An Unforgettable Sea Lion Discovery Experience at Atlantis, The Palm!
My first encounter with South African Fur Seals at Dubai Sea lion Point and I could barely keep a straight face! I didn’t really know what to expect as this was a first for me. They are known to have mystified all those that have encountered them, and on this programme, I found out why.
A Look at Sea Lion Discovery Experience at Atlantis Dubai
Sea Lion Discovery is a fun, shallow-water interaction that allows guests (both swimmers and non-swimmers) to step into the wonderful world of sea lions and get an up close experience with them — not just for entertainment, but also for an amazing opportunity to learn more about these friendly animals, including a chance to see the facilities they live in and understand their distinctive habits both on land and in the water through their trainers.
While it’s a pleasant sight to see the sea lions splash, swim and dive around in their specially designed lagoon with temperature-controlled bathing pools, this experience is an exclusive activity and is usually conducted in small groups, with each session limited to up to ten guests per session. I am joined by five other equally excited registrants/participants.
Highlights – Sea Lion Discovery Includes:
- Up-close interaction with a South African Fur Seal
- Same day access to Aquaventure Waterpark
- 30-minute check-in/changing
- 10-minute orientation with a Marine Mammal Specialist
- 30 minutes in the water
- Wetsuits are provided
- Bottled Water / Soft Drinks
- Towels and lockers – for your use during the interaction only
- 25% off same day admission to The Lost Chambers Aquarium
An Amusing Conversation with a Marine Mammal Specialist
After changing into a wetsuit and waterproof boots, the programme begins with a briefing session hosted by a resident marine mammal specialist, where we found out interesting fun facts about sea lions. For instance, did you know that their favourite dishes include (Herring, Smelt, Capelin and Squid, to name a few!)? Moreover, as all the sea lions at Atlantis are carnivores, they eat anything from 4000 to 8000-kilocalories of restaurant grade fish every day.
The marine mammal specialists here have achieved sea lion care excellence and give the resident animals the best quality of life they rightly deserve. They spend an average of eight to ten hours a day bonding through different types of sessions, but also by observing and record their behaviour.
Extremely social by nature, all the Fur Seals here are looked after by the experts with state-of-the-art marine medical amenities. The dedicated trainers spend an average of eight to ten hours every day working on their relationship with the sea lions by not just bonding through different types of sessions, but also by plainly observing and recording their behaviour.
According to the trainer, if you look and listen close enough, the Fur Seals will always show you what they need and what engages them. Each sea lion has a different character, personality and needs, and to ensure they get proactive and enriched care and welfare, behavioural observation is key. All the resident marine mammals at the enclosure are under 24 hours observations for the last 11 years and the in-house veterinary team is available 24/7.
In addition to accomplishing a complex list of daily tasks (physical examination, husbandry, enrichment, social and new learning sessions as well as interactive and educational programs with guests), the resident marine mammal specialists also follow a strict prophylactic medicine programme (which includes a series of routine and preventive exams, as well as ultrasounds and x-rays) for each sea lion. They also provide the sea lions with a nutritious diet and regular veterinary care in their naturalistic habitat that includes ramps, perches and pools to stimulate natural instincts and keep them active.
Soon after our briefing, we step into one of the viewing rooms to meet our flipper friend for the day. Before we touch the water at one of the lagoons at Sea Lion Point, we walk on a specialized disinfectant mat to avoid taking in or out any germs or contaminants during our visit, which protects the sea lions from any infection or diseases.
Remaining on dry land, we are greeted by Sanga who waves her flippers excitedly at us; she gives a happy roar that resonates through the lagoon.
Meet Sanga, the Sea Lion
At just under 16 years old, Sanga is a juvenile South African fur seal and one of the many seals that call Atlantis, The Palm home. Sanga’s trainer describes her as a well-behaved, easy-going girl with a joyful personality.
The marine mammal specialist lets us study Sanga’s anatomical details as she lies down on the ground, allowing us to rub her and see her fur which is double layered for insulation. Using positive reinforcement to communicate with Sanga, her trainer feeds her some fish and motions us to examine her teeth, flipper and nails; we take turns to examine Sanga closely. The trainer explains how the sea lions are cared for, while describing the differentiating features between male and female sea lions, how they live and various other aspects of their day-to-day lives.
Next, Sanga moves towards the bathing pool; the excitement obvious in her soulful, sparkling black eyes. We follow her, wading into the waist-deep waters of the pool and kneel as she slowly swims past us, giving us plenty of opportunities to stroke her and see how her under layer of fur remains completely dry even when fully submerged in the water.
Then, the special moment comes. Sanga swims towards us, slipping one flipper behind our back and the other in front of our chest; she places a whiskery kiss on our cheek and lips very gently. We reciprocate the friendly gesture by hugging her. It’s only then that we fully realize the sheer size and mass of her; she is by no means light. A resident photographer takes care of capturing all our special moments with the sea lion.
Over the next half-hour, everyone was able to pet Sanga as well as learn more about the lives of sea lions at the enclosure. The most noticeable thing was how, right in front of this very magnificent animal, everyone turned into a child.
A Lesson on Environmental Education & Conservation
At the end of the programme, Sanga teaches us a very important environmental lesson – by diving into the pool and collecting a floating plastic bottle before shooting it directly into a nearby trash can – to help bring awareness to the community about aquatic trash and how one can help preserve not only the marine environment but also marine life.
As we applaud her efforts, she treats us to some singing and chuckles. All in all, Sanga is a blast to hang out with! To know Sanga, the sea lion you have to come and meet her for yourself by a visit to Sea Lion Point!
See More of Sea Lions First-Hand…
With three different programmes on offer at Atlantis, a visit to Sea Lion Point is ideal for kids (ages 6 years and above) and adults alike. All children under 12 years old must be accompanied by a paying adult (18 years and above) for the interaction.
With the Sea Lion Photo Fun programme – a must-do if you would like to stay dry while interacting with the sea lions – you can take a selfie with a sea lion, get a fishy kiss and a cuddle.
Sea Lion Discovery Programme Details
Duration – 30 minutes approximately
Price: AED 645 per person. AED 395 per person for UAE residents only
Schedule: All year long, daily from Sunday to Saturday – 10.30am until 4pm.
NB: The Sea Lion Discovery programme is the most comprehensive, allowing you to get up close and personal with these fascinating sea mammals.
Although we all went our separate ways to explore the rest of the marine animal attractions afterward, we were all certainly impacted by this amazing experience.
This experience cast an eternal spell of wonder and will stay with me forever, I hope that it does for you and your family too!