Corona Virus Update - 1 May - uShaka Marine World
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uShaka Marine World Corona Virus Communication

Corona Virus Update – 1 May

Our Marketing Director, Mpume Mabuza had an interview with Nongcebo McKenzie from the Creative Couch on eThekwini PRC TV. See what she had to say about COVID19, the legend Gambit and our animal care. 

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Welcome to the Creative Couch thank you so much for joining us this morning, my name is Nongcebo McKenzie, and as usual we’re together between 11 and a half past 11 here on eThekwini PRC. You can catch us on YouTube you can catch us on Instagram and you can catch us on Facebook. It’s been a week of the show and it’s been quite an interesting week but today we’re ending it off by looking at the assets that Durban has. We know that we are in the middle of COVID19 and we do not have transport and travel. It is the chance for us to learn about our beautiful town Durban. Today we decided to talk about uShaka Marine World. We are here today with the managing director of uShaka Marine World, Ms Mpume Mabuza.

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Thank you so much Nongcebo, it’s a pleasure being part of the PRC TV team today.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Mpume, Let us first learn about this place called uShaka Marine World. People come from Joburg and other places to come visit uShaka Marine World but some of us have never gotten a chance to visit uShaka Marine.

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
So Nongcebo, uShaka Marine World is Africa’s largest Marine Theme Park. We opened our shores in 2004, and we welcome about 3 million visitors per year to all our parks and all our attractions. So uShaka is very well known internationally for housing the seventh largest aquarium in the world. We have the highest slide in Africa, in terms of our waterpark. We also have the largest obstacle course and jungle gym at the uShaka Kids World. uShaka has a myriad of attractions, you can call it an attraction, you know, a collection of attractions within one big attraction.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
What is your biggest attractor? Because there’s restaurants, there’s shops. There’s as you say the water theme park and the aquarium. What is your biggest attraction at uShaka?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
I can tell you two of our biggest attractors. So, firstly the Village Walk which houses 75 stores, shops, restaurants, curio shops, etc. as well as the Sea World section, which houses the seventh largest aquarium in the world as well as your dolphin shows, penguin shows, seal shows etc.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
What makes the uShaka Marine World aquarium the seventh biggest aquarium? I’m not familiar with the space. I wouldn’t know if it’s size or if it’s the type of animal or the diversity of animals or what makes it the seventh biggest?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
There’s different measurements in terms of working out which is the largest aquarium in the world. We’ve moved up in ranking over the years, but they measure specifically on either of the two things, either the amount of water that’s in the aquarium, or the number of animals. We have plus, minus 10,000 beautiful sea animals in our aquarium, that we offer.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Wow okay. It’s amazing because as a person I know there is a place called uShaka and getting all this information about it is quite amazing. We know that you fully packed all the time. Even in school holidays if things are going normal, not in this time of COVID, you would find out that it’s a busy place. In September holidays uShaka was very busy, I remember we were working by the sea and when we were done we had to pass by uShaka, the queue was very long with people waiting to enter. How do you manage such a big space and such a huge volume of numbers because we hardly hear, well personally I’ve never heard of incidents at uShaka.

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
It’s so true. I’ve also never heard of incidental accidents that have been reported on uShaka Marine World through our guests and our staff. uShaka has a lot of specialists, as well as experts in their own fields. So for example, people who look after the aquarium. There’s scientists, there’s marine biologists, there’s researchers who have had many years of experience doing this kind of work. uShaka Marine World was established in 2004 but the aquarium, people who are in Durban remember the aquarium for many years. We literally moved from North Beach to uShaka Marine World. The aquarium has been existing for over 70 years. Then you’ve got different professionals who look after uShaka Marine World from Wet ‘n Wild in terms of our lifeguards, our engineers, people who literally every day whether it’s lockdown or not, have to make sure that the entire Theme Park is running and our animals are taken care of and they can, you know, live a normal life that they would, even without COVID-19. There’s people behind the scenes, whether it is, our Sea Animal Encounter Island professionals who assist our guests to actually have a really amazing experience when they are there, to Dangerous Creatures where there’s snakes and reptiles of all kinds, and who are behind the scenes, they are scientists. They are people who really have expertise as far as these different sections of our Theme Park is concerned.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
I was about to ask about that because we wouldn’t be familiar. We go in and we see a beautiful clean space, we see the animals, I mean, one of the restaurants that you have there, when you go in, you literally see the fish and the sharks and everything playing underwater. When you go in, its an absolutely beautiful experience. There are people who have never had an opportunity to visit especially since there is COVID-19, but as soon as it goes away, we will go and see how beautiful it is. Very few of us consider and think what’s happening inside the glass since we are on Lockdown. Are you part of the essential service that are able to go to work?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
There’s quite a few of our people who definitely fall under the category of essential services. Who have permits right now to make sure that they are there, they have access to uShaka Marine World, and they are able to do the work that they have to do in order to sustain and maintain such a large Theme Park. As you were saying, Nongcebo, I haven’t seen who is actually behind the scenes, but I can tell you that underground, if you are walking into uShaka Marine World underneath the entire park there’s actually people, 500, plus, who are operating 24/7 sometimes behind the scenes to actually bring you the kind of fun and great experience that so many people enjoy at uShaka Marine World on a daily basis.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
What I found very interesting is how you incorporate different activities, at uShaka Marine World, there’s the swimming program that you have for kids, where kids come and swim. There have been aerobics marathons that have been hosted at uShaka Marine. I’ve seen there’s, even a concert tour, where people come and listen to music while swimming, all of these things, how do you put them together and what positive impact do you create so that people visit more often?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
It’s a lot of fun, and it’s quite hectic to be part of the team at uShaka Marine World because as you were talking about events we actually have an events calendar. Every year we have anchor events of uShaka Marine World, from Dolphins by Starlight where we have artists, performers, wowing and exciting the crowds that come through to our shows. Together with our dolphins, we have as you’ve said, through our waterpark at Wet ‘n Wild, you will have DJs, you will have artists, whether it is Dubane Spring Break, or Slime Fest, or family events or corporate events for that matter, that actually happen in our Waterpark. People can enjoy the event, but at the same time, enjoy the pools, enjoy the slides and all under the sun and right next to the sea. It’s quite a unique place to be in the world.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
In terms of managing all that and in terms of making sure that it runs smoothly, as you’ve said you’ve got the anchor events and you’ve got the different categories of events in terms of age groups and so on, one of your biggest attractions, and I’m an adult I never had the benefit of seeing it as a child, but one of your bigger attractors even for children especially but also just as great for adults is the Dolphin Show. I have always been amazed at, I mean we are told that dolphins are the smartest animals, but wow, how does that happen?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
We do a survey on a daily basis randomly at uShaka Marine World and we ask people what is the most popular, or the most attractive thing for you to do, at uShaka out of so many things that people can enjoy, and it is the Dolphin Show each time. People say the dolphin show, they rate it quite highly. To put all of that together as I’ve said you’ve got scientists and you’ve got people behind the scenes, who are experienced who know exactly how to look after the animals who can also work in and make sure that what we do is meaningful. I want to salute, in a special way especially with the passing and the recent death of our amazing legendary dolphin Gambit, I want to start with our uShaka Sea World Team, on behalf of uShaka Marine World, because these are the guys who work quite closely with our animals, who bring the dolphin stadium and the whole dolphin area to life everyday throughout the year at uShaka Marine World.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Our production team has got a video that they would like to share a bit later on. A video about Gambit but let’s talk about that because it made the news, Gambit dying made the news because, as you say, he’s a legendary dolphin. How is he a legend? because somebody else might say, Oh it’s just a dolphin you know, the cycle of life. But as you say, He’s a legend.

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Thank you Nongcebo for this. We really have been grieving the loss of Gambit, together with all our loyal fans of uShaka and of Gambit throughout South Africa and the world. They’ve really been pouring their messages of love and condolences since he passed on. So, what makes him a legend, is first of all not just his size because he was quite big, and not just the kind of tricks that he performed when he was part and parcel of the Dolphin Show, but it was how he did it. He had a sense of majesty. His total presence as a preacher of this world was just amazing. He inspired the team who worked so closely with him to just really do more for Marine Conservation, to protect animals and teach others. The work that they do on a daily basis was just really inspirational. He touched lives of people for example, who are terminally ill or who have disabilities, or challenged in some way, who have specifically asked to meet a Dolphin and Gambit because of his number of years of existence and the age that he passed on at, he lived for 48 years.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Is that greater than the normal lifespan of a dolphin?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Yes it is. The fact that he’s been well taken care of in an aquarium in a protected space, it made him live much longer. That’s part of the reason he did so well. I wanted to touch on that people specifically who have physical challenges or are terminally ill, have a special connection with the dolphins. A lot of people don’t know that. You have to be honest, under those circumstances to fully understand what impact and interaction does to that person. It leaves them completely inspired and different. There’s a certain connection that dolphins, in general in terms of their physical makeup of their biology, have towards people who are aged.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Really?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Yes. We work quite closely with one of our CSI beneficiaries, Reach For a Dream, that normally bring people on a daily basis, etc to uShaka Marine World. People who have specifically asked to meet a dolphin because their family member was terminally ill or had a disability.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Educate me on it. Is it just an uplifting experience, is it a spiritually healing experience? Is it something intuitive about dolphins? I’m intrigued I didn’t know this.

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Yeah, I think it’s a combination of exactly all of those three things you’ve mentioned. They specifically have a certain connection with people, they recognize those who have specific challenges. People who have shared with us those experiences have been quite, you know, those stories are quite special. If you were to ask someone who has been involved in that kind of interaction, and they are, and they have a physical challenge etc, they will tell you just how uplifting and how inspiring they were after the experience.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
That’s absolutely amazing. I know our production team is on standby with the video of Gambit. All right. Okay, so we’re gonna cross to the video now to see the experience that Mpume is talking about. Today we’re talking about uShaka Marine World, we are exploring the assets that we have here in Durban. Remember you can always catch us on eThekwiniPRC on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram in order to view all the programs that we have, you are on the Creative Couch with Nongcebo McKenzie speaking to Mpume Mabuza, Marketing Director of uShaka Marine World. 

[Play footage of Gambit]

Okay, so I’m viewing the show as I’m on the show and I’m just gonna read a comment from Oh DJ Wise, who is sending heart eyes, the emoji with the heart eyes, has just seen the video and Teshni is asking about life expectancy versus captivity for the dolphins and we would just like to understand that in terms of how it affects.

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Thank you Nongcebo for that question. It is quite an important question because it is a global discussion and dialog that uShaka Marine World, together with many other aquariums have had and Zoo’s in terms of animals in captivity. In an ideal world, there would be no need for conservation, that would be first prize. However we know that we dont live in an ideal world. Humans have a disconnect, they are disconnected in the age that we live in from natural creation like animals and so the only way that people can really get to connect and understand and know better. Sea animals etc such as the ones we have and house at uShaka Marine World is actually through facilities such as ours so that really would be our answer to the question that has been asked.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Mpume, from a social and educational perspective you welcome schools to come through, view the aquarium, experience uShaka Marine but also from a science perspective you work in affiliation with SAAMBR in terms of scientific research and the Oceanographic Research Unit?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Yes correct. We work with eThewkwini’s Municipalities, Natural Science Museum and the stakeholders there, absolutely, it’s critical for us to work together because uShaka Marine World is part of the City, is an entity of the City together with a few others. Working together in bringing services such as these and exposure to Marine Conservation, to Marine Life to natural resources that we have, as assets of the city when we do it together we have more impact and so that relationship is quite a positive and an important one.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
As we end the interview Mpume, a lot of people are looking forward to COVID19 restrictions being lifted at some point in the future, we’re keeping an ear on the news, on developments, at some point in the future we don’t know when, but at some point in the future, life will return to a new normal where we will be able to experience some of the things we were able to experience before, including uShaka Marine. In the meantime, are people able to keep up to date in terms of any news, any updates, are you communicating with them in any way? People might be worried that when we get back to normal, will we still be able to come to uShaka, is everything going to be still up and running or should we expect that there will be some change there?

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
Nongcebo, even before lockdown we have been communicating with our public, with our guests, our tenants (you know all all those shops at the Village Walk), all our service providers, all our stakeholders basically, informing them what kind of extra additional measures we have been able to roll out at uShaka Marine World. That was before lockdown. We continue to do so and the fact that uShaka Marine World is under lockdown, it is empty at the moment but we understand behind the scenes as we plan and put together our recovery plan which we already have in place, which will be presented to our board, is making sure that there is continuity, as i have mentioned there is still the 10,000 animals that are housed in our aquarium so we’ve got people that are working at present. As I am sent from our CEO together with the executives, we really want to extend our message of thank you for the incredible support over the years. uShaka Marine World is a Theme Park that belongs to the people, to our communities, to South Africa, to Africa. We really want to send a message of thank you and also on behalf of uShaka Marine World to Larry, the MD of Sea World, together with his team, for the kind of work that they continue to do in support of uShaka Marine World.

Nongcebo McKenzie (eThekwini PRC)
Mpume, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and giving us an insight into uShaka Marine World and we look forward to at some point in the future being able to visit what is infact a treasure for us in Durban, as you say it is the seventh largest aquarium. So thank you very much for sharing this information, it’s important for us to know about the assets that the City has, it will lead us to appreciating them more and venturing out to experiencing them more so thank you so much.

Mpume Mabuza (uShaka Marketing Director)
You are most welcome Nongcebo and we look forward to welcoming everyone back.

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