I did not expect one of the most surprising experiences from my time in South Africa to be at an aquarium. uShaka Marine World, located right on the Indian Ocean in Durban, shows off the best of ocean life in the southern hemisphere in one of the most unique exhibition environments I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Durban. What I saw was beautiful and dramatic, and I’m always a sucker for a city on the ocean.
My visit started with a lively dolphin show at Sea World, one of several units comprising uShaka Marine World. Sitting in a crowd consisting of mostly schoolchildren and families, I was completely removed from the history and politics of the country, and just sat there in quiet enjoyment, taking in the chaos on around me, kids from a range of backgrounds, standing and shouting, singing and dancing to get on the audience cam, with the sole intent of getting a shot at feeding a dolphin.
The dolphin show was soon underway. We learned a lot about uShaka’s dolphins, and some valuable lessons about conservation and protecting oceans. Of course, the dolphins also entertain, which drove the audience wild every time they’d spring out of the water.
After the excitement of the dolphin show, I hit the centrepiece of Sea World, the aquarium. Set in a retired, but authentic, cargo ship, the aquarium shows off its charming sea creatures in an environment that makes visitors feel like they’re shipwrecked.
I was blown away by the presentation. Having seen a ship or two during my time, it was as real as it could be and I was completely charmed by it.
I loved the attention to detail, including this upside-down, fully realized bridge of a ship.
A “broken” cargo box of Ming Dynasty-era china provided the perfect hiding place for little fishies.
By far the funniest part of the wreck was the heads, still in tact, but in no way functional!
As for the creatures themselves, I saw lots of sharks, rays, turtles, starfish, octopi and every other kind of swimming creature imaginable. I love aquariums and sea life anyway, but combined with the fun and unique shipwreck concept, I left feeling like I had seen something truly extraordinary.
No trip to uShaka is complete without a stop at the penguin rookery to visit with their gang of funny African penguins. I would see a couple of other penguin colonies in the days ahead, but loved uShaka’s playful presentation, including a key for identifying the individual boy and girl penguins by their sometimes-unusual names.
On uShaka beach
Once I saw everything at Sea World, including a bunch of kids float by on a water course that’s part of the attached water park, I took a walk on uShaka beach, just a few steps away. It was a delight to have a beach literally steps away, take a look in the image below if you don’t believe me (look for the ship/aquarium on the bottom, just left of the centre).
Source: Google Maps
It was my first time in the Indian Ocean, and it was a bit scary. The ocean is far more powerful than what I’m used to on the Atlantic, and I left with a whole new appreciation ocean safety and why events on the Indian Ocean can be far more dangerous and devastating. It is far more unpredictable than I ever could have imagined (just ask my pants, which were soaked past the knee due to an aggressive, rogue wave that came out of nowhere).
Again, while I didn’t get to spend as much time in Durban as I would have liked, uShaka Marine World was a great addition to my itinerary. If you love aquariums, and want to see something that is way beyond the ordinary, go see this remarkable aquarium idea brought to life.
See for yourself:
uShaka Marine World
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa