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15 Reasons to Visit the Two Oceans Aquarium
The Two Oceans Aquarium is home to over 8 000 creatures
Update: 2 November 2021
Meet giant sea turtles, adorable clownfish, sleek and streamlined predators, waddling penguins and crabs as big as toddlers – there’s so much to see it’s easy to lose yourself in the aquarium’s stunning displays. The award-winning aquarium, which opened 25 years ago, is committed to educating visitors about the marine environments on our doorstep, as well as how to protect them. Here are 15 reasons to dive in and see what’s in the sea (and what’s new on offer).
Note: Two Oceans Aquarium is open 365 days a year, and if you become a member, you get free entrance into the venue for 12 months.
FIND OUT WHY IT IS CALLED “TWO OCEANS”
Cape Town is uniquely positioned at the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, which is part of the reason our coastline is teeming with life. The warmer and colder currents mingle here at the southern tip of Africa, giving rise to incredible biodiversity. The Two Oceans Aquarium showcases this remarkable array of life.
SEE OVER 8 000 WEIRD AND WONDERFUL CREATURES
Home to more than 8 000 creatures and over 200 species, the aquarium gives both adults and little ones the chance to come face-to-face with predators of the deep, fish as multi-coloured as the most vibrant rainbow, crabs the size of toddlers and our favourite monochromatic feathered friends, the adorable African penguins.
SEE SPECIES COMPLETELY UNIQUE TO OUR LOCAL COASTLINE
The proudly South African galjoen (also known as the black fish) may not be the prettiest fish in the sea, but it only makes its home near our shores, so we love it for that. You can see it, and many other endemic species at the Two Oceans Aquarium.
ZONE OUT IN A KELP FOREST
The kelp forests around our shores have hit fame with the award-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher, and here’s another way to access them without getting into the water. The gentle sway of the canopy is enough to mesmerise even the busiest mind. By far one of the most enchanting exhibits at the Two Oceans Aquarium, the tranquil underwater forest features countless curious fish swimming around kelp two storeys high.
YOU CAN ONLY SEE THE HAGFISH HERE
Two Oceans is home to many species that can’t be found in any other aquarium. For example, the strange and somewhat grotesque hagfish is an ancient fish without jaws, eyes, fins or scales. It also produces up to 5 litres of slime when it gets scared – and it can only be viewed at the Two Oceans Aquarium. You’ll find it in the Skretting Diversity Gallery. Along with the hagfish, the aquarium features many more endemic species including the African penguin, endangered Knysna seahorse, endangered Western leopard toad, puffadder shy shark and spotted gully shark.
FALL IN LOVE WITH SHARKS AND OTHER HUNTERS
Sharks are one of the most misunderstood species on the planet. The aquarium’s Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit gives visitors the chance to meet a wide range of impressive predators, from the ragged-tooth shark to schools of giant yellowtail and the territorial rockcod, you can watch how these creatures interact and hunt.
GET OUTTA THIS WORLD WITH THE JELLIES
Experience the other-worldly Jelly Gallery, where you can watch these extra terrestrial-like creatures shapeshift like the blobs in a lava lamp. Displayed with a glow-in-the-dark effect, it gives visitors an other-worldly, deep-sea experience. Did you know jellies have no hearts, brains or spines? But that just makes them even more fascinating considering how they move, hunt and survive.
FREE ENTRY ON YOUR BIRTHDAY
Don’t miss out on the Two Oceans Aquarium’s fabulous birthday deal, which gives South African citizens and permanent residents free access to the venue on their birthday or six days thereafter. Get all the info on the Two Oceans Aquarium birthday experience.
YOU CAN EVEN TOUCH SOME MARINE CREATURES
Touch and feel an assortment of marine creatures at the Two Oceans Aquarium’s interactive Touch Pool. Here you have the chance to handle kelp and other ocean oddities. The Microscope Exhibit turns the lens on a new world of delicate tentacles, tube feet, suckers and nippers.
SEE TURTLES AND RAYS SOAR ABOVE YOU
Don’t miss the stunning I&J Ocean Exhibit, the first display of its kind in South Africa. It features a 10-metre tunnel, and is filled with 1.6 million litres of seawater. Here you can watch languid turtles and gentle stingrays from the viewing window, or stand in the tunnel and watch shoals of temperate water fish glide gracefully overhead.
DIVE AN EXHIBIT (+ GET CERTIFIED)
If you have an Open Water 1 qualification (or higher) you can scuba dive in with stingrays and turtles in the temperate I&J Ocean Exhibit or the ragged-tooth sharks in the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit (no cage required). Divers with an Advanced Open Water qualification can dive in the swaying Kelp Forest Exhibit. And did you know that the Two Oceans Aquarium is now a registered PADI dive resort? PADI certification is the foremost diving qualification globally and is recognised around the world. Children from the age of 10 can begin earning their PADI certification at the Two Oceans Aquarium dive resort.
SUPPORT AN IMPORTANT CAUSE
The Two Oceans Aquarium, together with its newly established non-profit public benefit partner the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, are committed to marine conservation, education and research. From freeing seals entangled in litter to rehabilitating and releasing sea turtles, as well as providing curriculum-aligned lessons and enrichment courses to the youth of South Africa, these partner organisations address social and environmental concerns as part of their efforts to inspire change for the future wellbeing of the ocean. You can donate to the Aquarium Foundation here.
EAT BREAKFAST OR LUNCH AT THE RESTAURANT
All that walking around can be hungry work. Dine on something delicious at the on-site Bootlegger Coffee Company. The chic and sophisticated eatery has a gorgeous terrace that looks out onto the V&A Marina. You could grab coffee and a pastry before you set off, or settle in for lunch. There’s a large selection of wraps, sandwiches, soups, salads and burgers. Bootleggers has a dedicated children’s play area for kids who need to burn off extra energy. An added bonus is that Two Ocean Aquarium members get 10% off their bill.
THE AQUARIUM HAS EXTENDED ITS OPENING HOURS
Whether it’s pouring outside or it’s Christmas Day, the V&A Waterfront’s marine world is always there for visitors. More specifically, the entertainment centre is open every day from 9:30am until 6pm. Over the festive season (20 December, 2021-7 January, 2022) hours have been extended from 9am to 7pm. Insider’s advice: it’s usually busiest between 10am and 3pm; late afternoon is often the best time to visit because there are seldom queues and you get to be alone with the fish.
BE EDUCATED ABOUT OUR PLANET
While the aquarium is all about fun and entertainment, it’s also devoted to educating visitors. Display boards can be found next to most exhibitions and installations with comprehensive information on the animals and efforts to protect them. Take time to learn the story behind many of the creatures’ existences and develop a greater appreciation for their fragile being.
Where: Dock Road | V&A Waterfront | Cape Town
Opening Times: 9:30am–6pm weekdays; 9am-7pm festive season (26 December 2020-10 January 2021); 9 am-6pm weekends, public holidays and school holidays.
Price: depends on age and time of year. Check out the aquarium's rates on its website.
Covid-19 precautions: In accordance with Covid-19 regulations, visitor capacity of the aquarium is closely managed at all times to ensure ample space for physical distancing at 2m between visitors. Visitors entering and exiting the Aquarium are counted and visitor numbers are restricted to 50% of the Aquarium’s public capacity. Mask-wearing is compulsory and hand sanitiser is freely available throughout the building. The I&J Children’s Play Centre is open, but the Puppet Stories show takes place at the auditorium, where there is sufficient space for social distancing. Here’s a video of how we are keeping our visitors safe during the pandemic.
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