Established on September 14, 1922, the Oceanographic Center south of Nha Trang (at the foot of the outcrop where Bao Dai built his villa) is a fun visit for kids, and popular with large groups of domestic tourists. The place is a bit run-down, with outdoor aquarium areas that could use a good scrub and a coat of paint. Despite some rather lackluster presentation -- the shark tank, for example, is a big cement pond that you look over from above and one window on the side -- there is an exacting collection of the kinds of fish you would find in the sea near Nha Trang, and all are labeled in English. The best are the smaller aquariums in the back. Find reef sharks, turtles, living coral, anemones, puffers, lionfish, clownfish, sea horses, and a whole array of colorful reef species, some quite rare. The big turtles out back live in pretty cramped quarters, as do the crocs, but the kids delight at being close-up to these big boys, and particularly the aquarium area is a fun visit alongside the many Vietnamese tour groups who don't see too many Westerners in their day to day (you're as much on display as the fish). The museum area holds 20,000 specimens collected over its long history, some full skeletons and others preserved in formaldehyde solution. The institute sponsors ongoing research and community projects, ranging from monitoring aquatic life to developing captive breeding programs and encouraging preservation and regeneration of local coral reefs.
- © Frommer's 2013
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