The Two Oceans Aquarium is on the waterfront in Cape Town, a ten-minute drive from the global institute in Rondebosch. Cape Town is very unique because it’s where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. This means there’s lots of interesting marine life near the Cape! I hold a student membership, which set me back R335, or about $23. This gives me unlimited access to the aquarium while I’m in Cape Town and admission to special after-hours events. I love the aquarium, and I spend a lot of time there. Here’s why:
- First and foremost, I like fish. They have literally hundreds of species at the Two Oceans Aquarium, from King Crab and Blue Stingrays to Green Turtles and African Penguins. The largest habitat in the aquarium, the I and J Ocean Exhibit, hosts too many species to count. This aquarium also hosts a group of ragged-tooth sharks, eels, and a large tropical reef.
- They have a coffee shop and tables near the I and J Ocean Exhibit, which makes it a great study spot. If you go in the less busy hours in the morning and early afternoon, it’s a wonderful place to sit down with a coffee and your laptop and work on whatever assignment is coming up for you. Oh yeah, and they have free WiFi.
- They’re conservation based. It’s also almost impossible to buy something in the aquarium cafe that’s wrapped in plastic, and they make recycling bins available at every corner. The main goal of the aquarium is to take in injured animals, rehabilitate them, then tag and release them. There’s a group of staff dedicated to cutting fishing lines and other debris off of the seals that hang out on the docks near the aquarium too. Turtles most often find themselves in the Two Oceans Aquarium as esteemed guests until the veterinary staff is sure they’re ready to be released. These efforts aren’t just in Cape Town, either! The aquarium has rescue points along the whole coast of South Africa. Rockhopper penguins wash up from Antarctic islands and there’s now a whole colony of them at the aquarium. Sometimes a sunfish or two end up at the aquarium too!
- You can go scuba diving there! I went scuba diving in the I and J Ocean Exhibit. One of the fish came and laid on my hand, and I got to be right next to my best friend, the short-tail stingray. Prices vary depending on your diving certification and member status, but generally for American students it’s much more affordable than open water diving and much more exciting! If you don’t have a scuba certification, that’s not a problem! There’s an in-house diving instructor who can give you a two-hour crash course that will certify you for that day.
- The staff and volunteers are super friendly. After my dive, one of the people who were there to help reset the scuba locker told me all about the two turtles (Alvie and Bob) and made me tea. Volunteers staff the touch tank and microscope exhibit and are usually very excited to share their knowledge. The awesome thing about the aquarium having so many volunteers is that they volunteer just because they want to. That comes across a lot in the way they interact with the public
- It’s a short walk from the rest of the waterfront. The waterfront is a more touristy district of Cape Town, but it hosts a large market, a food court with several South African foods to try (you can pick up a koeksister for R7!), and lots of activities. Boat tours of the bay and red bus tours of the peninsula leave from the waterfront. The Cape Town Wheel is less than five minutes from the aquarium, as well as a large shopping mall, the gateway to Robben Island, live music every day, and plenty of restaurants. It’s a great location to come to in the morning and make a day of.
The Two Oceans Aquarium is a wonderful place to go even if you don’t know trout from penguin. It can be a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town, too, and you’re bound to find some sea creatures to fall in love with.