NAT_210802 Aquarium Shark1-1627901542332
Visitors will be able to see feeding demonstrations and hand-feed sharks and rays at National Aquarium Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Visitors to the upcoming National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi will be able to see more than 200 sharks and rays from 25 different species, the facility announced on Monday.

Set to be the largest aquarium in the region, the attraction, located in Al Qana, will allow guests to delve into a submarine world and discovered a wide variety of species living in the oceans.

Multiple shark species

It will house a school of scalloped hammerhead sharks, as well as bull sharks, which can be seen for the first time in the UAE. Other shark species at the aquarium including sand tiger sharks, lemon sharks, zebra sharks, black tip reef sharks, eagle rays, shovelnose rays, cownose rays, and freshwater rays.

The attraction will showcase some species for the first time in the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

‘Turning fear into fascination’

The facility said: “Sharks are one of the most misunderstood animals in the ocean with the misperception that they are dangerous, a narrative that has been reinforced by the film industry. With their numbers dwindling due to over-fishing, the team at The National Aquarium is seeking to turn fear into fascination and educate visitors around how well these apex predators can adapt to living peacefully. Guests will be able to observe how these beautiful animals interact with other species, including The National Aquarium’s team of world-class divers.”

Live experiences

The feeding demonstrations with both sharks and rays is being touted as “an unmissable experience” for visitors. A public ‘Shark Encounter’ will also allow guests to hand-feed sharks as large as two metres long.

Paul Hamilton, general manager of The National Aquarium, said: “We cannot wait for our opening this year, to reveal our array of animals and animal-related activities. In general, people have a fear of sharks and we want to celebrate these fascinating creatures that are so crucial to the health of our oceans. We are hoping that through personal interaction, the aquarium will help people overcome any fears and perceptions that they might have. Most importantly, we look forward to providing our visitors with an unrivalled and memorable edutainment experience on each and every visit.”

In total, the aquarium will house 46,000 creatures, distributed among 10 zones. A large tunnel-walkthrough, surrounded by 22,000 marine animals, will be one of the highlights for visitors. In addition to welcoming visitors, it will also focus on creating awareness about marine life and its conservation through dedicated tours for schoolchildren.

Environmental rescue efforts

The facility has meanwhile signed a five-year partnership with the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi with the aim of creating the “largest and most innovative” rehabilitation schemes to protect and rehabilitate wildlife in Abu Dhabi emirate. The partnership, signed in July, has already resulted in a large number of animals being saved, including 200 sea turtles that have been rescued and successfully released.