Ushaka dolphins mesmerise crowds. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

You know it’s Christmas time when Dolphin by Starlight comes to town. It is a Thursday night and there is a heavy downpour in Durban. I decided to treat my niece to a night out at the famous annual event after seeing her outstanding report at school.

Ushaka mascots perform. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

At just 4 years old, my niece has been fascinated with dolphins since she was a baby and I knew seeing them up close was going to bring a smile to her face. There are more than 100 people at Wet n Wild when we arrive. 

My niece and I occupy the row in front of the stage. Despite the downpour, we are excited about the hour long show. She sings songs about dolphins, as she waits to see Gambit and his friends.

It is easy to see why children are fascinated by the show. It combines Christmas, music, Santa and dolphins- everything children are obsessed with. Just moments after we settle in, the music starts. A tinge of nostalgia runs through my body as Durban Gospel Choir belt out some classic Christmas songs like Mariah Carey’s Joy to the World and Josh Groban's The First Noel.

Children loved the dolphin show. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

As the Christmas soundtracks are belted out, the dolphins come out to perform their aquatic aerobatics. My niece and some of the friends she met at the show are in awe of the display before them.

“Look Deanie, there are the dolphins,” she says, as she points at them. Besides the breathtaking display of aquatic agility, the show brings to life Santa Claus and his little helpers.

Santa Claus makes an appearance. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

Throughout the show, children are at the edge of their seat, waiting for Santa to make an appearance. According to chief investigative elves Andy Alibastar and Polly Peppermint, who are doing a ‘news broadcast’, Santa was late as his reindeers’ are unable to make his sleigh hover more than 20 cm off the ground.

Ushaka dolphins mesmerise crowds. Picture: Leon Lestrade.
Leaping into action. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

When he does make an appearance, Santa comes in a rickshaw. He brings with him Spongebob Squarepants, Superman and an array of other cartoon characters. Santa’s interaction with the children seems to be a hit. They are dancing and chanting his name.

Soon, after Santa leaves, aerial aerobics and Christmas version of The Circle of Life, Can't stop the Feeling and Happy are sung by the audience. The famous Gambit is the showstopper.

Gambit is believed to be the largest bottlenose dolphin in any oceanarium in the world. His average weight is around 490kg and he is 3.65m long. He is father to 7 of the 9 dolphins born at uShaka Sea World and grandfather to 1. Since 1976, Gambit helped Ushaka share a message of conservation.

Gambit wows crowds. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

Gambit plays with his frisbee and shows off his ocean flair by leaping into the air and making a splash. By the end of the evening, my niece is bursting with happiness. She tells me that she wants to visit again tonight.

* Dolphins By Starlight is at Ushaka Marine World from December 8th -13th, at 7pm. Tickets are R170 for adults and R140 for children. Kids under 3 enter for free. Contact 031 328 8000 for further information.