Note: I own the pictures featured in this post. Thank you.
When vacation time finally came, I was able to use the tickets for Manila Ocean Park which I bought for Mama and myself. I was aware that Hong Kong had an Ocean Park (I’ve been there once before, a long time ago) and was quite surprised to find out that Manila had one too. I was excited, to say the least, to finally see this marine park by the Manila Bay. Incidentally, we went on the 21 of December, 2012. If the world did end, at least I’d be with my mother, enjoying the day with her.
I bought the Ultimate Experience ticket (at a discounted price through the company I work for) and this consisted of several attractions that would have amounted to a higher price when tickets are bought separately. These included the Oceanarium, Fish Spa, Jellies, Marine Life Show, Marine Life Habitat and Musical Fountain Show.
The Manila Ocean Park is located behind the Quirino Grandstand along Manila Bay. It’s a huge complex, with a mixture of indoor and outdoor attractions. As it is Christmas time, it was decorated with a lot of Christmas trimmings from a giant tree to lots and lots of lights.
The Oceanarium is basically one big aquarium built as walls and corridors so that visitors can pass through and see marine life even from beneath. It is divided into sections as far as I can tell but can’t really distinguish whether it was divided by habitat or type of fish.
My favourites are the clownfish (Finding Nemo!) and the Nautilus (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!)
I also took my time taking pictures of the rays (because they look so different) as well as of the sharks (no, not Great Whites, just your regular sized sharks.)
The Oceanarium corridors opened up to a huge hall where the ceiling is actually part of the aquarium and you can see the rays swimming above.
Overall, I liked it but didn’t love it. I felt that for a country well known for its marine biodiversity, the collection of marine life (fishes, to be specific) seemed rather small. There were other things they could’ve done with the space too, like booths with activities that can educate children or more artworks and exhibits showcasing marine life.
A fish spa is a place where you are supposed to pull up the legs of your jeans, sit at the edge of a shallow pool, plunge your tired, calloused feet into the water and sit back and relax as fish (who do not know any better) nibble away all your dead skin cells. The only problem is, in Manila Ocean Park, the line to the Fish Spa was incredibly LONG. We had been walking for hours around the complex and the Fish Spa was supposed to be the last on the list of things to do to relax a bit more. This did not happen due to the queue and Mama and I decided to not go through with it and instead opted to eat merienda at a nearby snack shop.
A helpful park officer advised us to make the Fish Spa last on our list so as to take advantage of the relaxing effect. We tried to follow his advice but it looked like every other visitor was given the same advice, haha! And that all I can say about that!
The jellyfish exhibit was presented as Jellies: Dancing Sea Fairies. The area was pretty much a rectangular room which showed different kinds of jellyfish, the ones that look like contact lenses, to ones that looked like frilly umbrellas to little ones that looked like mushrooms. Each aquarium of jellyfish was lighted up with different colors. And because the Jellies are semi-transparent, they changed color with every light change.
Before you head out, you go through a room with cylindrical aquariums still filled with jellyfish only this time the rooms were completely dark, with the cylinders being the only light source. What’s more, they’ve filled the room with mirrors that reflected the aquariums and made me feel like I’ve tumbled in the recesses of a spaceship, where an enemy alien has laid plentiful eggs.
Once again, an exhibit I liked but didn’t love. Watching the jellyfish move in the water can be mesmerizing but once you’re past all that, there’s really nothing else to do. The mirrors in the room was a neat trick but once again, there’s all there is to it. Maybe, they could’ve made it more maze-like or had a lady dressed as a dancing sea fairy prance around the room. Just add something!
Marine Life Show
I would say that the park’s main marine attractions are sea lions. Yes, sea lions are not seals. Apparently, they’re different. I couldn’t really tell apart from the color of the their bodies. The show presented two female sea lions named Icis and Yeni. They were together with their individual trainers and did neat tricks like shake their head (saying no), covering their faces (embarrassed), clapping their flippers (wanting recognition) and playing with balls and Frisbees (showing off.) They can also salute, stand straight and imitate their trainers.
And because it was Christmas, they had a special dance number which consisted of wriggling their back flippers, overstretching their very flexible necks and spinning round and round. Two lucky audience members also got fishy kisses (the trainers fed the animals fish throughout the show) from the sea lions.
The show was funny and fun and even if you had to sit under the 4:30 PM sun in the outdoor arena. The sea lions responded well to their trainers and did quite well with their tricks. But once again, it just seemed lacking. Maybe I expeced too much, but it seemed to me that the sea lions were the park’s main marine attraction because they were the ONLY marine attraction that visitors can interact with. Another thing that bothered me was that nagging thought at the back of my head that animals such Icis and Yeni should not be cooped up in a marine park that obviously lacked semblance of their natural habitat (more on Marine Life Habitat below.) While I read on the internet that they can live longer within a healthy zoological environment, it still breaks my heart a little bit.
Marine Life Habitat
This was the place I liked the least within the entire park. Walking through here I’ve come to the realization that this was the area where the sea lions lived. It was pretty much an elevated walkway overlooking a pool surrounded by glass. There was another sea lion, the male sea lion (forgot his name) and he was pretty much just swimming around. It was probably the length of a regular sized pool and half of its width. Within the pool there was a cemented platform, presumably where the sea lion can lie about and bask in the sun. It was so severely lacking for me.
Sea lions are ocean creatures and spend a lot of time along the coast. The fact that the platform was cemented with very little kind of landscaping done (rocks, sand, etc.) screamed low budget. I’m sure the sea lions do shows day in and day out, they least they could have (apart from abundant fish) is a habitat that actually resembles their natural environment. That area was so unattractive, I probably would’ve missed it if it weren’t for the sign that says “Marine Life Habitat” and the ticket clerk manning the entrance.
Musical Fountain Show
This show happens every 7:00 PM and makes use of lights, water and sound for an entertaining experience. The show started slow but steadily built upon the intensity of the fountain. It brought on gasps from the audience with sudden booming fireworks as well as laughs as different costumed characters performed with the musical fountain as their background.
I loved the show as it was a visual feast for the eyes. While the sound system was inconsistent, the water fountain and lights made up for it. It ran for thirty minutes with some attempts at making the show interactive. It was a good way to end the day.
Overall, I enjoyed the Manila Ocean Park though I think that the place caters more to children than to adults. Apart from the attractions I described above, there are other attractions to be visited such as:
- Trick Art Museum – Located in the second floor, the Trick Art Museum is reminiscent of the Trick Eye Museum in Seoul and showcases different 3D paintings by Korean artists. Given a particular position, visitors get to be part of the painting (at least in pictures.)
- 4D Mega Rider – This attraction brings Enchanted Kingdom’s Rialto theatre to mind. Visitors can choose which movie they like to experience. They ride what looks like a roller coaster car and when the movie begins, the car also moves, mimicking what is seen in the movie.
- Trails of Antarctica – This attraction features a corridor with information about Antarctica ( which you can enter for free) and a paid attraction which includes a Snow Village and a Penguin Show (doubt the Penguins are real though.)
- The Penguin Talkshow – I’m not totally sure what this is all about but I bet it’s something similar to the Stitch talkshow in Disneyland Hong Kong. Please check out the Manila Ocean Park website for more details.
- Aquanaut – Anybody who’s done coral walking in Boracay would know what this is about. You pretty much have a helmet on your head (with oxygen) and then they lower you into a tank of water with all the fish. What I’m not sure about is if the tank would also have sharks in it.
- Other rides and attractions – Other rides and attractions I saw were a carousel and bump cars (indoors), swimming pools (Aquatica, outdoors) and the H2O hotel. They will soon open Birds of Prey and hopefully, that exhibit will be maximized. They also have a bar, named White Moon, which had dance lights, plush white couches and overlooks Manila Bay. Parallel to it was the Makkan (not sure if I spelled it correctly) Asian Food Village. This was pretty much a high end food court serving, if I’m not mistaken, Singaporean cuisine. There were plenty of food stalls, bazaar shops and a souvenir shop.
My only complaint with this part of the park, is that with such a huge place, sitting space was lacking. There was nowhere to sit if you wanted to rest your feet because all the tables and chairs were allocated to the food shops and it seemed rude to sit there if you’re not going to buy anything. With all the space, they could’ve set up benches all over the place. I’m sure all the tired mommies and daddies, yayas, senior citizens, etc. would’ve been grateful.
Surely, children will enjoy the Manila Ocean Park and adults moderately so. It has big potential and hopefully, all that potential will be maximized to make the entire experience enjoyable and educational and eventually support the action of saving and maintaining our seas and oceans.