Durban - With the weather getting warmer and school holidays beckoning, we all want to spend more time outdoors, lazing about and doing things we couldn’t do in winter.
So it’s no surprise that uShaka Marine World has upped their game. While the park has always been popular for its Wet ’n Wild and Kid’s World, and we have been going to those for years, it’s the newer and more adrenalin rush inducing attractions that piqued our interest. From shark cage diving and snorkeling, to the new rope adventure, we put ourselves through the test.
How did we fare? Well, read on
Xpanda Shark Cage - Alyssia Birjalal
As part of the marine experience at uShaka Marine World comes Animal Encounters, this includes Meet a Dolphin, I&J Snorkel Lagoon, I&J Ocean Walker and the Xpanda Shark Cage experience.
I decided to do what I thought would be the most dangerous of all, the Xpanda Shark Cage (YOLO). So, I got suited up and as I was placed inside the cage, my body started to shiver, and not because of the water temperature, but rather because of the thoughts that were running through my mind. One: “I am not as brave as I thought”, two: “What happens if the sharks start to attack the cage with me still inside?” and, three: “What will I do if a shark, by some means, manages to get inside the cage with me?” I was not ready to die.
Yes, it was that dramatic but, luckily, after a quick three minutes in the tank my nerves calmed down and I eased up.
There were sharks everywhere. A couple even circled the cage, and looked as though they didn’t care that I was there. The water was a little cold. The cage was not completely submerged in the shark tank, so I was able to take deep breaths before diving into the tank. Among the ragged tooth, sand and spinner sharks, there were also some huge bass. And although the shark dive lasted about 15 minutes, I have memories to last a life time.
What an experience!
Dangerous creatures - Alyssia Birjalal
uShaka Marine World has some of the world’s most dangerous creatures, so if you’re a reptile enthusiast this is something you don’t want to miss out on. I had the pleasure of checking out the “Dangerous Creatures” exhibit this week. On arrival, I was greeted by Freddy, a black-throated monitor, aka The Dragon. I was afraid, very afraid – but slowly my fear turned to fascination and I even had a cool interactive experience with a baby python. The experience followed with dart frogs, tarantulas, Gila monster lizards, false water cobra (of which there is only one in the country), goliath bull frogs, tree vipers and Taipan snakes. The Argentinean equivalent of the Nile leguaan – a Tegu – was also on display and a real life anaconda. And no, the movie is a complete lie. Throughout the exhibit the guide threw out interesting facts and background about the animals. She also helped my colleague conquer a reptile fear. There are also “scaring” tactics used in the exhibition to bring you closer to the danger. Personally, I’ve never exposed myself to so many dangerous creatures all at once even though they were safely locked behind glass. More than fun, it really was an educational experience, and I highly recommend you check it out.
The Chimp & Zee Rope Adventure - Buhle Mbonambi
I’m not one for extremes – obstacle courses, roller coasters, zip lines or bungee jumping. I’m not an adrenalin junkie and I’m fine staying on the ground where I can control my movements without defying gravity. I’ve tried many times to get over this issue, and came close in the Drakensberg two years ago, and in Disneyland Hong Kong when I was in matric.
Yet I found myself having a lot of fun on uShaka’s newest attraction, the uShaka Rope Adventure. The course consists of a series of rope bridges, obstacle courses, climbing nets, zip lines and crossings. The trail starts from the Village Walk and travels over Sea World and the phantom ship. The course, which will take you 45 minutes to complete, is a pure adrenalin-inducing experience that will leave you with a high – how you come down from it, well, that’s your choice. I had a big meal afterwards.
The course is the longest continuous belay system on the continent. From zip-lining, which is fast becoming my favourite, to the spider web and walking on the many rickety planks, logs and surfboards, I enjoyed it. I surprised myself because most of the time I’d look at the challenges and think I wouldn’t make it to the next one. Sometimes I would look down, other times I would look up or close my eyes. Thank goodness Liam and Alyssia were there to egg me on, otherwise I would have given up after the first two challenges. And that’s why you shouldn’t do it alone – it won’t be as much fun, and trust me, you will need your friends to get you through the course.
I would definitely do it again, and I plan to.
Cargo Hold on the Promenade – Buhle Mbonambi
I always thought the Cargo Hold was only open for dinner. And not just any dinner, but celebratory dinners and special company functions. I had only ever been to the restaurant when I had been invited for an event or a launch of some kind. The restaurant was then obviously closed to the public.
So I was pleasantly surprised to discover it’s open for lunch too, and not just for fancy dinners and events. You can actually walk in and have a great meal for lunch when you are spending a day at uShaka.
While it’s still a fine dining establishment, it doesn’t have to be a stuffy environment – in fact, when we were there, there were a number of holidaymakers at the restaurant, ordering casual fare and having it with beer, juice or wine.
The waiters are pretty good – we asked Sfiso, our waiter, to pair our food with wine and his suggestions were spot on. And the best thing about the Cargo Hold? It’s having a fine meal in the presence of sharks and other marine life. Now that doesn’t get old, no matter how many times you’ve been to the restaurant.
The Dolphin Show/Sea World – Liam Joyce
There is no question that uShaka has an amazing aquarium. Not only are the animals extremely beautiful, but it is educational too. uShaka has very informed staff wandering around the aquarium who are more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
I always love going to the aquarium, but this time I rushed through it because I didn’t want to be late for the dolphin show.
I went to many dolphin shows as a child, but I was never that lucky person from the audience who got the chance to feed and interact with a dolphin. But this was my time: I was selected and, yes, I felt like a child again. I got to be part of a show that included uShaka’s oldest dolphin, Frodo, who is 41 years old.
She is one of the sweetest animals I have met – she let me rub her belly, touch her fin and feed her, her favourite being jelly.
The cherry on top was kissing her, not just once but three times. I must admit that kissing a human isn’t as salty as a dolphin, but not everyone can say they’ve kissed Frodo three times.
I&J Snorkel Lagoon – Liam Joyce
I was extremely excited about snorkelling; swimming with all those beautiful species of fish was something I had wanted to do for a while. There aren’t any safety rules and major dos and don’ts – all you need to do is have fun. Before I took to the water, a staff member did say there were sharks in the snorkelling lagoon, but I didn’t believe him and laughed it off.
There I was exploring the lagoon, enjoying the marine life around, me when suddenly Alyssia shouted: “There is a really long fish in this water, and it looks like a shark.” Impossible! They wouldn’t let us swim in water with sharks, I thought to myself. On closer inspection there were, in fact, three smooth-hound sharks. Although they are harmless, we freaked out and I swam to a nearby rock, only happy to swim again after the staff convinced me of their innocuousness. I admit, within minutes of calming down I got closer
to the sharks and it was an experience like no other. There I was, swimming with three adult sharks who were oblivious of me being in their home, and the smile it put on my face can’t be described. This is something I will definitely do again very soon.
Upcoming events at uShaka Marine World
It’s officially Spring and so, to ring in the new season, uShaka is holding a number of events.
* Until September 27, you can catch daily performances by the uShaka Mascots, Zulu dancers and Circus Balloon, the only inflatable circus in South Africa, which is sure to be fun for the whole family.
l* Over the Heritage Day long weekend, September 24 to 27, uShaka Marine World will have their heritage parades at 10.45am and 1.45pm. There will be Bhangra dancers, contemporary dancers, football dancers, DJ Happy Girl, Will B, marimba and steel drums and wedding singers, and visitors to Wet ‘n’ Wild will be able to dance to the tunes of DJ Spike.