Today I felt in sharing another mall related experience and from my expatriate days in the UAE! As I noted here in some of my earlier comments, everything about Dubai dazzles, inspires and entices. From heading out on a desert safari to gazing at the awesome views from Burj Khalifa, trotting through the swankiest malls in the world and getting a taste of true world-class luxury as 'over the top' Dubai never disappoints. Besodes the money that was one big reason that I networked a senior development job there and which actually turned out to be more of a 10-year adventure and a life long memory.
The 1000 store Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world, and is home to a number of major attractions and this is were the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo steps forward and which sees thousands of visitors daily! For my purpose today I would like to visit the Aquarium spaces and teams dedicated to the vast “back-of-the-house” facilities and which lend themselves to interesting and educational experiences.
The Basics: Dubai Mall Aquarium is credited to be the world's biggest indoor aquarium including a 270-degree walk-through under water tunnel. In its enormous tank it holds 2.3 million gallons of water and harbors more than 33,000 aquatic animals from over 200 species.
The Aquarium management team is located in a multilevel operational space of about 40,000 square feet consisting of approximately 200-fulltime staff. The key-staff is responsible for the daily care, new fish acquisition, disease quarantine and maintenance of the entire animal collection and its display development. Then providing animal welfare practices and insuring appropriate environmental, health, best bacterial conditions and preserving animal records. General requirements for supervisory and key employees are a Bachelors Degree preferably in marine-science, aquaculture, animal husbandry, oceanography or equivalent experience in aquarium sciences. A minimum 'Advance Open Water' Scuba certification is desired.
The Aquarium staff includes besides regular administrative support, a dedicated marketing team and a bevy of 'on-floor' or customer interaction teams, 15-senior curators, 4-fully accredited and trained aquatic and veterinary doctors and biologists, a 36 (24/7) person central engineering staff supporting all manner of equipment and facilities such as life support systems, protein skimmers and supervision of 100-plus fish processing, breeding, quarantine, new fish acclimation and exhibition tanks. Also (15) experienced Aquarist’s are on duty in a special kitchen-type veterinary facility for food preparation for all the different aquatic animals and of which most require hand-feeding while in the main tank and specifically those traveling in large schools. Naturally a 24/7 dedicated team of 16 professional divers are on the job as well for main tank cleaning and maintenance, bacteria additives, individual fish feeding, repairs and trouble shooting, etc. Dinnertime at the Aquarium is never dull. Every day at 2PM, the Divers dive into the 10-million liter tank and hand feed over 300 sharks and 50 stingrays in an exhilarating interaction.
Update: A new addition of a King Croc - a magnificent reptile weighing over 750 pounds and extending over 5 meters in length. The King Croc has been flown in from Queensland, Australia, and is being carefully taken care off in captivity. Currently about 40 years old, the King Croc is expected to grow even more in size over a course of the next 50-years. It is one of the biggest known aquatic reptiles in captivity today.
2021 Annual Aquarium Operating Expenses? So what does all of this cost to maintain including all purchased utilities, staff salaries, R/M, P/M, MEP, new fish acquisitions, contracted services, necessary aquatic material purchases, etc. Approximately US$10 million per annum. The Dubai Mall hosted a record of 56-million visitors in 2019 and I am sure that most stopped by or to see the Aquarium. One thing of course came to mind very quickly and upon me writing this report: “Hey Toto we are not in Kansas anymore!”
FYI: Dubai Mall also offers other unique major entertainment or leisure attractions which are managed (including the Aquarium) by a corporate team called Emaar Entertainment. Such other venues include the Dubai Mall Ice Rink, KidZania, VR Park & Reel Cinemas. Thus the Dubai malls Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) directs for all combined venues a 600 plus staff and with most directly engaged to support and run the necessary ‘on-floor and back of the house operations. Zeina Dagher particularly takes her mall 'floor-staff' or 'guest interaction teams' extremely serious and believes that these are the most important people that work for her. That’s one reason you may see her on the floor at all hours and on point with her people.
Zeina said: "OK, it took the customer a very long time to stand in line. Let’s fix that. Let’s fix the ticketing counters and the POS systems and let’s train the staff to take the orders faster. The food doesn’t taste so good? So let’s look at our kitchen operations. What do we need to do in the back to make sure that our guests are getting his or her items as soon as possible? All of my several hundred frontline teams are the eyes and ears of our attractions. They know, far better than anyone, what the customer wants, what the customer likes, what the customer is complaining about."
Get up close and personal. Sharks overhead! The aquariums underwater tunnel is great for watching presentations/shows and taking as many photos as you want. I loved the unique shark feeding encounters where you can watch the feeding frenzy as the divers attract the sharks with buckets of fish. You get to witness the sharks from an overhead distance a mere 6-10 feet away.
Hans Gruber and friend! One of the feeder divers and a man for all seasons
The Croc in all of its glory. What a fabulous addition to the Aquarium. Considering
the cost of its acquisition, catching, transportation, acclimation, special feeding and
care, quite an investment.
The Croc close at hand. Situations like this are rarely seen by visitors
to Zoo’s and or animal exhibits!
A picture of the Mall Aquarium from the shopper or spectator view
A pure underwater adventure and enjoyment for kids of all ages
A dedicated aquarium feeding diver. Feeding the school’s of fish which
essentially never swim by themselves. A daily must routine.
KidZania. What do you want to be today?
The KidZania mall attraction and the kids of the world. They surely are not
cooking-up a "Friendly’s French Dip Burger" but it’s the happiness among
them that supersedes all.
The VR Park is especially suited for the younger generation with computer learning
and high-tech-interests. The VR rides are brilliant. The VR roller coaster down the
Burj, the 3D drone ride over Dubai and the Sphere through Jurassic Park are mind
blowing. Then the (70) or so VR computer games in the Play Zone will keep the
young ones inside for hours. So parents beware.
Here is a shot with me at the front of the mall aquarium. It was not a particular special day. I had a major dental appointment in the afternoon. My laptop was on the
outs and we still had not resolved our long standing discussions in how to
layout the mall management, leasing, accounting and marketing offices at our new and upcoming Paragon Bay Mall in Abu Dhabi!
A casual shot I took of the ‘Ice Rink’ at the mall. It was summer in Dubai
and about 110 Fahrenheit degrees outside. So when people stood rink side, I thought
that many just wanted to enjoy the cold radiating off the ice and did not