To our visitors, the Two Oceans Aquarium is a wonderous place to go for adventures. While you explore the exhibits and everything that the Aquarium has to offer, behind the scenes a whole team of people is constantly at work to ensure that each and every visitor has an amazing experience. Just like any other business, the Aquarium team consists of various departments – finance, marketing, curatorial and a whole lot more. With the Aquarium temporarily closed to the public, the majority of this team is working from home, with only the core, essential staff looking after the animals onsite. But, as anyone who works at the Aquarium will tell you, being away from the Aquarium, is an adjustment of note. What do those who are working from home miss most about the Aquarium?
Bianca Engel (Assistant Head of Education, Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation)
I miss the morning visits by the rockhopper penguins to the classroom and the occasional cuddles. Being able to pop down to the big exhibits just to watch the fish and sharks swim by and walking past visitors and seeing their excited reactions. It always reminds me of how fortunate we are to experience it every day. And most of all I miss the camaraderie between staff, though we are still able to keep in touch virtually.
Saliegh Adams (Front Office Manager) and Phumza Jongihlathi (Marketing Coordinator)
Helen Lockhart (Communications and Sustainability Manager)
What I miss most are all the exceptional people that I am privileged to work with…
Our front of house team who are always full of bounce and smiles when I see them during the course of the day. The workshop guys who are always busy up ladders, fixing pumps, painting, sawing, cementing, building, tiling, replacing lightbulbs, cleaning the incoming pipes, working on the life-support systems for the animals… always cheerful and friendly and willing to help with the smallest of things.
I miss seeing the school children, chattering with excitement as they come up the stairs to our discovery centres where our teaching staff are waiting to show them the underwater wonders of the ocean.
I miss the singing of the cleaning staff as they go about their early morning duties.
I miss the laughter of the senior management team when we are gathered for one of our monthly meetings.
I miss the Curatorial team – the people who are currently at the Aquarium every day right now taking care of all our animals. The smell of the food preparation kitchen where head chef Mameli prepares the food for the animals, bumping into one of the divers as they come down the passage, water dripping from their wetsuits after a dive feed in one of the exhibits, crazy people in white lab coats talking to penguins… and of course meeting the rocky team as they bring their feathered charges, the rockhoppers, back down from swimming in the Kelp Forest Exhibit to their home on the beach in the Penguin Exhibit. I miss sticking my head into the veterinary clinic to see what the team are up to – sometimes Talitha is there sitting with a turtle between her knees, waiting for it to swallow its food.
Of course I miss my own little team in the green office upstairs on the roof – I miss eating cake with these people!
I miss all the people who I don’t get to see regularly – those in finance, the sales team, the puppeteers and the staff who entertain the little visitors in the Play Centre.
And of course there are the exhibits and animals (Bob!), but it’s the people I think of when I think about the Aquarium and who I will be so happy to reconnect with eventually.
Jacinta Subjee (Sponsorship and Foundation Coordinator)
Michael Farquhar (CEO)
In the week before lockdown, when some of us were still at work, I missed the noise of excited visitors in the foyer, eagerly waiting to get through the turnstiles and into a different world. It is very hard to save the oceans without any visitors! Fortunately, the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation is doing it online.
Ingrid Sinclair (Marketing Manager)
I miss my daily walks to the “admin block” on the other side of the building – past the Kelp Forest Exhibit and Predator Exhibit, and inevitably high-fiving Fikile on my way – to drop off invoices, pop my head into Alichia’s office to check in, saying hi to Courtney and Kath on the other side of the room, getting a pen from Roshanna, and then running into Saliegh and getting an update on the Visitor Services team from him on my way back. We’ve always said the Aquarium was built for animals, not staff, and as such some of us work quite far apart from each other. My daily walks let me not only see a range of my wonderful colleagues, but also our visitors and their looks of awe and fascination as they engage with our exhibits. A daily reminder of what’s important!
Msa Mseko (Floor Supervisor)
Russell Stevens (Head of Education, Two Oceans Education Education Foundation)
I do love working in the Aquarium building, there are wonderful people with whom I engage, people who challenge my thinking and who are very good at thinking out of the box. Recently my role has been to write the Marine Sciences Curriculum and to produce teaching content. There are a total of 85 topics in the Grade 10 to 12 curriculum and I have 14 topics to complete. So working at home with these tasks means that I can focus on writing “textbook content” with less distraction.
I work with an incredible team who were given seven days to convert two of our courses (Grade 11 and Grade 6) into an online format. They taught from the Aquarium and after shutdown from home, to students who participated in the courses from their homes.
Hence even at home there is never a dull moment…
Carrin Viret (School Booking Coordinator)
What I miss most is the dynamic team I work with and interact with everyday.
Being away from the Aquarium made me realize even more how much of a family we really are.
As the world rides out this pandemic and the Aquarium remains closed, some staff will remain working from home, while the groups responsible for the essential upkeep of the Aquarium, looking after the animals and ensuring that everything continues to function accordingly, make their way to the Aquarium on a daily basis. We want to thank these groups for their dedication and perseverance during this time. We’ll see you all when we get back!