I’ve come to understand – as best I can in six years – the delicate balance of the Dominican Republic. Natural, pristine beauty amidst littered streets. Tranquil beaches to feast your eyes upon with ear-piercing dembow as “background” music. Fresh fried fish ordered straight to your table in the sand with week old fish bones buried under your chair. The Acuario Nacional, the National Aquarium of Santo Domingo is no different.
From the outside, you’d think there isn’t much to see, and if you didn’t know better, you might even drive past it. Like one follower’s stunned reaction on DTWB’s Instagram, “Really this is the national aquarium?! It looks so modest from the street!” But again, leave it to the Dominican Republic to hide a gem like this behind an unassuming wall.
The aquarium itself is quite typical: tanks of colorful Caribbean fish, lazy sharks lounging, and friendly manatees spinning in circles. You can spot sea turtles floating overhead in the walk through tunnel, a pool of starfish, and a pit of hermit crabs. The grandiose display of a whale’s bones is impressive from the mere size of it alone.
And parents, wait for it…
There’s a playground. A spacious playground. It isn’t state-of-the-art and, in U.S. standards, could use some paint and updating but my kids could care less. With about 6 different play zones, they could run in circles for hours and climb sea creatures for days. To add an extra layer of family-friendly, there’s a snack bar, open fields of grass, and a picnic area.
But to be very clear, it’s the majestic view of the sea from any angle of the dramatic cliffs that make this aquarium special. In most aquariums, one has to imagine where these animals live, here, one just needs to look out to know. The endless ocean before us is home to all of these sea animals and the infinite view reminds us that it provides life for all of us visiting too.