Where we are today is vastly different to what it was like in 2014 and even last year in 2020!
Phase one of our new facility opened in July 2020 and since then it’s been busier than ever! Even in the midst of Covid with border closures and hardly any overseas visitors, the new venue has proved it’s popularity. The main road location has increased visibility and walk-in traffic has been so abundant that on busy days we’ve even had to turn people away. Covid made us restrict our numbers but we found that keeping guest numbers down was most beneficial to everyone- the guests, staff and animals all have a more enjoyable time when crowds are kept to a minimum.
The new centre is much larger than our previous one, giving more room to our animals to move around in with over 430,000 litres of water more than the previous centre! It’s also meant that we’ve been able to add new activities for guests to enjoy such as deep-water snorkeling and private encounters with some of our bigger animals. These have proven to be very popular especially the zebra shark encounter which often books out in school holidays. We are looking forward to moving into the next phase where snorkelling will be open for all ages and with more spots available to book!
While our tours have changed from our old centre, the new encounters offer much more choice. Now you can choose to stay mostly dry, looking at our tropical indoor aquarium, nursery or even wading into our shallow beaches while just getting your feet wet. Or you can get your whole body in with a shallows encounter in a wetsuit, snorkelling and even big shark feeding! Either way, every visitor will learn so much through the guided interaction with an array of species. The sharks and rays reveal a whole new side that most never see due to their bad reputations. In reality they are incredible intelligent animals who amaze the visitors through a variety of captured natural behaviours, especially when they show a true desire to seek human attention creating passion and empathy toward their species.
Everything in this new centre has been built to be as naturalistic as possible, with the focus on the animal’s welfare and lifestyle. Large lagoons with sandy shores, rocky reefs lots of caves, crevices and holes, and a strong current allows them to feel more comfortable, and also makes for great enrichment as they can explore, go into new caves, burrow under the sand and play in the current and bubbles.
Our new pools are their own mini ecosystems for our animals, and customers to enjoy.
In the near future you will see even more big changes as we continue to build with phase 2 set to be completed by the end of 2021. The next phase will see an indoor lagoon housing many of our tropical species and offering opportunities to get close to the animals in all weather conditions and for all ages.
Our not-for-profit Sea Shelter is currently running out of Irukandji, to continue to provide rescues and rehabilitation for marine reptiles and fish. The quarantine area currently houses a variety of rescued animals, mostly sea turtles. We’ve successfully rehabilitated and released several turtles since moving into the new facility and as we expand we expect to see that number grow.
With the completion of phase 3, Irukandji will move into the new grand reception and cafe, freeing up the shed for the new Sea Shelter Marine Hospital. The building will have a dedicated rehabilitation centre so our local wildlife has a place to recover. This hospital will be only one of its kind for hours and will bridge the gap between Sydney and Coffs Harbour taking some pressure off Taronga Wildlife Hospital and increasing chances of successful rehabilitation.
Other phases in the next 5 years will include new exhibits like the jellyfish room including the infamous Irukandji; one of the most deadly things in the world, an extreme Shark Experience and some endangered fresh water species such as sea otters and fish.
Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters has only been operating since November 2014, yet is already having a huge impact. What a wonderful opportunity to help change the world; Irukandji accepts the challenge with open arms/fins.