We were staying in Mexico City for a few days over Christmas and wanted somewhere to visit with Emma. There are lots of things to do with kids, for all ages and budgets but we liked the sound of the aquarium and it especially appealed to Emma because they have sharks! She's really into sharks and was keen to see some real-life ones.
The aquarium is located in Polanco, which is pretty central. However, Mexico City is a huge monster of a city and where we were staying was pretty far from the centre, so the journey to get to the aquarium was quite an adventure in itself.
We took three different types of transport; bus, metro and taxi. We could have just taken a taxi all the way, but it would have been a lot more expensive and would have taken longer, too. Taking the metro means you avoid all the traffic congestion and is usually the fastest way to get across the city. It definitely made the journey more interesting!
First we got on a bus. Emma had travelled on buses before but not very often so it was still a novelty. It wasn't at all crowded and there were plenty of free seats. We had an interesting conversation about first aid kits as Emma, very observant, spotted a case with a red cross above the driver and was talking about an emergency case or box. It took me a while to see what she had noticed so I had no idea what she was talking about at first.
We got off the bus near the metro station - the metro is Mexico City's underground system, the fastest way to travel and extremely cheap. As long as you take reasonable "tourist in a big city" precautions it's safe enough.
Emma had never been on a train before, let alone an underground train, so this was a completely new experience for her. It was pretty exciting going down all the escalators to get under the ground, then seeing the train arrive at the platform, getting on it, the sights and sounds of the train; stopping at each station; passengers getting on and off, different vendors walking through the carriages and making their sales pitch - anything from bubbles to CDs.
From the metro station in Polanco we took a taxi to the aquarium, just a short ride away. We did have to wait in line to get into the aquarium for about 20 - 30 minutes outside. Then we were inside.
First, we had to pose for a photo against the wall - before leaving the aquarium you can choose the backdrop - such as one where it looks like youre all about to be eaten by a shark - and buy the photo if you want. We didn't buy ours, though, as we thought it was a bit expensive on top of what we'd already paid for the entrance (and I looked awful in the picture, too!).
You pass through different areas which represent types of ocean habitat, including the coral reef, the ocean floor, the Antarctic, jellyfish labyrinth, the lagoon of rays, the kelp forest, the sunken ship and the black mangroves. There is a tunnel you can walk through and be surrounded by fish (including sharks) swimming on all sides and overhead. We saw what we thought was the mother shark with her baby swimming underneath her, but it turned out that this wasn't the case. The guide told us that this was a kind of symbiotic relationship between the shark and the Remora fish. The Remora fish latches onto the shark's underbelly, using it as transport and feeding off the shark's leftovers. So not the cute mummy and baby shark we'd imagined!
We didn't go around the aquarium with a guide but there were various guides at certain points giving explanations, which was quite useful and informative.
For some reason there was a skeleton in a fish tank, but it amused us as Emma had said on the metro that she wanted to see a skeleton! It was a rather random comment at that moment (influenced by the Funny Bones book which she loves) but turned out to be true.
We were fascinated by the beautifully photogenic jellyfish.
One of the most memorable creatures for Emma was the lobster! When we asked her the next day what she had seen in the aquarium it was the first thing she mentioned. And her description of it: "It's like a monster but it's not."
She was intrigued by the crocodile, lazing on the riverbank and transfixed by the turtle swimming around in the beach display.
Other things that caught our eye were some tiny eels half-buried in the sand, heads stretching out to feed, some Nemos and Dories and a real-life dragon.
You can't really beat the penguins though, in their own cool climate completely separated from the visitors but with a large viewing window. The window allows you to see underwater as well as above the surface, so you can appreciate how agile they are in the water. Emma insisted she wanted to fall into the water with the penguins!
One thing that hadn't occurred to me before, but that I couldn't help but notice this time (because my arms got pretty tired from constant demands to be lifted up!) was that a large number of the displays, although not all, are at a reasonable height for adults and older children, but little children need to be picked up to be able to see inside the tanks.
The Underwater Lab
Included in the price of the ticket is the entrance to the Blau Life Underwater Lab, a separate but closely- related attraction. To get there you have to leave the aquarium, cross over the road and enter the Plaza Carso shopping centre. The entrance to the lab is via a submarine simulator which appears to take you down under the ocean in a pretty exciting ride where at one point a shark crashes into the porthole and cracks the glass! There is also an alternative entrance for pregnant women and people with heart conditions.
Inside the lab, the displays start with the ocean depths and as you walk around you gradually get closer to the surface. There are interactive displays, things you can touch and move and there is also the chance to touch some of the marine creatures under very strict controls.
We were fascinated with the shark jaws. In one chamber there were some models and some real skeletons of shark jaws of different sizes. One of them was enormous, others were a lot smaller, but you could touch them - carefully! - to feel how sharp their teeth were.
There were tanks with baby seahorses clinging to strands of seaweed by their tails. And so many little jellyfish.
We lined up to be able to touch a jellyfish. Before touching any of the creatures everyone was given a wet wipe to clean their hands and the guide explained exactly how to touch each species and what not to do. Everything was under close supervision for the welfare of the animals.
You can also touch sea snails, starfish, sea urchins and rays. There were a lot of people but the instructions were very clear and there were plenty of guides keeping their eyes on all of us to safeguard the wellbeing of the marine creatures. In the case of the rays, we weren't allowed to reach out and touch them, we just had to hold our hands flat at the surface of the water and wait for a ray to come up and touch us. This didn't happen very often so we gave up on that idea!
Why is it we feel the need to touch things? Especially children, but adults too. The touch pools were definitely the most crowded part of the lab, everyone wanted a turn. It was a good thing there was such close control and supervision - I think pretty much all the visitors I saw were following the rules carefully so the animals wouldn't be harmed.
The Aquarium and the Underwater Lab are not just tourist attractions but also have a mission as a marine life conservation centre (CECONSE) to raise awareness of the need to protect ocean habitats. There was a very chilling display in the Lab showing just how much plastic is in the oceans and the consequences of this contamination.
Both the Aquarium and Underwater Lab are well worth a visit if you're in Mexico City with kids of any age. The marine creatures are fascinating and you can learn a lot about them and their habitats. You need about 2 - 3 hours or maybe more to see it all, but make sure you've already eaten as there are only a few snacks for sale inside.
Location: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 386, Colonia Granada, Mexico City
Prices: $195.00 (Mexican pesos), children under 3 go free. Buy the tickets at the entrance to the Aquarium. There is no charge to take photos inside the Aquarium but no flash photography is allowed.
Schedule: Monday to Sunday 10.00am to 6.00pm
Website: Acuario Inbursa
Disclaimer: I did not receive anything in return for this review and all opinions are my own.