Look up. The cerulean surface of the water undulates urgently in the current, heads of kelp nodding with each crest and trough. Their great ropey stalks provide a lifeline to the rocky ocean floor below, and seem to jig and jive in an invisible breeze. Glistening clouds of tiny silver fish dart between the sea bamboo and the crimson and violet tentacles of sea anemones sway in rhythm with the kelp above.
This is the living Kelp Forest Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium, a much-beloved, family-friendly Cape Town attraction. But it is just one of the many kaleidoscopic underwater worlds you’ll encounter — whilst perfectly dry and perfectly safe — on a meander through this truly astounding facility at the V&A Waterfront. Oh, and in November, they’ve turned 25!
Jaw-dropping exhibits at the Two Oceans Aquarium
One major window on the underwater worlds at the Two Oceans Aquarium is the continuous 9 metre-wide, 4-metre-high, 22-ton panel of the I&J Ocean Exhibit, as well as its 10-metre long transparent tunnel. These constructions are a marvel but, unsurprisingly, what captures audiences more than their mind-boggling engineering, is what lies beyond the glass.
Here, sea turtles, rays, musselcracker fish, and shimmering shoals of smaller fish, glide past on an ever-repeating loop, allowing visitors an uncompromised view of the creatures we would otherwise never get to observe.
Impressive sharks and endearing penguins
Then there’s the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit with its schools of giant yellowtail and patrolling ragged-toothed sharks, their inky black pupils seeming to stare right at you… or rather, right into you. Make sure you scrutinize the nooks and crannies of these exhibits, too, for the ocean floor food chain is just as action-packed with smaller critters and sea squishies.
And, finally, there’s the Penguin Exhibit, which offers a window in on a typical Western Cape aquatic ecosystem featuring a noisy colony of tuxedo-clad African penguins (previously called “Jackass” penguins because of their donkey-like braying) and their rescue rockhopper penguins. Awkward on land yet so sleek and elegant when embraced by seawater, whoever said that penguins couldn’t fly?
Tip: Keep an eye on the Aquarium schedule or ask one of their staff about feeding times for the sharks, sea turtles, rays, and penguins, because this is when the greatest amount of activity happens!
Meet the cast of Finding Nemo
Between these major attractions is an enchanting rabbit warren of smaller exhibits; a truly spectacular collection of tanks of all shapes and sizes containing an even greater diversity of aquatic life, from pulsing, luminous jellyfish and seahorses to the entire cast of Finding Nemo.
A particularly delightful attraction for the kids is the interactive touch pool, which permits adventurers to plunge their hands into icy cold seawater and explore, by touch, the small organisms — like sea urchins, starfish, shellfish, and sea plants — that proliferate in our waters. For adults, there are diving experiences in all of the large exhibits.
Note: Please contact the Aquarium before your visit to find out which exhibits, experiences, and activities are currently available with COVID-19 social distancing restrictions in place.
Our subcontinent’s underwater worlds unfurled
A day at the Two Oceans Aquarium is to have the mystery and majesty of the ocean waters embracing our subcontinent unfurl before you in all their polychromatic beauty. And with 2020 marking the 25th anniversary of this popular Cape Town attraction, we can look forward to a line-up of exciting celebrations and events to take place throughout the ensuing year.
For more information, bookings, and enquiries go to www.aquarium.co.za