What To Expect From the Two Oceans Aquarium if you Visit it Now (A.K.A. Finding Nemo in the Time of Corona)

by - February 16, 2021

I think it goes without saying that in the last few months most of our favourite destinations have had to adapt to the new COVID-19 protocol. The Two Oceans Aquarium (also known as 'the Cape Town Aquarium') is no different.  If you are having a rough week and you just want to go visit a shark, chat to a penguin or be stared at by a turtle (I effing love turtles), here’s what you can expect if you visit it now:

Girl looks at shark. Title page: A guide to the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town during COVID-19

What’s changed:

Obviously COVID-19 protocols have been put in place. Everyone is screened and temperature tested before entering and the number of visitors allowed entrance has been reduced. Once inside you do have to maintain social distancing, anyone over the age of 2 has to wear a mask and there’s sanitiser all over the place. 


Sadly some other things have also had to change:

  • You can no longer crawl into the Nemo-tank-thing and pose like you’re holding your breath underwater: 
Girl holding breath in clownfish tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town
March 2018

  • You can no longer touch the sea creatures in the touch tank.
  • The I&J Children’s Play Centre is temporarily closed which means other people’s children are more likely to be looking at the fish with you. (And sometimes other people’s children are awful!)
  • And worst of all, you can’t be a giant turtle and take turtle-grams to post on your Instagram to the envy of all your followers and the people who bullied you in high school! 

Girl in oversized turtle shell at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town
March 2018


However, not everything has changed: 

  • It still has weird-looking fish

The Skretting Diversity Gallery is home to some fish that can’t be found in any other aquarium in the world. 

A strange fish at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town

One example is the very attractive hagfish which doesn’t have jaws, eyes, fins or scales, but it can produce vast amounts of slime if it gets scared. When my mother says “Don’t worry, Sha, there are plenty of other fish in the sea,” this is the image that comes to mind. Sexy! 

(I didn’t actually photograph it but it looks a bit like a coily poo. 💩) 


  • It’s still got cool sharks

The Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit, a huge tank that holds 2 million litres of water is home to some impressive Ragged-tooth sharks. It raises awareness about the plight of sharks and educates visitors about the facts concerning these misunderstood creatures. Don’t get too attached to the inhabitants though; they frequently get released back into the ocean. 

Girl looking at shark at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town

  • It still has crabs bigger than your dog

Fact! 

Giant crab Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town
(Okay, this photo is terrible but you get the idea.) #giantcrabselfie


  • The penguins are still rad 

The Penguin Exhibit is home to a breeding colony of African black-footed penguins (also known as Jackass Penguins - Tee hee!) and northern rockhopper penguins, as well as some other reptiles, frogs and freshwater fish. 

You may recognise some of these guys. During South Africa’s first hard lockdown, their keeper, Ayrton King, would walk them through the aquarium and show them the other creatures.  The results were so cute they went viral and they were even featured in the Expresso Show: 

Penguin experiences have also just recommenced after being temporarily halted. 

  • It’s still got the cool tunnel

I&J Ocean Exhibit is one of those big tanks with a 10-metre-long tunnel through it to give visitors the feeling of being surrounded by ocean life. Containing 1.6 million litres of seawater, it is home to a variety of fish, rays, turtles and sometimes divers, with the odd influencer passing through.

People walking through tunnel tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town

  • It has a forest

A kelp forest that is! 

This exhibit is one of only two of its kind in the world. The tranquil exhibit features a variety of fish swimming around the two-metre-high swaying kelp fronds belonging to three different species. 

The kelp forest as seen through a boardroom at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town

  • The jellyfish are still illuminated in neon light against a dark background like living screensavers

The Jelly Gallery is home to some very strange alien-like creatures and some creative lighting. These creatures may not have hearts, spines or brains, but they will have you mesmerised while they float about. 

Neon coloured jelly fish at the Cape Town Aquarium

The spectacular exhibit also provides some inspiration for some creative photographs:

family seen through jelly fish tank

  • You can still dive 

The Aquarium offers a range of Diving experiences for different ages and experience levels. Become part of the I&J Ocean Exhibit and photobomb the Instagrammers in the tunnel, more interested in getting the perfect shot than seeing the fish.  Or, if you have the right qualification, you can get up close and personal with some more intimidating ocean life (based on commonly held misperceptions anyway). Why go shark-cage diving (seriously it’s a bit controversial) when you can dive without the cage?

(I haven't actually done this, but I'd like to.)

A diver feeds the fish at the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town

  • It still has turtles that play dead and lie lifeless at the bottom for a really long time until you’re about to alert someone who works there that the turtle corpse is disturbing to the children, before it suddenly springs to life, swims around and looks at you like you’re crazy for being concerned. 

Turtles are the best! 

A rescued cape town turtle

Turtle at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Girl in face mask takes selfie with a turtle
(A somewhat more flattering #turtleselfie than the last one - Even if you can't see half my face!)

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Related post:  How to take the perfect #turtleselfie

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Again, don’t get too attached to the turtles. They are frequently rehabilitated and released into the wild. Click here to discover the Aquarium’s story of one such turtle named 'Bob'. 


  • And finally, it’s still free on your birthday! (If you’re a South African citizen or permanent resident) 

I’ll be back in August, you guys!


Strange neon-coloured sea creature

While it's unfortunate that some things have had to change, it is comforting to know that you can still go learn about the mysterious organisms floating around in the sea without worrying about them floating around in your body.


About the Two Oceans Aquarium:

The Aquarium is also home to a vast variety of sea creatures from both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans which meet not far from Cape Town. (Hence the name of the aquarium!) Approximately 8000 animals of 300 species can be found here. It is committed to educating visitors about preserving the ocean as well as rehabilitating and protecting ocean life. In its efforts to conserve not just the oceans but the entire ecosystem, it is partially solar-powered. 

It is also home to a gift store with an extensive range of souvenirs and a branch of the Bootlegger Coffee Company (which sells a lot more than just coffee) if you need a meal or a refreshment.

Exterior view of the Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town

When is the Aquarium Open: 

Monday - Friday: 9:30am – 6:00pm (With extended hours over Christmas and New Years)
Saturday - Sunday and public holidays: 9:00am - 6:00pm

How much is the aquarium at the Waterfront?

How Much are the Aquarium's Ticket Prices:

Adults: R200
South African pensioners, South African students, and children aged 14 – 17 years: R150 
Children aged 4 – 13 years: R95 
Children aged 0 – 4 years: Free
(Correct at time of posting)

Does the 2 Oceans Aquarium Have any Specials:

Until 31 March 2021 there is a special for anyone buying a ticket in person after 3:00pm for use the same day:

Adults: R150
South African pensioners, South African students, and children aged 14 – 17 years: R115
Children aged 4 – 13 years: R75
Children aged 0 – 4 years: Free

Toddler looks up at aquarium tank

How to get to the Aquarium:

Address: Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

If you have your own transport or a rental car, directions can be found here.  

The Portswood Parking Garage would probably be the most convenient place to park, however the Aquarium can be reached on foot from any of the parking garages in the V&A Waterfront Complex.

If you are relying on public transport, the museum is located on Route 104 of the My City Bus

It is very conveniently one of the stops on about three different routes of the City Sightseeing Open Bus Tour route.


2 Oceans Aquarium Contact Info:

Phone: +27214183823
For dive bookings you can contact: dive@aquarium.co.za or +27 (0)21 418 3823
More info can be found on their website

The star fish are bad at social-distancing
2 Metres apart you guys!

What to Bring:

  • A mask - All visitors over the age of two have to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth.
  • If you would like to be extra cautious, you can buy your tickets online to make use of the contactless system that the aquarium has put in place. This also enables you to skip the queue at the ticket office if there is one.
  • Food and drinks are not currently permitted.


Other Things to do Near the Aquarium:

In addition to a vast array of shops and restaurants, the V&A Waterfront is also home to a food market, the Watershed (a craft market), the Cape Wheel (a Ferris wheel with a view), numerous boat tour operators and the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island, all in walking distance. You can also check out the world-class art museum the Zeitz MOCAA

View of Table Mountain from the Cape Town Waterfront

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