Yes, you can believe the hype. More than 24 hours before the long-awaited opening of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi to the general public on Tuesday, Khaleej Times got a guided tour of the region’s next-generation marine life theme park on Yas Island.

The 8 realms – that’s how the 183,000sqm theme park is split, offer a diverse range of experiences, entertainment and education on marine life.

The world’s largest multi-species marine life aquarium at Endless Ocean – one of the eight realms, surely lives up to its billing. With more than 68,000 marine animals in 25 million litres of water, the zone is mind-blowing. While the ‘observation deck’ with a giant circular window provides an amazing display of marine animals in an awe-inspiring habitat, there is a cave-like sea base where you can get up close with sharks, rays, crabs, lobsters, octopus and different species of fish. There is also a small glass tunnel where you can get a 360-degree view of the aquarium and marine animals. This will surely be one place for selfies as you can more often find sharks with sharp teeth gliding through.

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi was developed by Miral in partnership with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment and is the first new SeaWorld Park in 30 years and the first outside the US. Apart from Endless Ocean, the other seven realms are: Abu Dhabi Ocean, One Ocean, MicroOcean, Tropical Ocean, Rocky Point, Arctic and Antarctica (both in Polar Ocean)

The Abu Dhabi Ocean

The marine journey starts with the Abu Dhabi Ocean, which gives you a fascinating insight into the Arabian Gulf’s marine ecosystem and a glimpse into the rich history of Bedouin families who searched the waters for precious pearls to trade. There are four touch pools where visitors can engage with rays, sharks and invertebrates. You can also spot a dugong, sea turtle and local species of fish. There are entertainment and educational shows, souk, restaurants to charge yourself before heading into One Ocean and other six realms, which all have several dining options.

One Ocean

This is the central hub of the park with One Epic Ocean Spectacular – an immersive story-telling narrated on a circular screen of 218m and 15m in height with high-resolution footage in 360-degree format. A not-to-be-missed facility in this zone is the Animal Care Center, which gives you first-hand look into the world-class practices adopted by the care team. There are educators, experts and vets on the ground to answer any queries with regards to medical treatment and care.

Micro Ocean

The colourful zone with plenty of rides and interactive areas is designed to educate, inspire and entertain mini explorers. The massive playground of rides and educational experiments is set to offer an enriching experience for one and all. The zone wasn’t functional during the visit, but staff has termed this as the coolest place for children and families.

Rocky Point

As you walk inside there is a small sneak peek into what to expect as it’s a beautiful hidden cove set in the US’ coastal pacific northwest. And once you enter, you can find sea lions resting on rocks, playfully enjoying their time in waters just like they do in natural settings. The experience in this zone includes feeding California sea lions and harbour seals.

Tropical Ocean

Get set for a sun-soaked journey in this largest zone of the park with natural sunlight falling in. There is a flamingo point where the flamboyant birds are catching everyone’s attention, and a short walk is the 2,000-seating capacity amphitheatre for the dolphin show. Don’t forget to catch some 24 dolphins in action, especially as you get to see them above and below water with an underwater dining area. This zone also features the Manta Coaster – the world’s first zero-gravity flip-out, the world’s first twisting double-down dive and with 17 airtime moments, which is the most in the region.

Arctic and Antarctica

After all the hot and happening tour of the park, it’s time to relax in some cooler climes, and the Polar Ocean – the only realm with realms within it is just the right place to be. Visitors can experience the vibrancy and feel of the North Pole’s Arctic ocean. There are the playful sea otters, who are thriving in their natural habitat. And there are a few walruses and seals enjoying their time in deep waters and making a guest appearance every now and then. The Antarctica realm, which is getting ready, will have a penguin encounter – a lifetime opportunity to come face-to-face with these adorable flightless birds and learn about the amazing species.

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