Swimming with Penguins or Sharks?

Scuba Diving with Penguins and Sharks Cape Town shershegoes.com

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I had a free day in Cape Town while my family went to visit Robben Island, the former prison that housed Nelson Mandela for 27 years. Instead of a history tour, I spent the day at the beaches in Cape Town’s Muizenberg and St James suburbs and had an afternoon adventure at the Cape Town Aquarium.

The Cape Town Aquarium was an unexpected delight. Located at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Two Oceans Aquarium features shark and penguin exhibitions and all types of marine creatures native to the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Cape Town is situated at a unique point on the western coast of Africa where these two oceans meet. I thought I had “outgrown” aquariums and stopped in by chance after several other tourists got off at the aquarium bus stop. I took a second to think about it, and quickly hopped off after them. There’s nothing like traveling a new city by yourself to spur on spontaneity!

Admission is R118 which is about ~10 USD. For how well developed the aquarium was I thought it was a bargain. The coolest exhibits were the sea kelp forest and predator tank.

The first is an actual man-made kelp forest. Kelp grows particularly well in certain parts of the cape, due to high salinity in the ocean and vigorous wave movements. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sea kelp forest in another aquarium.. This one was particularly magical: it’s a huge deep tank with floor to ceiling viewing windows where inside large silvery fish meander through the floating kelp leaves. The tank is a very murky dark green, with a sliver beam of sunlight projecting downward from the top. On the day I happened to visit, Two Oceans aquarium let the penguins into the kelp tank. The guide mentioned they frequently allow the penguins to swim in different exhibits so long as the animals are peaceful together and it gives the penguins a change of scenery. They apparently love how cold the sea kelp tank is and were zipping around constantly!

The second amazing exhibit is the predator tank, which houses sting rays and ragged tooth sharks. If you have an open water 1 scuba diving certification, you can jump in and dive with the sharks, which is an amazing experience. Again, I got really lucky and happened to be at the aquarium during the penguin and fish feeding inside the kelp tank. On these days, you get your pick of the penguins or the sharks! The facility staff took advantage of the feeding moment to take some underwater shots for their own research purposes so I was able to get the perfect shot with the help of their underwater photography lights. To dive in the sea kelp tank, which has vigorous wave movements, you’ll need an advanced scuba certification.


Two Oceans Aquarium definitely isn’t just for kids. Stop by Cape Town’s aquarium next time you’re in town for your chance to get up close and personal with some deep water creatures. If you’re like me and love to dive, it’s bound to be a once in a lifetime experience.

As always, thanks for following along!


Which would you choose, sharks or penguins?  


For family friendly activities, check out Kirstenbosch Garden and this handy packing list for families. Or for more adventure, how about bungee jumping?



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More on South Africa


Curious about the view above the clouds? Head to Table Mountain

Staying in Downtown Cape Town at the Cullinan Hotel

The Complete Cape Town Beach Guide

The Best Thing to Do in Colorful Bo-Kaap: Learn to Cook Cape Malay Food

South Africa’s Answer to Napa Valley: The Cape Town Winelands

Here’s How You Can Swim with Penguins in a Cape Town sea kelp forest, no less!

The World’s Most Scenic Road Trip: Cape Town, South Africa

The Most Adorable Way to Spend an Afternoon: Penguins at Boulder Beach


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  1. Summer
    September 23, 2015 / 7:55 am

    Wooooow! Look at those fish♥♥ This place looks amazing♥♥ You must have had a great time♥♥

    • Sher
      September 23, 2015 / 12:34 pm

      Yes, it was fantastic! Thanks for stopping by

    • Sher
      September 25, 2015 / 9:42 am

      Hi Summer – I did! I love fish haha there was even this cool tank where you could crawl into the middle so that you were right inside the fish tank! so cool

  2. Margaret
    September 23, 2015 / 2:06 pm

    You are so brave to do that! I would probably be scared

  3. Joyce
    September 23, 2015 / 2:21 pm

    I LOVEEE aquariums so this really makes me want to check the Two Oceans aquarium, especially hearing that it’s not just for kids. The man made sea kelp tank looks amazing and the penguins are super cute! They must be happy for a change in scenery… The predator tank looks exactly how it’s supposed to, I guess, scary and intimidating. Love the piercing lights!

    • Sher
      September 23, 2015 / 5:30 pm

      Go go go Joyce! :)

  4. Anika
    September 24, 2015 / 1:31 am

    such gorgeous pictures! love the colors and everything :)

    • Sher
      September 25, 2015 / 9:37 am

      Thanks Anika!

  5. Francois
    September 27, 2015 / 12:31 pm

    Awesome! I love the 2 Oceans aquarium, one of my favourite places :) You should check out our site too for things to do in CT if you are still around….

    • Sher
      September 28, 2015 / 12:36 am

      Wish I had known about your site before I visited Cape Town! Thanks for stopping by Francois

  6. Doreen Pendgracs
    September 28, 2015 / 9:36 am

    Such amazing pics! Thx so much for sharing. I’m swam with a nurse shark, but never a penguin. :-)

    • Sher
      September 28, 2015 / 5:06 pm

      Thanks Doreen. Wow, with a nurse shark? That would totally freak me out haha! Very cool

  7. Gemma
    September 29, 2015 / 9:24 pm

    Stunning photographer – what camera do you use and waterproof equipment?

    • Sher
      September 30, 2015 / 9:09 am

      Hi Gemma – thanks! I use a canon mdiii and my iphone. I got a gopro recently and have been using that for underwater stuff – hope that helps!

  8. Tiff
    September 30, 2015 / 12:14 am

    This is way too cool and on my list Sher!
    I hope I find myself in Cape Town soon :D

    Also, thanks for stopping by my blog :)

    • Sher
      September 30, 2015 / 9:08 am

      Hi Tiff, definitely go! I found a new taiwanese food spot here in NYC and am excited to go check it out this weekend. I really miss good taiwanese food..!

  9. Tiff
    September 30, 2015 / 10:19 pm

    Oh my Sher you did!!!!! You like Taiwanese food?!
    Tell me how it goes, I do wonder how does the Taiwanese food in NYC takes like :)
    (felt really cool that someone told my on blog that she is gonna check out TWnese food this weekend, felt very blown away!!!!!)

    • Sher
      October 1, 2015 / 9:50 am

      yes, i’m taiwanese. it definitely doesn’t taste as good as in asia but it’s still delicious! i really crave it sometimes. i’ll report back how the restaurant is :)

  10. Joe Ankenbauer
    September 30, 2015 / 10:33 pm

    I would love to swim with Penguins! I’ve already swam with sharks a few times, but no penguins. So awesome!

    • Sher
      October 1, 2015 / 9:49 am

      wow! I’m hoping to swim with some sharks soon Joe! :)

  11. James | The Globe Wanderers
    October 1, 2015 / 11:07 am

    This looks like a fantastic experience. What a cool opportunity for some underwater selfies ;)
    Great photos. Will be adding this to ‘the list’.

  12. Tiff
    October 2, 2015 / 3:24 am

    ahhhhh, can’t believe I met a Taiwanese from blogging!!!! :D
    Enjoy your trip in South Africa and can’t wait to hear more about how food is there in NYC :D

  13. Isabela Mariano
    October 2, 2015 / 3:43 pm

    You found Nemo – and lots of them! Yay!

    That’s such an awesome experience! :)

  14. Kimberly Erin
    October 4, 2015 / 6:45 pm

    I went swimming with penguins in the Galapagos and it was an absolute dream! I would love to do it again at any moment…I am ready to go!

    • Sher
      October 5, 2015 / 10:07 am

      Hi Kimberly! Wow, the galapagos? That sounds amazing, I really want to go there soon and see the giant tortoises.

  15. Elizabeth
    October 5, 2015 / 7:17 am

    Wow! I though they were pics of you diving somewhere and thought wow what great colour for underwater! LOL It looks like a fun acquarium.

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