Sharks of Dubai Mall must qualify as one of the best shopping centre attractions anywhere in the world. We visit at feeding time.
Only in Dubai does visiting a mall come under the category of a visitor attraction, but there is more to this new opening than just the shops. The huge aquarium (at nearly 30 metres wide and over eight metres tall, it boasts the largest acrylic viewing window in the world) has been one of the mall’s biggest draws. But, impressive as the tank and the adjacent walk-through tunnel are, it’s the daily shark-feeding that really ticks the tourist boxes.
On the stroke of four o’clock each afternoon, a trio of wetsuit-clad scuba divers lower themselves into the tank. Cradling silver buckets full of fish parts, they lure the dozens of sharks lurking in the Aquarium’s adjacent walk-through tunnel (which is home to the darker, more sheltered crevices they naturally prefer) into the mainviewing area, where the sharks circle around their feeders, commanding the tank as their own.
But incredible as it is to watch these mighty fish cut through the water barely further than an arm’s length away, it’s just as fascinating to see how the other species in the tank react.
While the many types of stingray are happy enough to fly past in the sharks’ wake, catching overlooked food scraps as they sail in slow-mo towards the bottom of the tank, the smaller fish dart about warily – nipping in where they can for their share of the prize – or, in a bid to avoid being mistaken for dinner, stick like glue to the hulking giant groupers that move majestically slowly through the water, like galleons in full sail.
Twenty minutes later and the show is over, the sharks moving back to the darkened comfort of their tunnel, the scuba divers waving goodbye to the gaping punters outside and swimming up, up and away over the aquarium’s simulated coral, to the Discovery Centre above. Over the coming months, Dubai Aquarium is planning to implement a programme in which members of the public will be able to swim with the sharks too. Judging by the beauty of what we’ve just seen, Time Out will be back there, wetsuit firmly fastened, when they do.