Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The Underwater Zoo at the Dubai Mall houses creatures that would not survive in the main tank. The current Night Safari project, in which the lights are dimmed, gives visitors yet another perspective on nature. Courtesy Dubai Mall
The Underwater Zoo at the Dubai Mall houses creatures that would not survive in the main tank. The current Night Safari project, in which the lights are dimmed, gives visitors yet another perspective on nature.  Courtesy Dubai Mall

Dubai Aquarium's Night Safaris use darkness for enlightenment

We review the new night safari at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, which continues until the end of the month.

To presume that a trip to the Dubai Mall means dragging the children round miles of shops, with only the promise of an ice cream to minimise the whining, would be to presume wrongly. First, the enormous aquarium (the largest viewing panel in the world, according to Guinness World Records) with its nerve sharks, rays and rare Napoleon fish, will keep them busy for at least 20 minutes. Second, the world's biggest sweet shop is located opposite that. And third, there's the Underwater Zoo. The aquarium alone would be draw enough for most children, but for Dh75 you get access to a winding labyrinth of smaller tanks filled with species that are unable to exist alongside the denizens of the main tank.

Even better are the current Night Safaris, for which visitors are issued headlamps, so that when the lights are turned down they can spot the creatures that come out only at night. These include a scorpion that looks black by day, but in the dark glows white; a shy but enormous spider; and a gecko that's known as a "dragon". The specially darkened conditions heighten the experience of seeing the other animals.

There is something surreal about watching a romp of otters frolic in a tank only metres away from where people are bulk-buying babygros in Mothercare; but, thanks to the Amazon jungle theming, you soon forget where you are. The zoo is split into three sections - freshwater, saltwater and creepy crawlies - and is manned by a team of knowledgeable guides. Our guide was Kareem, and with him at our side we wandered past schools of piranha, hatchet fish, angel fish and cichlids.

Our headlamps were not as useful as I'd hoped, since most of the creatures, including the surprisingly cute giant water rat, were easy to spot. However, it was a great way to attract the attention of some of the animals, particularly the penguins, which came up to the glass when I peered inside.

As well as the usual rays and clown fish, there are enough "deadly creatures" to hold children's attention. The world's most poisonous fish, the stonefish (found here in the UAE), skulked at the bottom of its tank next to the lionfish, and just along the passage from the puffer fish. The experience is also nicely interactive. Kareem invited me to hold some food on the tip of my finger over a tank of archerfish. The fish knocked it off with a jet of water so that it fell into their tank and they could eat it (their specialised mouths can shoot water up to five metres; apparently they almost never miss). There is a whole tank of creatures, including sea stars, sea cucumbers and horseshoe crabs, which children are permitted to touch under supervision.

The highlight for me, though, was the transparent platform suspended above the main tank, on which you can stand and spot the creatures swimming below. Perhaps it was the frisson of fear (plus mild vertigo) that came with hovering over a pool of sharks, but being able to see the "back of house" section of the aquarium made it feel less like a theme park.

The Night Safari idea may be a marketing ploy to get you into the zoo, but it was one I was happy to be had by. That and the headlamp, which, thrillingly, I was allowed to take home.

 

Entrance to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo costs Dh75. The Night Safaris run until February 29; visit www.thedubaiaquarium.com

 

artslife@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter and keep up to date with the latest in arts and lifestyle news at twitter.com/LifeNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National