The Two Oceans Aquarium at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town has reopened its Kelp Forest Exhibit. This brings to a close several years of renovations and construction at the aquarium.

The aquarium now has three large-scale exhibits ranging from the two-million-litre Predator Exhibit to the I&J Ocean Exhibit containing 1.6 million litres and the Kelp Forest Exhibit with 800 000 litres of sea water.

The Kelp Forest Exhibit, one of the most popular exhibits in the Aquarium, has undergone an extensive refurbishment. Although the footprint of the exhibit has not changed, new rockwork has replaced the previous fibreglass structures and the design has been adapted to mimic the granite rock formations seen in the kelp forests in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Town.

The exhibit is one of only a handful of living kelp forests on display in the world and will again house iconic South African species such as white steenbras, roman, red stumpnose and gully sharks.

Michael Farquhar, CEO of the Two Oceans Aquarium, commented: “It feels like we are at the end of an era – from noticing, over 10 years ago, that our two large exhibits would need to be repaired, to building the new I&J Ocean Exhibit, starting the repairs on the Predator and Kelp Forest Exhibits, to finally reopening one of the jewels of the Two Oceans Aquarium.

“On the south western tip of the continent, we are blessed with an abundance of diversity. On land we have fynbos, with its multitude of associated species, and on our rocky shores we have kelp forests which flourish in our nutrient-rich waters. To be displaying this ecosystem to the visiting public once again is important if we are to inspire people to take action for the wellbeing of the oceans.”

Kelp is the largest and fastest-growing marine algae or seaweed, and belongs to the brown algae known as Phaeophyta. Kelp forests occur in the temperate and polar coastal regions of the world. Four species of kelp are found around the South African coast, with Ecklonia maxima being the most familiar, often being washed up on beaches following heavy storms. Three of these species, namely sea bamboo (Ecklonia maxima), split-fan kelp (Laminaria pallida) and bladder kelp (Macrocystis angustifolia) can be seen at various times in the Kelp Forest Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

In celebration of the kelp forests found off the coast of South Africa, the Two Oceans Aquarium will be hosting a special ‘Kelp Night on January 31. Experts and world-renowned speakers - Craig Foster (the Sea-Change Project); Roushanna Gray (Veld and Sea); Professor John Bolton (UCT); and Loyiso Dunga (SANBI) - will be talking about their connections with kelp forests and sharing stories from the ocean's depths.

Tickets are available on Quicket at R190 (€11.85) per person.