There's no denying that 2020 has been a difficult year for many South Africans, but even during this tumultuous time, we've been able to find positive moments and experiences worthy of celebration. Here are a few of the Two Oceans Aquarium's highlights of 2020:
Coming together during lockdown
On 18 March, when the Two Oceans Aquarium took the proactive step of closing its doors ahead of the national lockdown, we had no idea what the future would hold for us. Now that we are open again, we can reflect on what really mattered during that time - despite the uncertainty, our team was able to pull together and come out stronger.
Plus, we got to use the opportunity to share some of our behind-the-scenes activities with you!
And let's not forget - we also got to put our new General Curator through a "trial by fire" at this time (sorry Tinus)!
Roofus the rooftop turtle rescue
Lockdown meant that the public couldn’t go to the beach and that sadly meant that many stranded sea turtles were not found and brought to the Aquarium Foundation for rehabilitation. One hatchling however, got lucky and was ‘saved’ by a seagull or some other bird, as it was dropped on a rooftop in St Francis and discovered by Marius Scholtz.
Thanks to Marius, ‘Roofus’ was taken to Bayworld in Port Elizabeth for rehabilitation.
Celebrating our birthday
The Two Oceans Aquarium turned 25 years old on 13 November 2020. Many of our staff have been with the Aquarium for more than a decade and some for the full 25 years! We have celebrated so many achievements over the years and these have been made possible thanks to all of you – our members, volunteers, supporters, followers and fans.
Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit
We joined forces with the international organisation, the Save Our Seas Foundation, in an effort to increase awareness about the plight of sharks. The Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit remains one of our most popular exhibits and one can often hear exclamations of awe from our visitors as they are mesmerised by our majestic ragged-tooth sharks.
Lockdown and Covid-19 did not prevent us from getting to the beach to clean up litter and plastic. On 18 July (Mandela Day) we met up in person with some of our colleagues from the Aquarium, the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, and the Beach Coop. This was the first time many of us had seen each other in person since the Aquarium closed on 18 March and we all started working from home. It was a happy reunion!
On 28 November we visited Milnerton beach with colleagues, members and volunteers. It was a great day to be out on the beach and to appreciate the view of Table Mountain across the bay.
Epic seal rescues - including an Antarctic refugee on Clifton beach
It's never a dull day when it comes to seal rescues! Together, the V&A Waterfront's Wildlife Management Programme, Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation and Two Oceans Aquarium teams have been hard at work - such as the epic rescue of 28 Cape fur seals stuck in the nearby drydock.
Sometimes seal rescues needed a bit more subtlety - this is where our "seal ninjas" came in!
And, let's not forget Daisy the Subantarctic fur seal that somehow found her way onto Clifton Beach. The Two Oceans Aquarium teamed up with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to patch her up and send her back out to find her home on one of the Southern Ocean islands.
Penguins roaming the Aquarium during lockdown
The antics of our rockhopper penguins brought joy to thousands of people around the world as they hopped up and down stairs, visited the Kelp Forest Exhibit and eye-balled the sharks in the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit.
We could not have imagined a better way of celebrating Heritage Day than by teaming up with the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation to take up the President's Jerusalema Dance Challenge!
Plastic Free July webinars
While people across South Africa, and indeed the world, were locked down in their homes, plastic pollution continued to infiltrate our ocean and endanger the lives of its inhabitants. Since we couldn’t do in-person events, we presented a series of webinars together with the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, the Beach Coop and Twyg. The webinar themes were: Inspire to Protect, Our Ocean Impact, The Story of Plastic and Towards New Solutions – a selection of passionate guest speakers inspired, educated and challenged us to rethink our plastic habits. Catch all the webinars here.
Our journey with Yoshi came to an end
After 1 003 days, 40 011 kilometres and 23 509 satellite transmissions, our journey with Yoshi the loggerhead turtle came to an end when her satellite tag sent its last transmission from Australia's Eighty Mile Beach. We think Yoshi is home!
Yoshi's incredible journey inspired thousands of ocean-lovers and for nearly three years she was undeniably the most famous turtle in the world - she even set the world record for the longest journey of any tracked marine animal. She visited Robben Island, Namibia's Skeleton Coast, Angola, the mysterious seamounts of the southern Indian Ocean and eventually Western Australia. She is turtley awesome and we hope to one day receive news that she's been spotted!
Learning to thrive online
2020 has not been an easy year for our non-profit partner, the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation. During lockdown, the team of teachers have had to very quickly adapt the classroom-based practical lessons normally held at the Aquarium, to online courses accessible to anyone with a smartphone. From fun activities for kids and families, to in-depth oceanography lessons, we are very proud of what they've accomplished.
Perhaps best of all, the team's work on the new Marine Sciences school subject has paid off and it will be officially rolling out in 2021. Learners who will be in Grade 10 in 2021, can sign-up to do this course online and have this exciting new subject officially added to their Matric Certificate upon completion.
Some crazy, but incredibly passionate people opted to spend 24 hours floating in little Optimist dinghies on top of the I&J Ocean Exhibit to raise funds for charity. Instead of participating in the annual charity race, Greg Bertish (Founder, The Little Optimist Trust), Dr Cleeve Robertson (CEO, NSRI) and our own Maryke Musson (CEO, Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation) sailed the little boats throughout the day and night and raised funds for education and turtles. And Siya Kolisi came to visit!
African penguins are fast approaching extinction in the wild. We usually support SANCCOB's annual penguin release event, but due to Covid, access was highly restricted so we decided to show our support from afar - enter the mascots!
Samantha of the Aquarium, Rocket of KFM 94.5 and Themba from Love Cape Town met up with our real penguins to watch SANCCOB's livestream and spread the love of African penguins to Aquarium visitors!
Robben Island swim
Two more of our crazy, passionate staff participated in an ocean adventure – a swim from Robben Island to Big Bay – to raise funds for turtles and sharks. Talitha Nobel (Conservation Coordinator, Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation) and Leigh de Necker (Senior Aquarist, Two Oceans Aquarium) plunged into the icy Atlantic Ocean and went through their strokes, inspired by the animals which they care deeply about.
Getting creative during lockdown
Our Communications and Marketing team got innovative to engage you and your children with marine-themed activities during lockdown. Did you participate in the Marine Masterminds competition or did you make a delightful rockhopper penguin with your kids?
And what about our free turtle-themed boardgame?
- Make a rockhopper penguin at home - craft for kids
- Make an octopus snack container from recyclable material
- Plastic-free Play: A parent's survival pack
And did you try out any of chef Lucio's delicious, sustainable recipes?
Every year, the UCT Underwater Club complete a 24-hour marathon dive at the Two Oceans Aquarium to raise funds for good causes. This year, more than 100 scuba divers participated - raising over R57 000 for the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, Shine Literacy and the Rural Education Access Programme.
We hope to sea you all again in 2021, and are looking forward to being able to create new, positive memories with you all!