Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi’s latest theme park will welcome visitors from Tuesday, May 23 onwards, and is now gearing up for its grand opening.
SeaWorld Abu Dhabi spans 183,000 square metres in Yas Island spread over five floors, and is divided into eight themed zones. Home to 100,000 individual animals from 150 species, the venue will also feature a number of thrilling rides, a variety of restaurants and cafés, and interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages.
This is the first SeaWorld opening outside the United States. Developed as a collaboration between Miral and the US-based SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, it is also the first not to feature captive killer whales. Instead, there are dolphins, rays, sea stars, flamingoes, penguins, and a multitude of fish.
Carlos Rodriguez, deputy general manager at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, said the park highlights humanity’s unique connection with the ocean. Heaccompanied Gulf News for a sneak peek into two of the park’s immersive areas: the Abu Dhabi Ocean, and Tropical Ocean.
Abu Dhabi Ocean
The first of these is accessible through two flights of escalators. This main zone that introduces visitors to the park is fittingly titled 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 them — sea stars, fish and rays included — in one of four touch pools.
“Abu Dhabi obviously has a unique relationship with the ocean, and this realm shows visitors the riches we have in our own backyard,” Rodriguez said
The touch pools are surrounded by decor reminiscent of Abu Dhabi’s mangrove forests, and the emirate’s fossil dunes and peaks dot the upper areas of the halls.
Visitors then head into a section that is designed to look like the many traditional fishing ports in the UAE, complete with a model of a fishing vessel.
Abu Dhabi Ocean also hosts three of the 18 restaurants and cafés hosted at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi,
Leading off from this is a central hub that connects to the other seven ‘realms’ of the park, known as One Ocean.
Tropical Ocean is another large zone that was open to journalists. A flamboyance of flamingoes greets visitors strolling into the area, which appears to be dotted by pools of water. Past this is an aviary with a number of stunning tropical birds, such as toucans and parrots.
A cavernous cave that feels like it is part of the underground Mexican caves, known as cenotes, then takes visitors either to the external roller coaster known as the Manta, or to a set of viewing windows through which dolphins can be seen. The friendly marine mammals will often swim some distance when they spot a visitor, and this is a definite highlight of the park experience.
Emerging from this underground area, visitors reach a 2,000-person amphitheatre area that is designed like the tropical rice fields of Indonesia. Visitors are seated on these benches overlooking the ponds for SeaWorld’s dolphin presentations.
According to Rodriguez, a pod of 24 Atlantic bottlenosed dolphins resides at the park.
Dolphin trainers, vets, husbandry professionals and many other members of the park’s zoological team greet visitors during any walk-through. Rodriguez said this team makes up 50 per cent of the park’s staff at the moment.
Six other realms will be accessible to visitors.
Endless Ocean: This houses one of the world’s largest multispecies aquarium, with 68,000 different animals in 25 million litres of water. A total of 20 viewing windows will allow visitors to take in the marine beauty. The park will also offer diving experiences and underwater walking tours.
Arctic: This zone emulates polar conditions for its below-zero inhabitants, including walruses, puffins and sea otters. Interactive exhibits will teach visitors about seafaring and underwater life.
Antarctica: Penguins are the star of this zone, and visitors can plan encounters with many species of these birds, or watch them live harmoniously with other cold-water fish and sea stars.
Rocky Point: Seals and sea lions are the main draw at rocky point, where the cold-clime creatures stage presentations, or simply rest on rocks or in the sea.
Micro Ocean: Designed for children, Micro Ocean features family-friendly rides. Young visitors can also enjoy picking up a few souvenirs.
One Ocean: This main park hub has been built to stage immersive shows using screens and drones. Visitors can also head in to the park’s Animal Care Centre, or access other realms from this zone.
What to know
Location: Yas Island
Opening: May 23, 2023
Tickets: Dh375 for every adult, Dh290 for children below the age of 11 years
Eight zones with 150 species of animals