Talking about San Clemente del Tuyú is talking about Mundo Marino, the largest oceanarium in South America. It was created by Juan David Méndez, a visionary man that has struggled all his life so that generations of Argentinians would have a portion of the sea in their hearts.
How History Began
In the 1960s, Juan David Méndez sold off his company and shop in Buenos Aires
to settle down in San Clemente del Tuyú
and become, almost without knowing, one of the outstanding pioneers that the city was to have.
In the year 1962, Don David traveled to the United States and was fascinated by the large amount of aquariums there, as well as by the degree of training achieved by coaches with certain sea species, especially dolphins and seals.
In 1969, his family purchased an 18-hectare lot of solid ground to take care of sick animals that used to turn up in the area and would be returned to the sea after healing. Thus, after a great family effort, the project of building the aquarium began to take shape slowly, but it would not be an easy task.
The aquarium should be built over a swamp. Therefore, the soil had to be compacted and filled in. Furthermore, the sea water would reach Mundo Marino only through the ría San Clemente. But Don David’s heart and his family’s would give profitable results. In the year 1977, Mundo Marino already had its first dolphin and, by the 1977/78 summer season, it opened its doors to the public with authorized pools for seals, fish and dolphins.
Thus, among education trips to the United States and the incorporation and training of new staff, the oceanarium slowly became a real school as regards sea animal training. To such an extent, that professionals from the most important aquariums in the world -the same visited by Don David
- now come to San Clemente del Tuyú to learn all the news about training methods.
At present, Mundo Marino has 20 properly distributed swimming-pools which lodge over 50 sea mammals, over 80 birds and a variable amount of fish and typically coastal animals.
From generation to generation
Mundo Marino is the symbol of San Clemente del Tuyú, just like the Havanna alfajores are the symbol of Mar del Plata. The dolphins, orcas and sea lions, along with the trainers who keep the mysteries and secrets of the sea alive all through the year, turn this oceanarium into a unique place transmitted from generation to generation.
The dolphins show sweetness and affection in every show, in addition to their beauty and elasticity, which allows them to fly several meters in the air and fall back into the pool in a light splash. Florencia, who has been a trainer for a couple of years almost in all the areas of the park, tells us that “Working with dolphins is one of the most beautiful things that may happen to a person. They manage to transmit so much affection that at times you realize that they do the tricks just to please you, because they love you, not only because you feed them. This does not usually happen with the other sea animals. Sometimes, when some of the trainers are sick and absent for a couple of days, the dolphins get sick too, they feel sad and even stop eating. They are very sensitive animals that give you all their love.”
As for the sea lions, they are much more cunning and gluttonous and, of course, they are also fond of the media. Their famous performance “5-Star Hotel” shows them managing their own hotel with the help of their coaches in front of thousands of tourists that applaud and celebrate each of their pranks. Their gestures, waving, mocking faces, sounds, jumps and even tantrums make them everybody's favorites.
The orca is somewhat the white and black strawberry of the mega-aquarium. Its show is one of the last performances in the day and it summons the largest audiences. With a crowded stadium, the orca shows the tricks it has learnt, such as swimming on its side, upside down or at full speed. But the people go crazy when, at the trainers' command, it manages to jump out of the water with its entire body and subtly touch a small ball hanging at several meters of height, or when it gets out of the water with its huge beauty and allows everyone to see, watch and take pictures from just a few meters.
The Show Must Go On…
If there is a site where the season can be asserted to continue during the entire year, that is Mundo Marino. In the low season, not even the popular and beautiful cities of Mar del Plata or Pinamar have the rhythm and the vertigo that make them unquestionable during the summer.
The oceanarium cannot stop -to have an idea, two crafts leave the San Clemente harbor every day to go fishing for food for all the animals in the park. It must always work because, beyond tourism, it develops parallel programs that were the reason for its creation and its becoming a leader.
Mundo Marino has a sea fauna protection program called Fundación Mundo Marino, which works all year round and is linked to national and international organizations dealing with nature, ecology and species recovery. This means that any endangered sea animal found in the entire Atlantic coast may be rescued and helped by the foundation to be cured and returned to the sea. And these things happen all the time. A simple phone call informing that there is an endangered specimen mobilizes an entire structure of biologists, vets and instructors into trying to save one life.
As regards weekends, the site welcomes schools and institutions from the entire country that come in search of knowledge about the life in the sea and its secrets. For them, the oceanarium has created various educational programs. Therefore, this place is open all year round and is a center of study for youngsters.
The following programs stand out: New Friends, which permits youngsters to learn about the various inhabitants of the sea; Discovering the mistery of the dolphin whales, dedicated to orcas and dolphins; Transformations, for students to learn how the animals adopted the shape they have today and Sleeping with Dolphins, a program that proposes the children to peep at the dolphins, penguins and sea lions, as well as other programs that are even presented in English, so that the students can strengthen the new language close to the surrounding environment.
An Example to be Followed…
Mundo Marino is, for the author of this report, a real example of how things must be done properly to make progress in life and to make our dreams come true. Don David is simply a hero, an idol, a real example of those who rarely appear in the mass media because they do not sell, but they are the ones that truly make countries grow.
Mundo Marino, a place in the world where people seem not to be working, but just doing what they like most. Thank you don David, just thank you…