the afternoon, the lines were quite big, but we did visit on a Saturday at the start of the school summer holidays.
- Water – There is a water fountain at the end of the assault course, near the Bear Grylls Canteen. You could get a reusable water bottle to refill here or if you can’t be bothered to keep going back to the lockers, just swing by the water fountain between activities.
- What To Wear – They suggest wearing clothes that cover arms and legs. It gets really hot in the indoor area. I’m glad I was covered for the assault course but then I took off my long sleeve top as I was sweating like a pig. Lots of people were just wearing shorts and t-shirts. If you are doing the snorkelling or scuba diving, you’ll need to take swimwear too.
- Gift Shop Discount – During my visit there was a 20% off ‘happy hour’ discount Thursday to Sunday between 2pm – 3pm and then again in the evening (I can’t remember if it was 5-6pm or 6-7pm…)!
How To Get To Bear Grylls Birmingham
For us, the easier way was to travel by train. The closest station is Birmingham International, which is connected to the NEC. Just follow the signs from the train station, through the NEC building, you’ll then exit and it’s just outside on the right hand side. The first thing you’ll see is the high ropes course, you can’t miss it!
There is also a car park where if you get your ticket validated in the attraction, you received discounted parking. It’s £2 for the first hour and then £1 for every hour after. With all the activities we completed, we arrived at 9am and left at 2.40pm, so we were there for nearly 6 hours. We didn’t stop for food though, which would add a little extra time on.
For more information, check out: The Bear Grylls Adventure Birmingham
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