Tucked away on a small side street in Playa del Carmen is a new attraction that takes marine education and accessibility seriously. Species from the second largest barrier reef in the world have been taken offshore to inspire people to try snorkeling or diving.
For divers and snorkelers who have ventured to the Mesoamerican reef off the shores of the Riviera Maya, this aquarium added species that are not found on the reef. baby clown fish, guitarfish, tiger sharks and more can be found.
With the second largest barrier reef off the shore, why oh why does Playa del Carmen need an aquarium? Education, appreciation, inspiration and knowledge. Just because you dive, or just because you snorkel does not guarantee that you know what you are seeing or understand the species that live on the reef.
For the non-diver or not quite convinced snorkeler, the aquarium provides a glimpse of what can be found under the sea. If anything people may be convinced to try diving or snorkeling in an area that does have a great variety of things to see.
Marine education = environmental protection. If you know there are things in the sea, you will then reach for the biodegradable sunscreen. There are great videos starring local divers from the Riviera Maya that highlight indigenous species that need protection, how we can support that and how participating in marine observation through diving and snorkeling is a useful if not necessary education about our planet.
Expect an experience. The aquarium takes about hour or so to get through, longer if you read all information and watch all of the great videos. It is very similar to the aquarium found in Mexico City, and is funded by the same organizations.
The first room is the jellyfish room with cylinder aquariums lit specifically to highlight the unique features of jellyfish species.
The second area is a large aquarium filed with sharks and tropical fish, species found in the Riviera Maya. Surrounding smaller aquariums house juvenile and intermediate species showing participants how a fish changes as it matures.
The third area replicates a local cenote and the fish species that live in the fresh water. Super cool and reflects the diverse environments found in the Riviera Maya.
The final area is a mixture of open aquariums and land reptiles. Sting rays, guitar fish, tiger shark, frogs, iguanas and more can be found here. This is also a key area for marine education, teaching people dangerous cycle of land pollution that effects our oceans and seas.
The Aquarium is located on 14th Street between 5th and 10th street in the Thomson Hotel Building. It is hidden, and though not hard to find, a surprise when you walk down the street. It is also unassuming but upon entering you will be taken into a the world of fish, coral, sharks, and reptiles that will amaze both the water enthusiast and land locked visitor.
Open every day from 11:00am to 9:00pm. Tickets are 15 USD and locals do have a discount but official ID is required.
This is a wonderful educational experience for all ages.