Mar 5, 2019

Dubai, December 2011. Love You, Darling Harbour.

Way, way back in 2011, a considerably younger me visited Dubai in December for a week of slack jawed awe at just walking the marble-paved floors of its hotels, malls and public spaces.

One of the most extra of the extra moments of the trip was the afternoon I spent at the Dubai Aquarium conveniently and almost casually located in the Dubai Mall.  Because that was the thing about the Dubai I remember, magnificent things just suddenly appeared in front of you as went about doing your thing.

I'll always remember finding an outpost of Melbourne's Brunetti just a few metres from the aquarium's entrance.  It was a touch of home and the happy times I've spent in Melbourne over the years.

I visited the day a school group was passing through.  Who knew (least of all me) that I'd be the mother of my very own primary schooler eight years later.

Aside from a glass-walled aquarium that spanned several floors, the aquarium also featured glass bottom boat tours through one of the main aquariums.

I loved Birkis then and I love them still in 2019.

Funny you should mention 2019...

because it was one of those Sundays in Sydney the other day.  You know the kind.  The sky's that perfect blue.  It's summery weatherwise but it's actually autumn.  You've got an adventure planned...

Which is how Master SSG, his camera, my Birkis (a couple of pairs on from the ones in Dubai you'll be pleased to know) and I found ourselves in Darling Harbour.

We were being tourists in our own city on our way to the SEA Life Aquarium.

A Great Barrier Reef exhibit has recently opened at SEA Life and given how much I loved the penguin expedition the last time I visited, I didn't need much persusation to make this return visit happen.

The staff at the front desk were so accommodating.  Seeing our booking for a particular attraction was half an hour away, they escorted us to the meeting point so we'd be there with plenty of time to spare.  If you're planning a weekend visit, I strongly recommend you jump online and book in advance.  It'll save you time in the line on the day.

While we waited for our slot on the glass-bottomed boat, Master SSG and I ventured over to the petting pool.  May I just say that starfish feel firmer and dryer than I expected them to feel.  Master SSG was intrigued by the shark's egg that was also on display but I just couldn't bring myself to touch it.

Don't these jellyfish look mystical in their cylindrical aquariums?

Finally, it was time for our backstage tour along the way to the glass bottom boat ride.

The boat ride takes you over the new Great Barrier Reef aquarium and takes ticket prices up to about $66 for adults and $46 for children, adding around $20 to the standard ticket price.  There is a discount for booking ahead online.  The penguin adventure ride is free with your ticket.

Was it worth it?

I'd say yes.  Our ride was half an hour long and I was surprised at how much we saw and learned from what looked like a deceptively small body of water.

Saftey jackets are compulsory and passengers are then attached by their jacket (via those trusty carabiners) to safety rails in the boat.

The 'coral' is actually made from concrete for durability.  Apparently fish are capable of eating through a less robustly artificial reef.

There was so much to see.  Guitar sharks, white tip reef sharks, rays and .....

the wonderful Miss Myrtle, the rescue turtle.

We were lucky enough to see her come up for air and some time under the jets.  Something she only does every 6 hours or so.  Due to her traumatic past, Myrtle has shell damage that makes it hard for her to sink properly.  Hence the weights staff attached to her back.  You can jsut see them in the photo above.

This carpenter shark still managed to look quietly ominous from the safety of our boat.

After our ride, Master SSG and I wandered through the walkway that runs through the Barrier Reef pool.

It was just beautiful.  There were moments when it looked like I was walking through some kind of oil painting.  It was the way the colours and light played together beyond the glass surrounding us.

The coral looked incredibly lifelike and photographed beautifully. 

Always a good thing for a tourist attraction.

There are quite a few interactive play areas that children of all ages will love.  Overall, I think the new additions to the aquarium add even more wow to a place that already boasts a penguin experience.  We're already planning to return again to ride the boat again and to see those penguins.

Needless to say, it was wall to wall merchandise when we stepped out of the aquarium.  There were so many soft toys I seriously felt my allergies coming on.

But the toys are beautiful though.  Amaxing colours, detail and variety.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Wild Republic have a massive share of the global market of animal soft toys sold at zoos and aquariums.  I found the brand in Berlin and I'll be darned if I see them in Boston this April. 

Image result for boston
via Google images

Let that slip, didn't I?  I'm off in less than 46 days and I can't hardly wait.

I know its probably uncool to confess to loving an afternoon in Darling Harbour when you're a local but it is what it is. 


Don't ever change.  Unless it is to make yourself even more touristy.



  1. I love love love aquariums & Miss nearly 21 & I go every year around our birthdays - these days to Sealife at Mooloolaba. It never gets old. And yes, I had noticed the sneaky ref to Boston...

  2. I've never been to Dubai but my boys really loved the aquarium in the harbour last time we were there! I'm so sad we don't have anything like that in Brisbane. There's one on the sunshine coast but it's a bit of a drive!

    Away From The Blue


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