Image credit: Steve Benjamin

Reconnecting to nature: The Aquarium Foundation


Katja Laingui
Katja is the Education Operations Manager at the Aquarium Foundation. She gives support to the education team and the Foundation staff as a whole, with her attention to detail and project management skills. She also has a degree in sustainable development and one of her interests involves how to make people more interested in nature and the ecosystem services that we depend on. She is the author of the regular 'K's Kreature Feature' blog.

Connecting all people to the ocean. This is the vision of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation. Many of us have lost connection to the natural world, ironically because we are so connected elsewhere, on our phones and TVs. Nature has stopped playing an integral part of our lives even though it is scientifically proven that being in nature is one of the best things you can do for yourself, mentally and physically. The Japanese practice Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and studies have shown that a few hours spent in a forest reduced both the blood pressure and pulse rate, and improved the mood and memory of forest bathers.  

The health benefits of being connected to nature are evident, however what will happen when a whole generation is more and more disconnected from it. Richard Louv writes in his book ‘Last child in the woods’: “How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes – our daily lives.”. Greta Thunberg, young climate activist, further said: “We aren’t destroying the biosphere because we are selfish. We are doing it simply because we are unaware.” 

Image credit: Jean Tresfon

It is this disconnect that drives the work we do at the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, or Aquarium Foundation for short. We are the creation of the Two Oceans Aquarium, an Aquarium that is world-renowned for its conservation and education work. The Aquarium Foundation continues this 24- year legacy focussing on four main focus areas: conservation, awareness, research and education.  In 2019 alone, we reached 110 000 children in the Western Cape of South Africa through our on site and outreach educational programmes. Our awareness programme ensured that almost 20 000 people now have a better understanding about the impacts of plastic pollution on our ocean. We rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 200 sea turtles and assisted with the disentanglement of more than 40 Cape fur seals.  

Our mission: Informing and inspiring all to connect with and protect our ocean, our natural world, through conservation, awareness, research and education. With this ethos, our team of educators, researchers, conservationists and overall awesome individuals strive to bring nature back into the everyday lives of children and adults alike, by showing them the wonders and excitement that the ocean ecosystem holds within.