Flippers and friends make splash in Dubai deal - Emirates24|7

Flippers and friends make splash in Dubai deal

All care is taken at the dolphinarium to make sure that the animals maintain good health.

For Christopher Richardson, the deafening splash of a fin meeting water and the laughter of children are the culmination of four years of hard work.

As managing director of Dubai's new dolphinarium, he was instrumental in striking a deal with the emirate's municipality to create the Dh33 million indoor attraction at Creek Park.

When it opened to the public for the first time yesterday, it marked the success of a shared vision between his company Royal Segrex and municipality.

Dubai Dolphinarium – part of a wider Dubai Marine World project – is the first milestone for officials in a wide-ranging programme to upgrade Dubai's parks with world-class attractions.

And for Royal Segrex, the success of the opening performances underlines the company's ability to meet the challenges of developing such an attraction in Dubai's summer climate.

The dolphinarium is a 20-year build, operate, transfer (BOT) deal between the firm and the municipality.

"We made a presentation to Dubai Municipality and then they shared their vision with us," he said.

"We feel we are working with many people who have a passion and ability to invest and make such things as the dolphinarium a reality.

"Of the four years spent on this project, we spent two years determining what was going to be the format – looking at the demographic, social groups and basically what were the things people wanted to see.

"We have also worked with civil defence and all the government departments, plus Cities [The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species]. What's unique about this project is that it is indoors and, I believe, this is the first to have an air-conditioned theatre."

The dolphinarium will eventually form part of the Dh225m Dubai Marine Park, which will include an Oceanarium plus Gatorville, Fish Farm of the Future and Science Institute across 19,000 square metres of the park.

Dubai Municipality is spending millions of dirhams upgrading its five main parks – Umm Suquiem, Safa, Wonderland, Mushrif, Creek and Zabeel Park. At Zabeel, the Stargate family attraction is nearing completion.

Ahmed Abdulkarim, director of public parks and horticultural department at the municipality, said it was the government's strategy to invest in public open spaces.

As well as improving the parks, the goal is to increase the green areas of the emirate from three per cent to eight per cent by 2020.

Abdulkarim said: "This dolphinarium is just one section of the parks, recreation and greenery plans.

"One of the main objectives is to work with the private sector to operate, build and run world-class entertainment facilities. The idea is to place more focus on customers and we have the right companies to develop and make it a reality. The dolphinarium is the first BOT project we have signed and finished. In the bigger scheme, we have only completed 10 per cent of what we want to do," said Abdulkarim.

"The municipality plans to improve the six grand parks, two beach parks, 10 lake parks, more than 38 community parks, 98 neighbourhood parks, as well as other open spaces and plazas."

The dolphinarium is home to three bottlenose dolphins and four sea lions, which perform shows three times a day six days a week.

The dolphins and trainers are from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and will stay in Dubai for six months. Senya, 22, and Sousha, 20, have been with the trainers for 10 years, while Martha, 18, was rescued two years ago after being wounded and left stranded in the Black Sea.

The dolphins and sea lions will perform in an elliptical pool, which is 5.5 metres deep and 26 metres wide. The water is kept at 22C.

Other facilities include a laboratory, medical pool and classrooms. Veterinarians are also employed to look after the mammals.

Main trainer Alexander Zanin has been working with dolphins and other marine life for 37 years . He said:

"The dolphins are part of the family and we take every measure to make sure they are in good health. We have a wide ranging programme and the dolphins are part of the research studying the relationships between animals and humans and dolphin assisted therapy."

Jenny Ekgardt, dolphinarium marketing manager, said education is a key element of the dolphinarium and more than 100 schools have already been in contact.