Duman Entertainment Centre
Duman Entertainment Centre (www.duman.kz)
At the southwest corner of the City Park, close to the junction of the Korgalzhyn Highway with Saryarka Avenue, sits the Duman Entertainment Centre. Pillars decorated with illuminated fish mark the entrance to this complex, which was opened in 2003. Its main hall is a huge and rather sterile-looking circular space, which has been divided up into four geographical zones representing, respectively, America, Greece, China and Kazakhstan. Each is decorated with models of famous sites from those countries. Thus Kazakhstan offers a model of the Khodja Ahmed Yassaui Mausoleum, the Independence Monument in Almaty and a space rocket about to take off from Baikonur. You are invited to view the space rocket by climbing a few steps to the nearby viewing platform, an act which is essentially pointless. America is represented by a wigwam, totem poles, the Statue of Liberty, a bucking bronco ride and a backdrop of skyscrapers. Greece has some white marble-look classical statuary, and China offers a section of Great Wall. Apart from eating and drinking at the cafes situated in each of these zones, there is not actually a great deal to do.
Of more interest, and the real reason to visit the place, is the oceanarium. Follow the model dolphins in. The displays start with aquaria filled with the fish of Kazakhstan, including carp, catfish, and the variety of lenok found only at Lake Markakol, as well as a tank of the enchanting, primeval-looking sturgeon. You then head into the Amazon, with a large tank of piranhas, the skull of a cow artistically placed at the bottom. There is a large open tank of cat shark, usually a native of the Indian and Pacific oceans, but these were born here in 2004 (perhaps this makes them the sharks born furthest from the sea in world history). You then walk through a perspex tunnel, around and beneath sharks (including nurse, reef and leopard sharks), groupers and rays. Soft music plays in the background, and the effect is astonishingly soothing. At least, until the sharks appear to head straight towards you.
The aquaria continue with the brightly coloured fish of the coral reefs. There is a tank of sea horses, somehow looking as though they are blessed with an eternal serenity. Then come poisonous sea creatures, such as the stone fish and spotted moray, before there's another perspex tunnel, this one commencing with some colourful reef fish before you get another turn with the sharks. You can buy shells and glass dolphins in the souvenir shop on the way out.