“ Type: Theme Park / Address: Plaza La Isla Blvd / Kukulcán / Zona Hotelera / Cancún Q. Roo / Mexico „
Now, when you go all the way across the world (well eleven hours in a plane anyway), you don't expect to spend money on visiting the equivalent of the Sea Life Centre, but that is exactly where we found ourselves on our third day in Cancun, Mexico. The truth was, we'd gone to do some tax free shopping because the weather was a little cloudy. We were happily wandering around the open air shopping mall, La Isla, in the Zona Hotelera, when the heavens quite literally opened. Running to the only shelter in the mall, we found ourselves looking directly into the eyes of a scuba diver.
Further inspection told us that this was the Interactive Aquarium Cancun, and the scuba diver was part of a huge tank filled with sunken ships and all manner of sea creatures designed to entice people to experience the pleasures within. I have been to many an aquarium in my time and I've walked under the shark tanks, marvelled at the scenes from Finding Nemo and been disgusted by the oh-so-pointless jellyfish that they contain, so I wasn't exactly thrilled by the idea of another one. But, as the other half pointed out, the rain wasn't going anywhere and this was an indoor activity.
So we each swapped our 140 Mexican Pesos (around £7) for a rather snazzy green wristband and in we went and I have to say I'm glad we did; it was a lot of fun and, surprisingly enough, we did things we'd never done before. The aquarium isn't particularly large, but it is very well laid out and we spent just under two hours in there.
The first room you go into has a series of tanks that contain all kinds of sea creatures. The focus is on learning about their habitats and food, so there are large informative placards next to each tank. Did you know that the jelly fish's main predator is the giant turtle? (Another fantastic reason for making sure the giant turtle doesn't become extinct, if you ask me). There are a number of fascinating creatures in here, from flat fish that blend against their surroundings, rather like a chameleon, to jelly fish that actually glow. If you look up to the roof, you'll see the bottom of a huge tank from the floor above and you'll catch a glimpse of a stingray or even a shark.
Once you've left the darkness of the aquarium behind, you'll go out into the interactive area where there are huge tanks with stingray, sharks, turtles, starfish and even crocodiles. The first tank has a big sign on that reads 'before touching a shark, please speak to a keeper'. I wasn't sure if this was one of those occasions where a sentiment has been lost in translation. Surely no-one would voluntarily touch a shark? But no, there were people lining up to feed the inhabitants of the pool. It was actually the stingrays that people were touching (it seems that it changes from day to day). I have no desire whatsoever to touch anything that can kill you, but I was happy to take photos as the other half stuck is hand into the tank. Apparently, one side feels like a cheap carpet and the other feels like jelly. Interesting, but I'll take his word for it.
At the other side of this area, strangely enough, are some macaws that are very happy to jump on your arm, spread their wings and pose for a photograph - some of them will even wave! Again I chickened out, but the other half was happy to oblige in a photo opportunity. He finished it with slightly scratched arms and a strong smell of fish, but he said it was worth it!
Next come the dolphins. The aquarium offers a series of different packages where you can interact with the dolphins, play with them, swim with them and even become a trainer for a day. We opted to just look at them, but if you are interested there are prices on the website - www.aquariumcancun.com.mx - and any member of the staff, both inside and outside, will be happy to help.
Finally there is a huge shark tank which you can observe from two floors. If you are feeling particularly brave, you can observe from inside the tank by opting for the 'diving with sharks' package, which lowers you into the middle of the tank in an acrylic box. Again we chose not to do this, but the people that had done, looked delighted (if not a little scared) by their decision.
Aside from all this, there is also a pretty good gift shop offering all of the standard souvenirs and cuddly toys, as well as a restaurant.
I wouldn't recommend you make a bee line for the Interactive Aquarium Cancun, but if you are struggling for something to do on a rainy day, it's absolutely worth a visit. We had a very enjoyable afternoon and the rain had stopped by the time we left - perfect!