30 October 2013

Seeing the forest for the trees: a window to an underwater world

Renée Leeuwner – Assistant Communications & Sustainability Manager at Two Oceans Aquairum

When we think of forests, we often immediately think of the Amazon rainforest, Knysna Forest or even the Black Forest in Germany.

We think of trees and birds, the smell of damp leaves and forest floor coverings. We see in our mind’s eye how the sunlight plays through the foliage and how the birds and butterflies flutter from branch to branch, and flower to flower.

Now imagine all of this, but in the ocean – underwater. Welcome to a kelp forest!

Divers in the help forest. Photo by Sven Lennert

The Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit is the second-largest exhibit in the Two Oceans Aquarium. It holds a massive 800 000 litres of water and hundreds of fish found only around the South African coast. It also holds the interest of every visitor who enters its world of gently swaying kelp plants and silvery, darting fish.

The first sighting of the exhibit is enough to keep visitors mesmerised for hours. Photo by Renée Leeuwner

Rounding the corner from the Sappi River Meander, visitors are greeted by a large rectangular window. Often, this window is so captivating, that guests don’t realise that just 10 steps away, the main viewing panels open up into a magical underwater forest. Imagine their surprise when they take those steps and see this underwater world!

The main window panel of the exhibit. Photo by Lesley Barker

Not only is the Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit a firm favourite with visitors, it is also one of only a handful such living forests on display in the world, and the only one of its kind in Africa. The exhibit is maintained at the same temperature as the current sea temperature, which is just what the kelp plants need, and a plunger creates a surge throughout the exhibit – causing the kelp plants to sway hypnotically.

Our national fish, the galjoen. Photo by Dagny Warmerdam

Many of the fish in this exhibit, like white steenbras, red stumpnose and white musselcracker are endemic to South African waters. It is also here that you will find South Africa’s national fish, the galjoen.

The Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit is certainly one of, if not the, most mesmerising exhibit in the Two Oceans Aquarium. It is a place to discover the similarities between a marine ecosystem and a terrestrial ecosystem. It is also a place to sit down and get drawn into the tranquil world of an underwater forest.

Come and sea it for yourself – buy your tickets online and save 10%.

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