The Herald E-Edition

New beginnings for Bayworld kick off with demolition of old structures

Guy Rogers

As an excavator lumbered forward and knocked the first bricks of Bayworld’s cracked tropical pool to the ground, it simultaneously launched the long-awaited catalytic redevelopment of Gqeberha’s venerable oceanarium complex.

The moment was hailed as the start of a mega-project with hugely positive ramifications for the city and the Eastern Cape as a whole.

The project, which is part of the Mandela Bay Development Agency’s (MBDA) R6bn Inner City Game Changers programme, will go forward in phases as investment funds come to hand.

The plan includes a grassed and terraced public open space for picnics and pop-up events, an expanded penguin and seal rehabilitation facility as well as a new state-of-the-art aquarium and science centre.

Bay mayor Gary van Niekerk described the positive role the old museum-oceanarium complex had played in his life when he was growing up in the 1980s, and his excitement about the moves to upgrade it.

“I remember coming here every year on the bus with my northern areas schoolmates, with the Oros and snacks my mum had packed, and getting splashed by the dolphins.

“Those excursions helped keep us at school.

“This place helped develop our characters and made us

care for the environment and animals.

“It blows my mind to be back.”

He said the metro fully supported the project and the MBDA’s appointment to manage it.

“I have no problem with copying Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium, as they are planning to do.

“Cape Town sets the benchmark as far as tourism is concerned and we must just work quickly.

“But I trust the efficiency of the MBDA in that regard.

“Our beautiful city is just waiting for someone to do something.

“We just need everyone to pull in the same way.”

Bayworld is managed by the Eastern Cape department of sport, recreation, arts and culture, and the metro, in terms of a memorandum of understanding.

However, the contract expired in 2021 and while a new one has been prepared, it has been sitting with the city, waiting to be signed off.

This could be a stumbling block in the future passage of the project as the initial demolition can go ahead because the old structures have already been condemned, but the later phases will require the issue to be resolved.

Bayworld director Luvuyo Mini said he and his team appreciated the support from the metro and the MBDA.

“We have been travelling this road with them and there is no other way we can go forward except hand in hand.

“The memorandum of understanding needs to be signed.

“We humbly appeal for this impasse to be sorted out.”

He said Bayworld, which was first established in 1856, was one of four museum complexes in the Eastern Cape funded by Bhisho, and was vital for the promotion of heritage and tourism.

MBDA planning, development and project manager Dorelle Sapere said the demolition of the tropical pool, built in 1965, would allow the excavator access to the rest of the site.

Work would progress until the start of the holiday season in earnest, at which point it would be suspended until the new year.

“These first bricks going down are the start of a megaproject that will positively impact the city and the province.

“It will also benefit the 100,000 children that come through here every year, who most of all are our clients.”

The project team then guided the launch entourage up to the temporary safe haven being established to house Bayworld’s animals for about two months while the demolition is under way.

The facility is being established on a decommissioned bowling green next to Bayworld which belongs to municipal bowling club The Woods.

Bayworld aquarium curator Dr Dylan Bailey said close to 100 animals undergoing rehabilitation would likely need to be moved when the major demolition began in January.

“We’ll be moving about 65 penguins, at least nine seals and a number of turtles.

“We’re working according to international best practice so each of the pools will be shaded and each enclosure will have interlocks to allow us to move animals around when necessary, and walkways for staff to be able to easily access them.

“Water will be piped up from the sea and filtered, and the penguin enclosure has been paved with pebbles to prevent bumblefoot,” Bailey said.

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