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02 March 2024

Weekend activity


By Sean Davidson

Dubai mall aquarium and underwater zoo

The zoo... in a mall

Setting the scene

You'd be forgiven for thinking that spending hours of your time at a mall is perhaps the most inane and pitiable activity you could do with your spare time.

After all, going to a shopping centre is not the same as a trip to the ice rinks, the ski slopes or to the aquarium, right?

But this is Dubai, and we like to do things a bit differently. And thanks to the searing heat most of the year, we don't mind if all these attractions can be found in one place – inside a mall.

Getting started

We headed to Dubai Mall to "drown" in the beauty of those underwater animals my four-year-old nephew calls 'feesh'. A quick glance at the Aquarium convinced us the Underwater Zoo & Tunnel would be a better use of time. There's something to be said about Underwater Zoos that can only be accessed from a mall's top-most floor.

Little Matthew had already rushed in, as we collected our tickets; his finger now jabbing toughened glass that kept piranhas, just two inches away, safely inside the tank. "Here little feeshy, here little feeshy," he screeched, as other kids joined the shrill. Our DVcam began its next home production.

The zoo experience

The most magical experience at the zoo comes rather early, as diagonally across from the piranha tank are the otters. The little rascals stay forever hidden in hollow tree trunks, venturing out only for their feed. And I'd highly recommend planning your visit accordingly. Watching these otters prop themselves up for their next chunk of 'feesh' and then dash otter miles away from their mates to relish it in solitude is a true delight.

As you continue your stroll, sea horses, sting rays, sea anemones and all sorts of strange marine beings draw predictable gasps, camera zoom ins, and mothers (and zoo keepers) yelling: 'Get your hand out of the water!'.

My favourite part of the zoo is next with harbour seals on the right and a humbolt penguin colony ahead on the left. You could spend hours watching the seals tumble in washing machine circles and penguins literally posing for the cameras.

As you bid farewell, your path winds into a souvenir shop that throws you back onto the mall's glistening floors. Just then, I feel a little tug. "How do feeshies make babies?" asks little Mathew. Back to reality.

For your information

Dubai Aquarium is one of the largest tanks in the world and features the world's largest viewing panel at a width of 32.8 metres and height of 8.3m. In time, it will hold over 33,000 living animals of 85 species, including 400 sharks and rays. The zoo has been set in different themes – Rainforest, Rocky Shore and Living Ocean – that progress as you stagger along.

Entrance to the Dubai Aquarium Tunnel is Dh20 for children and Dh25 for adults while entrance to the Underwater Zoo & Tunnel Dh50 each for everyone. For more information visit thedubaimall.com.