Some dreams do come true.
After much planning, discussion, number-crunching and waiting with baited breath, our dream will finally become reality when we start construction on a brand new large-scale exhibit in 2014. And this is hopefully just the first phase of a long awaited expansion of the Two Oceans Aquarium.
The dream began way back in 2002 when Lex Fearnhead, our first director, was still at the helm. As is always the case in the Aquarium, the best ideas win and once the seed was planted there was no stopping the creative management team. The vision was big – a new predator exhibit, an Antarctic display, an enlarged children’s play centre and an extended river meander exhibit. These ideas were presented to the Aquarium’s owners, who have changed several times over the years, but it is the current owners who are dedicated to the development of the V&A Waterfront and who saw the vision for the Aquarium development.
“This is indeed a dream come true for us,” said Dr Pat Garratt, the Aquarium’s Managing Director. “I am very excited because not only do we get a state-of-the-art new predator exhibit, but we’re also able to change our current predator exhibit into a dedicated large shark display. Given that sharks are one of our strongest draw cards, it will be fantastic to show our visitors different species of these impressive and majestic animals.
“In terms of building the new display, we have a superb team in the form of our Technical Manager, Mike de Maine and our Curator, Michael Farquhar. They are working closely with the architects, the quantity surveyors, engineers and the builders. Mike actually returned from Dubai in 2008 specifically to be involved in the design and set-up of the life-support systems for this display – and he has been chomping at the bit to get going!”
The new predator exhibit will contain 1.5 million litres of seawater and will be six metres in depth. A single acrylic panel, supplied by Clax Italia in Italy and measuring nine metres long and four metres wide, will provide a seamless window into the exhibit. “The most exciting aspect of this new exhibit is the 10 metre complete full tunnel,” said Dr. Pat. “We are thrilled that this will be incorporated as many of our visitors over the years have been somewhat disappointed with the half tunnel on the current I&J Predator Exhibit. Looking on to the main viewing panel is a large area which can be utilised for functions – this has a much greater capacity than the current predator exhibit so be the first and book your function now!”
Michael is equally enthusiastic about the expansion. “I am absolutely delighted that our plans have come to fruition and that we will be able to separate the fish, rays and turtles from the large sharks. The water temperature in the new exhibit will be maintained at a minimum of 20 degrees Celsius, which will allow us to include some sub-tropical species as well as species from the southern Cape coast. This means that we can showcase a greater diversity of species from the waters off southern Africa”.
Some of the species will include spotted eagle rays, honeycomb rays, smooth hound and spotted gully sharks as well as Yoshi the loggerhead turtle and Cannelloni the green turtle. “I am particularly excited about the possibility of displaying skipjack and longfin tuna. In the early days of the Aquarium we displayed these fast-swimming fish, but the ragged-tooth sharks ate them! This time they will be safe as the raggies will be in a different display”, said Michael.
The new building will go up in the parking area between the Aquarium and the One & Only Hotel. The construction team will move onsite in early January and we aim to open the new exhibit in time for the holiday season at the end of 2014.
We’ll bring you regular updates of all the highlights of this exciting new development, so watch this space!