Finishing touches are being put on Abu Dhabi’s largest and only public aquarium, The National Aquarium. The 9,000 square metre facility will include freshwater and marine life, reptiles and amphibians, birds and mammals. The aim of the aquarium is for “people to reconnect with nature” with visitors able to explore 11 geographical zones and 60 exhibits.
The aquarium is based at Abu Dhabi’s wellness, dining and entertainment hub, Al Qana, located alongside the Khor Al Maqta waterway.
Focus on sharks and rays
The National Aquarium will be the only facility in the Emirates to house Scalloped Hammer Head sharks and Bull sharks, the latter widely considered one of the most dangerous shark species. The shark roster also includes Sand Tiger sharks, Lemon sharks, Zebra sharks, and Black Tip Reef sharks.
“People have a fear of sharks and we want to celebrate these fascinating creatures that are so crucial to the health of our oceans,” says Paul Hamilton, General Manager, The National Aquarium. “We are hoping that through personal interaction, the aquarium will help people overcome any fears and perceptions that they might have.” He points out that shark numbers are dwindling due to over-fishing.
Rays also feature heavily in the new aquarium. Species will include Eagle rays, Shovelnose rays, Cownose rays and Freshwater rays amongst others.
Journey through the Arabian Gulf
The aim is to show how a wide variety of marine animals interact with each other – and also with the facility’s team of divers. The aquarium will feature the largest walk-through tunnel in the Middle East in which guests will be surrounded by divers and 22,000 animals, giving a snapshot of the marine waters of the Gulf.
In addition, a ‘Shark Encounter’ experience will enable guests to hand-feed sharks up to two metres long.
“This will bring the excitement and wonder of the oceans to the doorsteps of Abu Dhabi’s community and to visitors from all around the world,” says Hamilton. “We look forward to providing our visitors with an unrivalled and memorable edutainment experience on every visit.”
The National Aquarium has also signed a five-year partnership with the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD) to help create an innovative rehabilitation scheme to protect and rehabilitate wildlife in the Abu Dhabi emirate. The rehabilitation centre is set to be one of the largest conservation facilities in the Middle East.
A large number of animals have already been rescued, including 200 sea turtles which have been rescued and released to date. The Aquarium has called on the public to report injured wildlife or environmental emergencies.
“People across the UAE are becoming more conscious of how they can look after the environment around them, to ensure that the habitats and ecosystems of animals are safeguarded for generations to come,” said Hamilton, talking to The National News. “People of all ages will be able to understand more about the marine world at The National Aquarium, fostering a deeper appreciation of the creatures, corals and plants that make the underwater realm so fascinating and worth protecting.”