'World's Largest Marine-Life Aquarium' Nearing Completion

August 11, 2021, 2:57 PM · During its earning call last week, SeaWorld Entertainment reported that construction on its upcoming park in Abu Dhabi should be complete by the end of 2022. Today, development partner Miral reported that construction on SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is 64% finished, with primary steel work complete.

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will be part of the Yas Island resort, joining Theme Park Insider Award-winning Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, home of the world's fastest roller coaster. Yas Island also is home to the Yas Waterworld water park and the Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 race track.

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi under construction
Construction progress. Photos and concept images courtesy Miral

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi concept
Concept rendering of the completed park

When complete, the SeaWorld's first indoor park will be home to what the companies are calling the world's largest marine-life aquarium, with 25 million liters of water. It will house more than 68,000 marine animals, including sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and schools of fish. A,ong the views of the animals will be through the "Endless Vista," a 20-meter-tall vertical window across multiple levels.

Endless Vista
Endless Vista

The current record-holder for largest aquarium complex is China's Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. If you're curious, the largest aquarium in the United States is the Georgia Aquarium, with a 24 million liter main tank. Beyond its aquarium, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will span 183,000 square meters across five indoor levels.

Aquarium Observation Deck
Aquarium Observation Dec

"We are delighted to be partnering with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment in developing this next generation marine life park, that is set to feature the world's largest marine aquarium and the UAE's first dedicated research center to study and care for animals," Miral CEO Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi said. "This is another major addition to Yas Island's existing immersive experiences and attractions, and a testament to achieving our vision of positioning the island as a top global tourism destination for residents and visitors alike."

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Replies (17)

August 12, 2021 at 4:33 AM

This is really exciting! Thanks :)

August 12, 2021 at 8:06 AM

This project is associated with Sea World and uses the company's branding, but it looks essentially like a typical aquarium. While all of the American Sea World parks have a distinct portion of their attractions based on marine tanks and aquariums, they all have a lot of rides and other attractions that are what differentiate Sea World parks from a standard aquarium.

Where are the rides and other attractions associated with this project? If it's due to open in a little over a year, you'd think they would be pretty certain what those attractions would be. In my eyes, this is not a Sea World park if it's just an oversized aquarium.

August 12, 2021 at 8:27 AM

You can see the roller coaster track in front of the building in both the concept art and the construction photo. (I will leave to sharper-eyed readers to determine which company's track that is.) There appear to be two coasters outside the building, and who knows how many simulator or screen attractions within, in addition to the aquarium.

But yeah, it's much more an aquarium than SeaWorld-style open pools with shows. And no orcas here, either.

August 12, 2021 at 8:28 AM

It still blows my mind that an industry that is filled with gay people is so pro doing business with the UAE, just goes to show where the real priorities are. I certainly will not be going there.

August 12, 2021 at 9:18 AM

I saw those tracks on the wide-angle concept photo too Robert, but this press release only seems to note the animal habitats, and the additional concept photos provided here only emphasize those tanks without a single note regarding traditional theme park attractions. As we know, concepts can change significantly from the time they're announced until they debut. The lack of any descriptions of rides or other traditional theme park attractions worries me that those may have been cut or significantly pared down to the point where this Sea World is more like a traditional aquarium instead of the Sea World parks we're used to seeing the US. If this project was still a couple years from reality, I wouldn't have the same level of concern, but given that this is 12-18 months from opening, and they can't reveal any of the actual rides makes me think that any rides part of the original concept have been dropped or significantly cut back from the original plan.

@the_man - I'm of the belief that business and politics should not mix, especially when you work in a creative field where the value of your work is extremely subjective. If someone is willing to pay for your art, is it worth making a political stand and risk your livelihood, especially when the prospective client is halfway around the world and in a sovereign nation? Perhaps doing projects for the UAE is a way for some to make a political statement by showing that the Emiratis are hypocrites by partnering with firms that promote values illegal in the UAE.

August 12, 2021 at 10:18 AM

I have been excited for this project ever since I heard of its existence here on this site some time ago. I'm a big fan of Sea World and aquariums in general so this will be the best of both worlds. As mentioned in a previous post, there will be rides here with two roller coasters and a simulator like attraction within the building. I'll make it out to the Middle-East hopefully sometime this decade and Abu Dhabi with this, Ferrari World, and Warner Bros seems to be the place to be!

August 12, 2021 at 10:21 AM

@the_man Doing business in the UAE is obviously bad for equality, but the upside is no pesky animal welfare laws. Remember that Sea World's business strategy is admittedly directed toward opening new parks in places where they can treat animals as they please . . .

August 12, 2021 at 10:40 AM

What are you talking about thecolonel? Sea World is de-emphasizing Orcas not only as the company's icon, but also as attractions within their parks. Their treatment of other animal species is as good or better than other licensed aquariums and zoological facilities around the world, and they have a very successful rescue program that has saved more marine animals than any other organization in the world. Blackfish made its mark, and Sea World has appropriately changed their focus with a gradual end of keeping Orcas in captivity. They can't simply release those animals into the wild, so they will give their existing population a comfortable home through the rest of their lives while ceasing efforts to breed the species.

There are far more notorious abusers of animal welfare in the world (and the US) than Sea World. Opening a park in the Middle East represents an opportunity to tap a new market, not to skirt rules and regulations governing animal care.

August 12, 2021 at 11:17 AM

Animal politics aside, Sea World is doing this for the same reason everyone else is in the UAE, they're getting paid to do it. Sea World will be making their licensing and design fees regardless of how the park does so they see it as free money.

August 12, 2021 at 12:36 PM

@russell Trying to find a link, but I recall a Sea World investor presentation a few years back where Sea World responded to animal rights protests, in part, by pivoting its strategy to opening foreign parks in places like the middle east, where animal welfare laws aren't a restriction. In the UAE no one can hear animals scream; etc.

As for "their treatment of other animal species is as good or better than other licensed aquariums and zoological facilities around the world," that point ignores the obvious response that Sea World, unlike other aquarium and zoo facilities, _forces their animals to perform. You ever been forced to perform?

August 12, 2021 at 1:06 PM

Have you actually been to a zoo or aquarium before thecolonel? There are animal performances at theme parks, zoos, and aquariums around the world. Just a few weeks ago we were at the Georgia Aquarium (the largest in the US), and they had both a dolphin and sea lion show displaying trained behaviors in a show setting. The same goes for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, San Diego Zoo, Columbus Zoo, and many other highly recognized facilities across the country. Even Disney has animal performances and deliberately designed habitats to best show off trained/forced animal behaviors. I can't think of a single zoo or large aquarium that I've been to where there hasn't been at least one animal show that displays trained behaviors.

Also, if Sea World was expanding into the UAE to avoid animal welfare laws, why are they spending money to build and maintain an animal rehabilitation and rescue facility there? Your claim that SWE is trying to flee to foreign soil in order to deliberately mistreat animals has no logical or factual basis and is downright libelous.

"You ever been forced to perform?"

Yup, but the salary and benefits I have received fairly compensate me for my performance.

August 12, 2021 at 2:16 PM

Thank you, Russell! That last line made me laugh! My thoughts exactly!

August 12, 2021 at 5:42 PM

Agree Tim.

Shame some forget the good things Seaworld does.

Easy to remember the bad not so quick on the good.

August 12, 2021 at 7:47 PM

@Russell yeahhhhh but based on your benefits and compensation you choose to perform, the animals didn't.

August 13, 2021 at 8:20 AM

And while we're calling out Sea World for forcing animals to perform, we should also shame all of those evil pet owners who teach their dogs to "Sit!" "Lay Down!" "Roll Over" and walk on a leash just to get a treat or a pat on the head. How humiliating it must be for an animal whose ancestors once hunted us for dinner to show obediance to what was once prey!

I hope some of you people see how far down Absurdity Road we can take your reasoning.

August 13, 2021 at 6:11 PM

Thecolonel, have you ever worked for Sea World? Speaking as a former ambassador, I can personally tell you that the zoological operations teams ALWAYS put the animals' needs ahead of the guests' enjoyment. If you have no experience in what goes on backstage at these parks, please refrain from posting on this topic in the interest of avoiding the spread of misinformation.

Best regards.

August 15, 2021 at 3:10 PM

@thecolonel I was forced to sing in concerts for my parents during elementary school. Am I also a victim of oppressive rights violations?

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