Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi’s newest theme park will begin welcoming visitors on Tuesday, May 23 and is currently preparing for its grand opening.
SeaWorld Abu Dhabi occupies 183,000 square meters on Yas Island, spread over five floors and divided into eight themed zones. Home to 100,000 animals from 150 species, the venue will also feature many thrill rides, a variety of restaurants and cafés, and interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages.
It’s the first SeaWorld to open outside of the United States. Developed as a collaboration between Miral and US-based SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, it’s also the first not to feature captive orcas. Instead there are dolphins, rays, starfish, flamingos, penguins and plenty of fish.
Carlos Rodriguez, deputy general manager of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, said the park highlights the unique connection humans have with the sea. He accompanied Gulf News for a peek at two of the park’s immersive areas: Abu Dhabi Ocean and Tropical Ocean.
Abu Dhabi Marine
The first is accessible via two flights of escalators. This main area that introduces visitors to the park is aptly named Abu Dhabi Ocean. As an introduction to the park, visitors can get up close and personal with marine life, and even touch a variety of marine life—including starfish, fish, and rays—in one of four touch pools.
“Abu Dhabi clearly has a unique relationship with the ocean, an area that shows visitors the wealth we have in our own backyard,” Rodriguez said
Decoration around the touch pool is reminiscent of the mangroves of Abu Dhabi, and the emirate’s fossilized dunes and mountain peaks dot the upper area of the lobby.
Visitors then enter an area that looks like many of the UAE’s traditional fishing ports, complete with models of fishing boats.
Sea World Abu Dhabi also hosts 3 of Sea World Abu Dhabi’s 18 restaurants and cafes,
Leading from here is a central hub that connects to the park’s other seven “realms”, the same ocean.
Tropical Seas is another large area open to journalists. Gorgeous flamingos greet visitors who wander into the area, which appears to be dotted with pools of water. In the past it was an aviary with an amazing collection of tropical birds such as toucans and parrots.
A cavernous cave that feels like part of Mexico’s subterranean caverns, known as cenotes, then takes visitors to an exterior roller coaster known as Manta, or to a set of viewing windows where dolphins can be spotted. The friendly marine mammals often swim some distances when they spot visitors, and this is certainly a highlight of the park experience.
From this subterranean area, visitors can reach a 2,000-seat amphitheater area designed to resemble tropical rice fields in Indonesia. Visitors sit on these benches overlooking the pond where SeaWorld’s dolphin shows are held.
According to Rodriguez, the park is home to a pod of 24 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
Dolphin trainers, veterinarians, husbandry specialists, and many other members of the park’s zoology team greet visitors during any walk. That team currently makes up 50 percent of the park’s staff, Rodriguez said.
Visitors can visit six other areas.
Endless Ocean: Home to one of the largest multi-species aquariums in the world, with 68,000 different animals living in 25 million liters of water. A total of 20 viewing windows allow visitors to enjoy the beauty of the ocean. The park will also offer diving experiences and underwater hikes.
Arctic: This area simulates arctic conditions for its sub-zero inhabitants, including walruses, puffins, and sea otters. Interactive exhibits will introduce visitors to sailing and underwater life.
Antarctica: Penguins are the stars of this area, and visitors can plan encounters with many species of these birds, or watch them mingle with other cold-water fish and sea stars.
Rocky Point: Seals and sea lions are the main draw at Rocky Point, where the cold-weather creatures put on a show or simply rest on the rocks or in the sea.
Micro Ocean: Designed with kids in mind, Micro Ocean offers family-friendly rides. Small tourists can also pick up some souvenirs.
One Ocean: This main park hub was built to host immersive shows using screens and drones. Visitors can also go to the park’s animal care center, or access other areas from this area.
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Tickets: Dh375 per adult, Dh290 for children under 11
Eight zones with 150 animals
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