SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is set to welcome guests from May 23, ahead of which The National got a sneak peek at the newest attraction on Yas Island.
The marine life theme park, the first SeaWorld outside of North America, spans 183,000 square metres and occupies five floors. It includes rides, interactive exhibits and the region's largest multi-species aquarium, with more than 58 million litres of water and 150 species, including sharks, manta ray and sea turtles, plus reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.
At two of its eight realms to which we had access, here’s what to expect.
Abu Dhabi Ocean
Two escalator rides up to the third floor reveals the first realm: Abu Dhabi Ocean. It is where all visitors will start and end their trip as the exit is also here.
The area is themed around the UAE capital and its environment, with replicas of mangrove trees, dhows and even a souq-style shop. It is designed to give a traditional feel of the olden days of Abu Dhabi, yet with a modern touch.
The realm features Arabesque architecture with fort-like buildings on display, as well as a replica of Abu Dhabi's Mina Port. It is also home to Naham theatre, which will have two live shows: one about the history of pearl diving and another featuring mermaids and dugongs.
All the animals in this realm are native to the Arabian Gulf. There are also four touch pools, meaning visitors can touch and feed animals such as starfish and stingray.
Abu Dhabi Ocean is the starting point of SEA Guardian Games, an experience that stands for science, exploration and adventure, with different connecting games throughout the realms that aim to educate visitors about ocean life.
Each realm has its own themed restaurants and cafes. At Abu Dhabi Ocean, there is Dallal Al Bahar cafe, Lugaima for fried dough and churros, and Matbakh Ummi (Mother’s Kitchen) that serves Arabic food.
This space replicates sunrise and sunset through lighting on the walls. For example, if the Sun is beginning to rise by the entrance, by the end of the day the other side of the realm will have the Sun setting.
This is the biggest realm out of the eight at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. The space was created as a nod to the tropics with Amazon rainforest-inspired decor, giant banyans and palm trees, and plenty of natural lighting thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows on one side.
Caribbean flamingos, with their vivid pink colour, are behind a fenced-off area surrounded by water and sand. Other animals in the zone include macaws and ray, as well as some tropical bird and fish species.
Further on is an amphitheatre that can seat up to 2,000 people and is home to dolphin shows. The curved, green seating is inspired by rice terraces in Asia. Towards the front, seats are in blue to signify splash zones.
The Tropical Ocean realm is also home to Manta Coaster, one of two rides at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. The indoor-to-outdoor ride includes a trip under an aquarium.
Dining options include Tiki-designed Spice Island, which serves Indian and Asian food; Bay View cafe that offers views of the entire realm; Pretzel Point, where people can make their own pretzels; Waterside Cafe for Mexican; Wasi’s Market, Lost Cove Treats and Cenote Cafe that serves burgers with views of the dolphins and other marine life.
The other realms at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi are: One Ocean, Rocky Point, Micro-Ocean, Arctic, Antarctica and Endless Ocean.
SeaWorld Abu Dhabi opens on May 23; www.seaworldabudhabi.com