It is the dawning of a new age of aquaria
For decades Oceanworld Manly has been overshadowed by its big brother in Darling Harbour. But after a $1 million makeover the aquarium is better and wetter than ever, and now called the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary.
The ‘Sea Life’ aquarium brand is attached to some 34 aquaria in Europe and the US. The adoption of the new brand comes with an endearing new exhibit – Penguin Cove, home to a ten-strong Little Penguin colony – but also a renewed focus on rehabilitation.
“Our ultimate goal is to successfully release rescued animals back into the wild,” says Brendan Kelly, the Sanctuary’s operations manager. “We see ourselves as protectors of the underwater world. We’ve been rehabilitating turtles and breeding Grey Nurse Sharks for years. But in adopting Sea Life’s ‘breed, rescue, protect’ ideology, it’s really coming to the fore.”
It’s also coming out from behind the scenes. Visitors to the Sanctuary will get to witness the process of nursing ailing aquatic life back to health in the ‘Rehab Room’. “We’re now geared towards ensuring all guests leave us with a greater understanding of marine issues, what we are doing about them and how they as individuals can make an impact.
“We will be advising the public about medical assessments of rescued animals, the treatment plan that has been formulated for those animals and the assessment of animals suitable for release.”
But, yes, you can still go diving with the sharks. In fact, we sent our roving reporter Yana Novak to the aquarium to do just that.
Kid's eye view
I’m eight and I’ve lived in Sydney all my life, but I’ve never been to the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary until last week. I’m really glad I went.
I went with my dad and my brother. We drove to Manly in the car. You can get there on a ferry but I get seasick.
We went on a backstage tour of the Aquarium. The vet nurse called Marina showed me around. With a name like that she could only ever work in a place like this.
She showed me the area where they keep and look after rescued and sick sea creatures. There were some sick turtles, a Port Jackson shark, and some baby giant cuttlefish that you could barely see. The babies aren’t giant but the adults are. We also looked at the filters that clean all the water for the animals.
We saw the divers feeding the sharks and turtles. A guide called Bert told us about the animals as they were eating.
The stingrays look really weird when they eat. Their mouths are like vacuum cleaners. They suck up the food. My brother Thom said it must be hard for them to eat food because they are so flat. Where would their stomachs be?
Bert told us that turtles are really stubborn and if things don’t get out of their way, they just bash into them. Sometimes they just crash into the pillars of the tank. The aquarium has Grey Nurse sharks that won’t actually eat you because they have teeth like forks.
You walk through glass tunnels to see the fish. The curve of the glass makes everything appear 20 per cent smaller than it really is. The sharks still looked pretty big to me, though.
In some of the smaller tanks, they have an octopus. Bert told me a story about one. There was an aquarium that kept losing its crayfish and they couldn’t work out why. One night, a cleaner spotted an octopus crawling along the floor. The octopus was creeping out at night, eating the crayfish and crawling back to its own tank!
There is also a penguin habitat. We saw Marina feeding the penguins and keeping records of which one was eating what. Another guide told us about the local Manly penguin colony and how one penguin walked into a nightclub. She explained that we should protect them by not taking our dogs near them and picking up our rubbish (one of the penguins was found with a coffee cup stuck on its head).
I recommended the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary to people with young kids because it’s smaller than the Sydney Aquarium and also to people who are all-round general sea life lovers.
(Reviewed by: Bill Blake, aged 8)