story and photos by Kayte Deioma
There are lots of things to do outdoors with kids in Cancun, from playing at the beach to exploring ancient pyramids, or boarding a pirate ship. If you want to escape indoors to escape the rain or the summer heat, try the Interactive Aquarium at La Isla shopping center.
A scuba diver perched on a sunken motor boat in a glass tank on the front of the Aquarium beckons passers-by to come in for a look.
Being so close to one of the world’s great reefs, it’s natural that the reef is a primary focus of the Aquarium’s exhibit. Tanks are filled with colorful coral. Black light shows off the greens and pinks of this living organism.
For help with identification, dried corals, crustaceans and sea shells are labeled in a display case at kid level.
Shouts of “Look! Nemo!” come from near the Clown Fish tank, while neon yellow, electric blue and rainbow-striped Angel Fish draw enrapt attention nearby.
Translucent jelly fish, called medusas in Spanish, float gracefully through the dark. Both the top-feeding moon jellies and the bottom-dwelling upside-down jellies are well represented.
In the Flounder exhibit, you can watch these chameleon fish to blend into the ocean bottom as they swim from pale sand to dark gravel changing color and texture before your eyes to remain almost invisible.
The most interactive part of the Aquarium is outdoors, but awnings will protect you from the rain or sun, and if you get really interactive, you’ll be in the water and won’t care. With the help of a friendly staff person, you can pet the sharks in the shark pool, but give the turtles and rays who keep them company their space.
The most popular activity at the Aquarium is Swimming with the Dolphins in two outdoor pools. Depending on what time you schedule your swim, you’ll either meet the Atlantic or the Pacific Dolphins. Watching the Dolphins perform is included in admission, but swimming with the dolphins is an additional fee.
If you choose the Educational Program, you’ll spend a short while in the water petting and learning about the dolphins. For a bit more money, the Advanced Program makes you part of the show as dolphins circle you, jump over your head, kiss and shake hands, and finally a pair of dolphin noses pushing the bottom of your feet sends you flying through the water like Neptune rising. Dolphin swims may be cancelled in high winds, but won’t be disturbed by ordinary showers.
Swimming with the dolphins requires a reservation. You may be able to get one the same day, but if it’s high season, you should book in advance to get your preferred time.
If you’d rather watch than swim, the Jugo di Limon Seafood Restaurant provides a covered, ringside view overlooking one of the dolphin pools.