On 13 November 2016, the Two Oceans Aquarium will celebrate 21 years of operation. We have put together a series of blogs to look back on the remarkable journey.

The Two Oceans Aquarium, pre-completion

The membership programme at the Two Oceans Aquarium is almost as old as the building itself. Over the years, we’ve had literally hundreds of thousands of loyal, loving “solemates”.

Our members are our most vocal supporters, and always come out to join us in our passion projects. Here they are for African Penguin Awareness Day 2015

Besides being able to visit the fish as often as they wish and skipping the ticket office queue, our members have access to loads of benefits, like exclusive events.

Silver the Shark at a sleepover in 2004

According to Amina Hoosain, who has been our membership coordinator for 10 years and who members know by name, we’ve hosted at least 400 events for members in 21 years. These invite-only excursions have included fishing and river-rafting trips, yacht trips, behind-the-scenes tours, whale-watching trips, breakfasts with the curatorial team, “spooky” tours around Cape Town, and, of course, the wildly popular (and always-fully-booked) Aquarium sleepovers.

Behind the scenes: a special member perk

But more than just having access to perks and special offers, our members are part of the Aquarium family.

“Today my family and I had the fortunate opportunity to experience a look behind the curtain at the Aquarium. As such, my first thank you is to Razaan [Slamong De Allende], your effort in giving us a spot on the tour was so very much appreciated. Thank you to Michelle [Kirshenbaum] for being such a wonderfully informative guide to us. Michelle, your knowledge and expertise allowed us to see the dedication and incredible hard work that the staff do in order to allow us a front seat look into the life of the extraordinary sea life on display at the Two Oceans aquarium. My best ever investment is the money I pay for my annual membership. My children and I thank you immensely for affording us the pleasure to keep visiting you. ” – Liz Janse, Two Oceans Aquarium member

With the income we make from our annual pass fees, we are able to support our life-saving conservation work, and our life-changing education work.

Beyond the financial support, we are also humbled to receive our members’ genuine moral support – we know our members always wish us well, they are our most vocal supporters and the first to let us know when we are out of line.

“Watching my children develop an interest in marine life and protecting the seas, which has stemmed from them enjoying something new every time we come, has been amazing. ” – Kathryn Kenyon, Two Oceans Aquarium member

As such, they are an essential part of what makes our marine machine work, and without them we would be truly lost.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to the members we’ve had the privilege of calling family over the last 21 years. You are the soul of our business.

Members know this face, and this name: Amina Hoosain 

Speaking of soul, we asked Amina to walk us down her own Aquarium memory lane.

“I started as a volunteer aquarist in April 1997, then became a permanent staff member in January 1998. As with all Aquarium staff, we tend to be excited about most things that happen here and one thing led to another… and I became membership coordinator in 2006 (10 years!).

“Sjoe, there have been so many memorable moments! Being part of the team building our past temporary exhibits such as Fangs and Living Dead, caring for the iguanas and crocodiles, helping to build the Nemo exhibit, rescuing a baby ray just born in the Touch Pool, managing the promotions team and taking mascots all over the Western Cape to delight and educate, being the first penguin (albeit a mascot) allowed into Parliament, watching baby seahorses being born, corralling lobsters that decided to leave their display to wander around behind their exhibit, feeding and burping Clax the rockhopper penguin… the list is endless!

“And then there are moments like playing with Michael Jackson’s children, taking Rod Stewart on a tour, and chatting about life with Scarlett Johanssen and Javier Bardem.

Jip, that's the King of Pop himself, at the Aquarium in 1996

“The most rewarding part about working with Aquarium members on a daily basis is being able to have a positive impact on their lives, seeing how the kids are continually fascinated by the animals and seeing them grow up to become passionate about being caring people.

“When children stop me to tell me very eagerly about how they love sharks, clownfish and turtles, how they recycle at home, how they don’t use straws and want to be a teacher, a diver or ‘fish doctor’, that’s when I know that what we do makes a difference.

Amina helping with crafts at an early festive season sleepover

“What do I love about our members? They care. For the aquarium and the environment. They love their visits (and I think if we ever stop having a play area I’d be in huge trouble). We’ve become part of their lives."

Razaan with her hubby, Lucio De Allende

Another familiar face, Razaan Slamong De Allende, will be leaving us at the end of November after 9 nine years at the Aquarium. Members know her well, too. 

“I started here as a casual in the AfriSam Children’s Play Centre in 2007 and I did that for three years, then I became a permanent Visitors Services staff member in 2010. I moved onto being Membership Administrator in 2011. Some members know me from doing the puppet shows in the play centre, and others know me from the events we’ve hosted.

“Oh wow! There are so many happy memories. Every day is a memorable moment in this building! But my most memorable one was meeting my husband/life partner here six years ago. We tied the knot here!

Razaan went diving in our exhibits

“The most rewarding part of working with our members is seeing their appreciation! Seeing the kids’ faces when we chat about the awesome animals we have here, and also interacting with so many unique people every day. They are like extended family!” 

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