My first aquarium

As a consultant in the themed attractions industry I get to work on a wide variety of projects from theme parks to museums but I hadn’t worked on an aquarium project until one came up last year in Jakarta.

For my client Taman Safari I started working a year ago on a development plan to establish the group as Indonesia’s leading wildlife attractions operator, recognized for the quality of its conservation and education programs. We identified aquariums as a natural extension of the existing business and at the very same time were approached to take over a project in the basement of Neo Soho mall in the very heart of Jakarta. Perfect timing!

After conducting some due diligence and identifying the project had a high potential, we conducted a feasibility study and some market research to establish a preliminary design brief. After meeting the various turn-key aquarium designers we realized we had to take a different approach if we wanted to build something unique for our market. So we decided to pull together some of the best talents from different horizons (James Peterson, Jon Coe, Judy Rand, and Peter Wilson), put them in a room and ask them to imagine a ‘new generation’ boutique aquarium. The outcome was a very rich and inspiring document, which became our ‘bible’, clearly defining what the Jakarta Aquarium should be and which we are still following to this date.

Taking from the rich heritage of Taman Safari Group, their values of conservation and education, the amazing biodiversity of Indonesian seas and the need for ‘escapism’ from a growing urban population in Jakarta we came up with a storyline around the Depth of Indonesia, which describes both the unique interactive and learning experience as well as the focus on Indonesia’s islands and waters. In addition to some very well curated tanks showing the great biodiversity of Indonesia’s marine life we wanted to introduce elements you would not necessarily expect in an aquarium such as arts installations, kids play areas and a signature live cultural show, which we believe will be a huge hit. The design team has been working hard on addressing the needs of a new generation of aquarium visitors, including the ‘plurals’ (kids born with a mobile device), who demand an interactive, multi-dimensional, and largely self-guided experience.

Construction started a few months ago and we are on a very tight schedule for an opening in December this year. All consultants including Perculas for tanks and LSS,  Aquablu for husbandry, Kingsmen for thematic, Magian for A/V and Peter Wilson for show production are working in good spirit, excited about bringing something new to Indonesia and about the perspectives ahead… maybe a second aquarium for me!

The vast majority of visitors will be families from Jakarta and more specifically from North and West Jakarta, where a huge middle / upper middle class currently lives. Second would be school groups since Jakarta Aquarium will be Jakarta’s only aquarium (SeaWorld shut down recently) offering great education programs. And third would be tourists to Jakarta and mostly from the rest of Indonesia as Jakarta gets over 30 million domestic tourists yearly. We intend to position Jakarta Aquarium as one of the top 3 ‘things-to-do’ for tourists in Jakarta.

We are lucky that the aquarium is probably in the best location in Jakarta as part of a huge development with foot traffic expected to exceed 5 million a month. We think we can reach 1 million visitors p.a. at the aquarium, which allows us to charge around USD10 and still get good returns. We have also worked on maximizing additional revenues. Our retail store and 4D theatre will be with direct access and frontage to the mall. We are also developing a penguin-themed restaurant with one of Indonesia’s most popular chefs, which will become one of the most thought-after restaurants in the mall.

For more information stay tuned!

And before I end this post I would like to thank Steph, Hans, Josua, Peter and John for giving me the opportunity to work with them on this existing project.