A family walking through an aquarium tunnel at the National Aqurium in Abu Dhabi

What to Expect at the National Aquarium Abu Dhabi

by Abu Dhabi Travel Planner Team

Enter an underwater world brimming with life at the National Aquarium, Abu Dhabi.  Opened in November 2021, the National Aquarium is home to 46,000 marine creatures, making it the largest aquarium in the Middle East (for now!)

With mesmerising thematic displays, high-tech interactive elements and a range of immersive experiences, a visit to the National Aquarium should be high up on your Abu Dhabi ‘to-do list’, especially if you are travelling with family.

Camouflaged Sea Dragons in the Ocean Magic zone at The National Aquarium, Abu Dhabi

What to expect at the National Aquarium

Located in the Al Qana development, Abu Dhabi, the National Aquarium is an imposing building on the site’s south side, clearly visible from Khaleej Al Arabi Street. The aquarium is split into different zones you pass through on your marine journey. Here is a brief outline of what you will find in each.

UAE Natural Treasures

The first space in the National Aquarium is ‘UAE National Treasures’. Guests enter this zone via a walkway above a lagoon filled with rehabilitated sea turtles. All of the turtles on display are part of the aquarium’s rehabilitation programme, highlighting the important conservation role played by the National Aquarium.

The Red Sea Wreck

The second exhibition is the ‘Red Sea Wreck’. The space is designed as if it were a sunken ship with large holes in the ship’s walls through which the largest coral reef exhibit in the Middle East can be viewed. The tanks contain a beautiful array of colourful corals and enormous and stern-looking grouper fish.

The Atlantic Cave

Here, you travel to the depths of the ocean in a stalactite-filled cave. Here you will find the prehistoric horseshoe crab, one of the oldest creatures to inhabit the earth still.

The Sub

As you hear the radar beeps, you enter a deep-sea submarine to view giant lobsters as well as the elusive Nautilus.

The Ring of Fire

Numerous interactive displays in this Pacific-themed zone teach visitors about the formation of islands and volcanic marine environments.

Ocean Magic

This area explores more unusual sea creatures, such as ornate Sea Dragons and mesmerising jellyfish. The way the exhibits are displayed is also quite imaginative, with an old-fashioned British telephone box and a Volkswagen Beetle transformed into fish tanks.

The Frozen Ocean

As the temperature drops, you enter a zone filled with creatures from cooler climes. The star exhibit is the Middle East’s only display of puffins. You can get up close and personal by peering through the glass domes underneath their artificial habitat or take part in the animal encounters for an additional 180 AED.

The Flooded Forest

Beware! Piranhas, Poison Dart Frogs, Bird-Eating Spiders and an Electric Eel all inhabit this zone. Thankfully they’re all kept safely away from people in enclosed cases, unlike the many tropical birds that fly freely through this exhibit. This Zone also includes Bella and Rio’s playground, an interactive zone specifically for kids.

Bu Tinah Island

As you leave the flooded forest, you transition through a large exposition space with shallow pools into the longest walkthrough glass tunnel in the Middle East. Mantarays, zebra sharks and hammerhead sharks swim around you as you pass under their watery world.

The stunning ‘Flooded Forest’ at the National Aquarium, Abu Dhabi

Behind-the-scenes tours at the National Aquarium

In addition to the zones outlined above, there is also the opportunity to pay extra and take a behind-the-scenes tour. Guides are friendly and knowledgeable, and the behind-the-scenes tours are well worth the additional cost. 

As part of the guided tours, you will visit the animal hospital as well as other behind-the-scenes locations. Visitors are given an in-depth explanation of the recent rescue of a whale shark that had entered a system of canals in one of Abu Dhabi’s residential areas, and turtles are visited in the aquarium’s rehabilitation centre.

For a small additional fee, visitors can feed the fish from a glass bridge that transcends the tank above the walkthrough tunnel.

Animal Encounters at the National Aquarium

The National Aquarium offers three ‘Animal Encounters.’ The Jungle Encounter includes swimming with freshwater rays, whereas the Arctic Encounter involves feeding the puffins. You can also feed sharks in the Ocean Encounter.

Each encounter costs 180 AED, which includes general access to the National Aquarium.

More in-depth learning opportunities at the National Aquarium

In-house education is the National Aquarium’s top priority. Up to 50,000 students can be welcomed to the museums each year on school excursions or as part of the National Aquarium’s Junior Marine Biologist programme.

The after-school Marine Biologist programme is designed for children aged 5-15 years old and includes a variety of hands-on activities.

Piranha exhibit at The National Aquarium, Abu Dhabi

Plan your trip to the National Aquarium, Abu Dhabi

In order to get the most out of your day at Abu Dhabi’s latest family attraction opening, here are all our essential planning tips:

How to get to the National Aquarium

The National Aquarium is located in the new Al Qana development in the Khor Al Maqta area of the city. The easiest way to reach the aquarium is by private car or taxi. There is ample parking on site.

The National Aquarium is also located close to the Rabdan Khaleej Al Arabi Street Bus Interchange. It is serviced by bus number 56 from Downtown Abu Dhabi.

How much does the National Aquarium Abu Dhabi cost?

Tickets are required for all patrons 3 years and older.

  • 105 AED General Admission (10 zones)
  • 130 AED Beyond the Glass (General Admission + Aquarium journey, behind-the-scenes tour and glass bridge walk)
  • 150 AED Bu Tinah Dhow (General Admission + Aquarium journey, glass-bottom boat tour and fish feeding)
  • 200AED All access (General Admission aquarium journey, behind-the-scenes tour, glass bridge walk, glass-bottom boat tour and fish feeding)

There are also separate animal encounter experiences; these tickets include your General Admission:

  • 180 AED Arctic Encounter
  • 180 AED Ocean Encounter

Annual passes are also available for 399 AED.

Note that children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

National Aquarium Timings

  • Open 7 days a week 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM

How long do I need to spend at the National Aquarium?

If you plan to visit the aquarium’s general access areas, you can comfortably do this in two hours. The behind-the-scenes tour takes approximately 30 minutes, with additional time needed for the dhow cruises and animal experiences.

If you are planning to visit at peak times or on a public holiday, you should allow more time, as queues for the behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters are more likely.

Detail from ‘The Ring of Fire’ zone in the National Aquarium, Abu Dhabi

What visitor facilities are there at the National Aquarium?

The National Aquarium is well-designed, with toilets on every floor. As with most visitor attractions, you exit via the gift shop, which sells a variety of marine-related merchandise as well as more general Abu Dhabi-themed souvenirs.

On the first floor of the National Aquarium, there is also a small cafe selling basic snacks. Little marine explorers are sure to love the whale-shaped shortbread biscuits! 

The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi is wheelchair and stroller accessible throughout.

Learn more about all the best Aquariums in Dubai & the UAE over here, including further marine experiences

What else is there in the Al Qana development?

Al Qana is described as a lifestyle concept with social dining and wellness at its heart. Stretching 2.4 kilometres along the water’s edge, the development includes a variety of swanky cafes and restaurants and a large gym-cum-wellness centre. There is also a cinema and a state-of-the-art gaming boutique.

The Al Qana Development, Abu Dhabi

All information was correct at the time of writing. Prices, opening times, and experiences are subject to change at short notice.

For the most up-to-date information about the National Aquarium, visit their website at www.thenationalaquarium.ae

You may also be interested to learn more about SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, newly opened in May 2023, adding to the incredible Yas Island theme park lineup.

Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi


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