Here it is: my first bitchfest! I was thinking a lot about this and who will deserve my first negative blog and hands down the winner is Marinarium, DR.
When we visited Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) one of the most popular tours was Marnarium Shark and Ray Experience.
First, very disappointing experience was getting there. About a 30-40 minute drive from any hotel in Punta Cana (hard Rock, Riu, Bahia Principe, etc), but once we got there we were sitting for over 90 minutes waiting for other busses bringing people from all over. And if they will do that to a bus-load of travel agents who are supposed to send them business, I believe you might be waiting even longer.
The port water is filthy! But I was still open minded, I know there are some beaches where the sea grass washes on to the beach so I didn’t pay much attention to that. And none of it matters if your excursion is phenomenal.
But my heart hurt when they took us snorkeling. I am a scuba diver, but a lot of my clients are not and snorkeling can be an awesome experience. That is how I ended up a scuba diver, because I loved snorkeling so much, and I wanted ‘more’. Snorkeling group was way too big. If you are not a strong swimmer, and swim away from the swarm of tourists splashing every which way, you will not see any fish (except when the guides bring the fish food to attract the fish – and I’m not even going to comment on that). Coral is half dead, because there are too many people visiting and too much suntan lotion in the water and a lot of people standing on the coral.
And then the shark and sting ray experience: ugh! Unlike Shark Alley in Belize where you can freely snorkel with the nurse sharks, and unlike stingray experiences (Tahiti, Bahamas) in the open water that you can pet and feed the rays in the shallow water, the rays and the nurse sharks are CAGED! Rays had their stings removed, and the enclosures are way too small for the amount of animals they house. There is a beautiful dolphin center in Roatan (Honduras) that is governed by Roatan Institute of Marine Science so I have seen first hand in the Caribbean what the proper marine experience should look like. And then the rays are handed to you for a photo (that would never happen in an open water – the photo here is my own underwater photo with a giant sting ray on my pregnant belly in the shallow water (I was 5 months pregnant when I visited Bora Bora).
And then when you are back on the boat (catamaran I think) the staff starts serving drinks, they start entertaining and dancing and they take you to an island where they let you into the shallow water where there are several boats and everyone stands in the water with music blasting and they just keep serving cocktails. You can’t go to the beach, you are just standing the the water. I’m giving you that photo, too.
I was with a fabulous group of people so I tried to enjoy it as much as I could. Also 7 or 8 Cuba Libre cocktails helped me not to think how I’m standing around a bunch of people that are all peeing around me. Drinks just kept coming and music just kept getting louder.
Instead of Marinarium, visit Catalina Island. Yes, it is 2 hr drive one way, but that just about evens out when you include the waiting time. The bus in comfy, you can nap because you leave early morning, and they will stop at the nice souvenir shop that you can get some good deals (better than Punta Cana). Then you get on the boat and the first stop is where you would snorkel. For my diver friends: this is the 1st of the 2 dives: it’s a 70ft wall – it’s lovely, then after the snorkelers are dropped off at the island and tanks are changed, there is another 40ft coral garden dive, lots of marine life, shallow good visibility all around. The water is beautiful, beach is lovely. Lunch is BBQ, drinks are there. There are ladies that will give you a massage, a gift shop for more souvenirs, and I had a local photographer take some photos for about $45. Here is a couple:
So please do me and especially yourself a favor – if you are in Punta Cana avoid Marinarium like the plague and visit Catalina Island. Both of them will take a day of your vacation, except after Marinarium you will feel fleeced.
Good luck and Happy Travels!