by Jose Kevo
March 23, 2005
While some of the cleaned displays were further illuminated by the overhead sun piercing crystal-clear waters, most were extremely dirty. The biggest attraction, containing sharks and large fish, was in such need of desperate cleaning, as there was no viewing what might be swimming around from main-floor vantage points. Passing through the glass-encased, underwater walkway, one of the first-ever designed well before Nassau's Atlantis, was just as disappointing.
Unless you can understand Spanish, information placards won't be of any help either. The varieties on display were rather limited, especially when considering structural formations allow glimpses of the nearby sea concealing the best aquatic habitat. Better experiences for viewing fish and marine life will surely come from snorkeling excursions. However, these options are also limited in the Santo Domingo area, reinforcing cause for having an aquarium regardless of conditions.
The grounds provided a tranquil environment compared to the chaotic city and might be considered more recommendable as a secondary purpose. There's a trio of small restaurants selling pizzas, burgers, and other standard snacks that can be enjoyed on a palm-shaded patio overlooking the gardens. A walkway bordering the elevated coast was definitely an unplanned highlight.
There weren't that many locals or tourists at the only place that had a double-standard for admission fees. Cost for Dominicans was RD15, but signs boldly imply that tourists will need to pay RD40. They'll also accept a $1, which saves about $0.30. Apparently the aquarium is covered as part of excursion packages for area tourists arriving by private van or bus. Independent travelers won't have it so easy.
Should you have your own car, there is no official parking, except for random curbside spots. I made the mistake of getting dropped off without realizing there was no taxi stand nearby. Public transportation doesn't run along this highway in either direction. I waited a good 30 minute hoping a taxi would be vacated when dropping someone off, but the sparse arrivals had all paid the drivers to wait. Without time for making a run into the city, a gentleman at least drove me to the nearest taxi stand at no charge. The fare back into the city was RD200/$6.65.
Most guidebooks rave about the aquarium, though I'm not sure why. Garden views are stunning, but that's not why anyone should come here. Even if the tanks had been clean, the overall effort wasn't worth the minimal cost. Adequate maintenance doesn't seem to be a priority, so putting this on your must-see list should be viewed the same way.
From journal Legacy Lullabies: Rocking the New World's Cradle