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The National Aquarium

The National Aquarium opens in Abu Dhabi.

The National Aquarium
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The Big Blue World
At the National Aquarium

Being an avid lover of Finding Nemo, I was thrilled at the announcement of the National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi, and that I wouldn’t have to trek to Dubai Mall to get my fish fix. And, after what seemed like a very (very) long wait for opening – and a lot of “coming soon” posts on Instagram – it finally opened its doors in November.

Finding Nemo (…and friends)

The aquarium building and location itself is beautiful. It’s located within Al Qana (in Al Maqta’) and although there is not much open there now, it feels like it will be a hub of activity when more attractions open (planned in the next couple of years). But for now, you can enjoy a lovely stroll waterside or grab a cup of coffee at a café. There is plenty of free parking (all outside at the moment, as the basement parking is not open but hopefully that will change before the summer).

Just keep swimming

Now, I have been to many an aquarium the world over, and perhaps wasn’t expecting to be wowed but I gotta’ say this blew me away (or should I say washed me away). You travel through 10 zones, each wonderfully themed with a score of colourful, interesting and some downright bizarre species of the aquatic world. The journey didn’t feel rushed, and the tanks were, on the most part, large enough for several people to stand round leaving you not feeling squished. The staff were all friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the tank residents – leaving me feeling that not only did they know about the animals but truly cared about them too. Well, it is a wildlife rescue centre and marine research facility after all. You finish in an extremely long underwater tunnel, viewing all manner of fish, sharks, rays etc. In a word… awesome!

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Fish are friends, not food

We decided on the all access pass; which gave us access to the aquarium, a behind the scenes tour, a glass bottom dhow boat ride and a fish feeding session. The behind-the-scenes tour was really interesting for me, but a couple of kiddos in our group were definitely getting bored, that was until we saw a giant lizard stroll pass on a training session! And the dhow boat was a quick wizz around the top of the main tank – which somehow seemed less impressive than walking through the heart of the tank moments before. Although an interesting look into the world behind the scenes I am not sure if it was worth the extra AED95 per person unless for the absolute fish-fanatics of you.

Sharkbait HOO HA HA

Now to the awkward part… the prices. Do I think it is expensive? Yes. Do I think it is worth it? Also, yes. The standard price for anyone above the age of 3 starts at AED105 (for just the aquarium) so this would be a pricey trip out for a family, but I would suggest to take your time, enjoy the atmosphere and speak to the keepers to make it worthwhile. Also it makes the sting less to realise that your money is going towards something really worthwhile; the rescue, rehabilitation and release of some of the UAE’s key marine species. I would definitely recommend – to be honest I prefer it to the Dubai Aquarium and to Atlantis, it will be a fab place to bring visitors and escape the heat in the summer. I’m even considering getting the annual pass!

By Lorenna White
January 2022