SeaWorld is a well-known chain of marine mammal parks, oceanariums, and animal theme parks that originated in San Diego, California, in 1964. It has since expanded to various locations throughout the United States and opened a new branch in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in February 2023. The new UAE branch showcases advanced facilities for marine animals and provides visitors with an immersive experience that blends education and entertainment. The park’s design and construction process involved a collaboration between top architects, designers, and marine mammal experts, making it a highly anticipated and exceptional addition to the region’s entertainment scene.

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Concept and History: The Development of SeaWorld UAE

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SeaWorld Abu Dhabi has been in development since 2016 and finally opened its doors to the public on February 8, 2023. The park, located on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE, is the first SeaWorld theme park outside the United States, boasting six marine environments, five floors of indoor attractions, and one of the largest aquariums in the world, with over 68,000 marine animals and 6.6 million gallons of water. Visitors can enjoy interactive exhibits, rides, and conservation-focused research and rescue centres. Although the park features a wide range of marine life attractions, it will not include orcas due to SeaWorld’s emphasis on marine life conservation and phasing out entertainment-based orca shows.

The park’s development is a collaboration between Miral, a leading developer of theme parks and entertainment attractions in the UAE, and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. The project was initially announced in 2016 with a target opening date of 2022. With SeaWorld’s extensive experience in marine research, conservation, and animal welfare, the park’s design leverages six distinct realms throughout the marine life park, offering visitors the opportunity to interact with diverse animals. Additionally, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is the first-of-its-kind dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation, and return centre in the region, building on SeaWorld’s legacy as one of the largest marine animal rescue organisations globally. The park aims to be one of Yas Island’s top global tourist destinations, contributing to the region’s economic growth and diversification.

Design Team and Stakeholders: Collaborating on Seaworld UAE

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SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is a joint venture between Miral, a leading tourism and real estate development company in Abu Dhabi, and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which operates 12 theme parks across the United States. The project is the culmination of over 60 years of SeaWorld’s theme park experience and includes innovative lighting technology to mimic the full spectrum of sunlight for the park’s indoor habitats. The design team for the park includes international firms such as Jack Rouse Associates, and Falcon’s Creative Group. SeaWorld Abu Dhabi’s design leverages SeaWorld’s extensive experience in marine research, conservation, and animal welfare.

The park is operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Its development includes the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Center, the UAE’s first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation, and return centre. The partnership between Miral and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment aims to create a unique and memorable experience for visitors by offering a wide range of marine life attractions. SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson confirmed the park’s opening timeline in a November 9 earnings call in 2022, stating that the park is the culmination of all the cool things SeaWorld has ever wanted to do but never got the approval to do.

Reactions to the Project Proposals: Controversies and Criticisms

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According to John Linn, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is set to become one of the world’s best aquariums and marine attractions. Although the park will not include killer whales, it will offer opportunities to educate the community and raise awareness about marine life species. SeaWorld’s commitment to conservation efforts worldwide is also mentioned. However, a notable petition with over 190,000 supporters has urged the Government of Abu Dhabi not to permit SeaWorld to open a marine life theme park due to its poor treatment of marine animals. Supporters of the petition argue that SeaWorld’s barbaric treatment of marine animals should not be allowed to continue in Abu Dhabi and that it contradicts the UAE’s focus on conserving marine wildlife.

Despite the controversies, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi opened in 2023 with a pledge to focus on animal welfare and education. The park’s success will depend on the management and care given to the marine animals. The announcement of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi has been met with mixed reactions. While some have praised the park as a much-needed addition to Yas Island’s already-impressive attractions, others have raised concerns about treating animals in captivity. However, Miral and SeaWorld have stated that Yas SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will prioritise animal welfare and conservation efforts. It remains to be seen how the public will perceive the park and how it will impact marine conservation efforts in the UAE.

Opening Day and Beyond: Seaworld UAE’s Future Impact

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SeaWorld Abu Dhabi opened its doors on February 2023, offering a unique experience that includes a variety of marine life attractions, interactive exhibits, and immersive rides. The park’s One Ocean zone connects six marine environments, showcasing the interconnectivity of life on Earth and under the seas. The park also boasts the region’s largest multi-species aquarium with over 150 species, including sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Visitors can also enjoy watching hundreds of bird species, such as penguins and puffins.

In addition to being a major tourist attraction, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi houses the UAE’s first dedicated marine-life research and rescue centre, highlighting the park’s commitment to conservation efforts. The building is also environmentally conscious, utilising rooftop solar photovoltaic systems with a total capacity of 8.2 megawatts, with support from Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company Masdar. Despite initial controversy over SeaWorld’s treatment of marine animals, the park’s emphasis on animal welfare and conservation efforts has been praised. Overall, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi promises to be a promising addition to Yas Island’s impressive attractions roster and a unique experience that combines entertainment with education, sustainability, and conservation efforts. The park’s commitment to marine life research and conservation is a positive step towards a more responsible and sustainable approach to animal welfare in the region.

Reference List:

Gillett, K. (2022) SeaWorld Abu Dhabi to open in 2023, The National. The National. Available at: (Accessed: March 6, 2023).

Miral announces opening of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi in 2023 (no date) wam. Available at: (Accessed: March 6, 2023).

Miral announces the opening of SEAWORLD Abu Dhabi in 2023 (2022) Emerge and Miral to Deliver Clean Energy to SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. Available at: (Accessed: March 6, 2023).

Prevent SeaWorld’s plans to open in Abu Dhabi in 2022 (no date) Available at: (Accessed: March 6, 2023).

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi (no date) Theme Park Construction Board. Available at: (Accessed: March 6, 2023).

Walker, T. (2022) SeaWorld Abu Dhabi set to become world’s largest aquarium: News, Available at: (Accessed: March 6, 2023).

Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Yas Island, Abu Dhabi is now operational (2023) Upcoming Marine Life Theme Park. Available at: (Accessed: March 6, 2023). 


S, an architecture student, strives for innovative designs that inspire and enhance communities. Focused on sustainability and well-being, she aims to bring bold ideas to life through a deep understanding of architecture.