Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town is one of the most famous aquariums in the world.  Two Oceans, you may ask?  Well, this is the part of the world where the cold Atlantic Ocean meets the warm Indian Ocean. the Two Oceans Aquarium is dedicated mainly to highlighting the unique marine wildlife of the region. And you can even do a SCUBA diving in the Two Oceans Aquarium!

After diving several aquariums around the world, I had very high expectations for diving Two Oceans Aquarium. I was set to do two different dives in two of their famous exhibits: the I&J Predator Exhibit and the Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit.

The Predator Exhibit - home of several sand tiger sharks and a sea turtle
The Predator Exhibit – home of several rugged-tooth sharks and a sea turtle

My Dive Master, Iain, who moved from Scotland to Cape Town during the Apartheid Era, took me to the top of the exhibits on the aquarium’s rooftop and explained some of our diving plan for the day and what I could expect. I was the only guest diver for the day.

I learned from Iain that during the Apartheid Era, PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors) – the most popular diving association, refused to do business in South Africa due to discrimination.  For several decades, diving in the country was awkward, as they were only able to accept diving certifications from other agencies.

My two dives were set for the same day, with about an hour break in between.  The aquarium offers three different dive times each day. You can learn more about the diving program and book your reservation here.

Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit (with real kelp)

Diving Two Oceans Aquarium is cold – in the upper 50s (about 10 degree Celsius). So if you’re going to do it, you need to consider whether or not you’re comfortable with this temperature. I suited up in my 7 mil wetsuit and hood.

Right before my first dive at the Kelp Forest Exhibit.
Right before my first dive at the Aquarium. Behind me is the Kelp Forest Exhibit.

Diving Two Oceans Aquarium: The I&J Predators

My first dive was at the Predator Exhibit.  The name can be a deterrent to come, as this is the home for several rugged-tooth sharks (commonly known as sand tiger sharks). They look fierce, but they have a very mild temperament regardless the threatening look.  Adults can grow to 8 feet in length (3 meters) and about 300 lbs (120 kg) with a massive girth.  Of course the jagged teeth are what concern people the most.

These sharks were collected from the nearby bay, and are really well taken care of.  The Two Oceans Aquarium has a capture and release program – most of these sharks came in as injured for many reasons. After a few years of nurturing and serving as learning ambassadors for us humans, they are released back into the ocean.

One of the sand tiger sharks!
One of the rugged-tooth sharks!

There is also a timid sea turtle who lives in the exhibit.  We swam around to find him hiding under a rock. Our dive lasted for about 50 minutes, at which time we surfaces.  I kept my wetsuit on, but still had a hot bath between the dives to warm up. Brrrrrr!

Diving Two Oceans Aquarium: The Ocean Basket Kelp Forest

In order to dive this exhibit, you must have at least Advance Open Water Certification due to the possible entanglement risk with the kelp. There is also a strong current surge that happens in several spots inside the exhibit. The kelp in the exhibit is real and was collected from the nearby bay. If you know your kelp facts, it can grow up to two feet per day, so there is a lot of maintenance to be done inside this exhibit.  Water current is extremely important on any kelp forest environment, so artificial surge was created to accommodate the animals’ needs.

Inside the Kelp Forest Exhibit
Inside the Kelp Forest Exhibit

This was one of my favorite aquarium dives to date, simply because I found it very relaxing, albeit quite cold.  While diving Two Oceans Aquarium, you’ll learn that some of the animals are unique to this location, including the Galjoen and the Red Stumpnose fish (who followed me around for the whole dive).

This guy isn't camera shy and following me around his home, waiting for his feeding time.
This guy isn’t camera shy. He followed me around while waiting for feeding time.

Diving at any aquarium

I’ve been lucky enough to dive a few of the world’s aquariums. I enjoy the interactions that I have, especially with the aquarium guests.  Kids tend to think that divers are the coolest thing they see inside the exhibits, and many pictures are taken with us divers. And who doesn’t enjoy watching animals being fed by divers?

Kids always fascinated with animal feeding time!
Kids love animal feeding time!

Have you been to the Two Oceans Aquarium or looking for ideas of places to visit in South Africa?

Let us know in the comments!

Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.


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