Pictures reveal how SeaWorld’s first park without orcas is taking shape – and what lies in store for visitors at the attraction, which will house the world’s largest sealife aquarium

  • SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is set to open next year on Yas Island, UAE, housing more than 68,000 marine animals  
  • Renderings reveal it will feature a roller coaster and a 66ft-tall window showcasing ‘stunning aquatic scenes’  
  • The theme park will be the first SeaWorld without orcas – SeaWorld described the move as an ‘important step’

The first SeaWorld park without killer whales is nearing completion, with images showing the Abu Dhabi attraction taking shape on Yas Island and revealing what some of the attractions will look like.

Billed as ‘the next generation of marine life theme parks’, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is set to open in the United Arab Emirates in 2022, featuring the world’s ‘largest and most expansive marine [sealife] aquarium’ and the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre.

A photograph shows the gargantuan complex – which is now over 65 per cent complete – emerging from the sand, surrounded by cranes and diggers.

The first SeaWorld park without killer whales, pictured above, is nearing completion in Abu Dhabi 

This rendering paints a picture of what the park will look like once it’s completed, with a roller coaster looping around the building’s exterior

An eye-catching rendering, meanwhile, paints a picture of the finished park, showing how a roller coaster will loop around the building’s exterior and a huge glass window at the front will offer a glimpse inside the aquarium.

Another rendering shows the ‘Observation Deck’ inside. In the picture, shoals of fish swim through a wall of water as visitors look on through a circular glass lookout.

A third rendering depicts the ‘Endless Vista’ attraction, which SeaWorld describes as ‘an impressive 20m- (66ft) tall vertical window across multiple levels revealing stunning aquatic scenes’.

SeaWorld and Abu Dhabi-government-backed Miral Asset Management are behind the development.

Spanning 183,000 square meters (1,969,796 square feet), the theme park will stretch across five levels. The park will contain 25million litres (6.6million gallons) of water and will house more than 68,000 marine animals.

A rendering of the ‘Observation Deck’, pictured, shows shoals of fish swimming past a circular glass lookout

SeaWorld says guests will encounter ‘one of the most diverse populations of animals featured in any marine-life park, globally’ in the aquarium, including sharks, schools of fish, manta rays and sea turtles. Different species of sea creatures will be housed ‘as they are in their natural habitat’. 

The aquarium will have a ‘One Ocean’ theme, divided into six sections. 

According to SeaWorld and Miral, visitors will get the chance to ‘explore these natural underwater environments via immersive storytelling techniques and the latest cutting-edge technologies’, with 3D mapping and virtual-reality technologies immersing visitors in virtual scientific expeditions or deep-sea dives.

Pictured is a rendering of the ‘Endless Vista’ attraction, which SeaWorld describes as ‘an impressive 20m- (66ft) tall vertical window across multiple levels revealing stunning aquatic scenes’

Located beside the aquarium, the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre promises to be ‘an advanced knowledge hub focusing on indigenous Gulf and marine life ecosystems’ and the ‘first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre in the UAE’. 

Educational learning programs for schools and tour groups will be on offer in the facility.

SeaWorld and Miral officials first announced their plans for the construction of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi in late 2016. At the time, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said the decision to create a SeaWorld without orcas was an ‘important step’ for the company.

‘This gives us a chance to position the new SeaWorld in a very strong way, repositioning it from a company that’s only about certain species to a company that is focused on ocean health,’ Manby added.

Historically, orcas were company icons, but the captive creatures became the focus of campaigns against SeaWorld by animal rights activists.

Pictured is the SeaWorld sign in Orlando, with cartoon orcas swimming over the lettering. Orcas have historically been SeaWorld icons, but the captive creatures became the focus of campaigns against the theme park chain

Orcas performing in San Diego. SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program in March 2016 after years of pressure from activists

SeaWorld trainers work with two orcas for a show in Orlando in 2014 

SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program in March 2016 after years of pressure from activists following the 2013 release of the critical documentary Blackfish, which chronicled the life of Tilikum, an orca that killed a SeaWorld trainer during a performance in Orlando in 2010.

The new park will join other attractions in Yas Island, such as Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – which is where you’ll find Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world. 

The island is also home to the Yas Marina Circuit, where the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been held since 2009.

As the completion of the new SeaWorld nears, Marc Swanson, CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said: ‘SeaWorld Abu Dhabi joins our North American parks in our mission and commitment to conservation efforts worldwide.

‘We have hundreds of professionals focused on animal care, rescue and rehabilitation, conservation education, habitat protection, and species research and we are excited to see the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Center further expand SeaWorld’s positive global impact with the vitally important marine life conservation efforts in the region.’

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