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Your window to the ocean

Come face to face with a fiery Amazonian Red Piranha, delight in the graceful antics of Cape fur seals or get up close and personal with a colony of plucky African Penguins and a much-loved pelican …

Boasting an impressive collection of marine life and a few truly unique displays, the East London Aquarium is one of East London favourite amenities and a definite must-see for visitors to our city. Established in 1931, this is the oldest aquarium in South Africa with a rich legacy in marine conservation, with our Environmental Education Centre impacting thousands of learners each year.

Our marine and fresh water tanks house a range of fish and marine invertebrates, including the enigmatic and very popular Red Piranha.

In addition to our famous African penguin colony the aquarium offers visitors a unique whale watching experience from our expansive whale deck, presenting some of the most breath-taking vistas of the East London coastline.

Come enjoy one of our daily seal presentations at 10.30am and 3.30pm, and see our penguin colony being fed immediately after. There are also daily display tank feeds at 10.30am.

The East London Aquarium’s main function alongside our marine displays is to rescue and rehabilitate marine birds and marine animals. Stranded or injured animals are brought to the aquarium where they are carefully rehabilitated by our capable and experienced staff. Once they have fully recovered, they are released back into the wild in line with all the necessary precautions and protocols.

Red Piranha

The East London Aquarium is proud to house a Red or Red-Bellied Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri. Native to the Amazon River in South America, the Red Piranha derives its name from the reddish tinge to the belly when fully grown. Females have slightly deeper colour of red on her belly, while juveniles are a silver colour with darker spots. The Red Piranha has very sharp teeth which it uses to strip its prey’s flesh. Their diet consists largely of fish, insects, worms, crustaceans and the occasional larger animal.

Whale Watching

The best time in the year for whale watching is during the breeding season from August to November, when whales typically migrate from their feeding grounds to shallower coastal water. Access to our whale watching desk – one of the best vantage points in the city to observe these amazing animals – is free of charge during normal aquarium hours. More than 20 species of whales and dolphins can be found in the waters off the southern African coast, most common among them humpback and southern right whales, as well as bottlenose and common dolphins.


The East London Aquarium was officially opened on 2nd December 1931 by the Mayor of East London Councillor N.O. Norton, making it the oldest aquarium in South Africa. It is the only Municipal Aquarium in South Africa and is under the Marine Services Branch.

Importance of aquariums

Aquatic ecosystems are challenging for humans to explore. Most of our observations of aquatic life are superficial, being made from the water's edge or surface. Aquariums reveal the underwater world, a world that covers 80% of the earth's surface and is usually hidden from our view. By discovering and understanding something about aquatic life, aquarium visitors become aware of the value of aquatic life and the need to protect and preserve it. Aquariums therefore perform a vital role in educating people about aquatic conservation.

Where to find us

East London Aquarium “Your Window to the Ocean”

Esplanade Road


Tel: 043 705 2637

Fax: 043 743 6801



Operational times

Open daily: 9am to 5pm

Feeding at display tanks: 10:30am

Seal presentations: 11:30am & 3.30pm

Penguin feeding: After each seal presentation

Entrance fees

Adults - R47

Children - R29

School Groups - R18 per learner

Pensioners - R29

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