Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Manila Ocean Park

It's almost 3 months now since Manila Ocean Park opened for public viewing. A lot of good and not so good tales about the park made a buzz around the country. According to its leaflet it's "the first world-class marine themed park to adopt a fusion concept - bringing together in one complex an Oceanarium, a mall, a restaurant row, boutique hotel, open water marine habitats and multi-purpose function facilities". Unfortunately, up to this writing, it's only the Oceanarium that's completed, others are still being constructed and hardly even nearing completion. Nonetheless, it still stirred up some curiosity so, off we went and experienced it ourselves.

The Oceanarium was described as "the first and largest aquarium facility in the Philippines. It promises an experience of a wide variety of species indigenous to the Philippines and South East Asia. Getting inside the park, a dome shaped entrance hall is what will welcome the visitors. It's ceiling is a large showcase of photos of marine animals alongside its sponsors. A very friendly queue is what you will experience in a weekday visit (see photo below). If you want to avoid all those tiring hurdles and difficulties in buying the ticket, I highly recommend a morning weekday visit. We went there at 11:00 am, just an hour after it was opened and we managed to enter the park in a breeze.
The Oceanarium boasts of 7 sections to tour. It will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to complete the water world journey. There are available tour guides in each zone for any help or queries. There's supposed to be an audio narration but we didn't hear any during our visit. (Is it just a promise in the guide map or we really missed something? The tour could have been more engaging if an audio narration was provided).

The tour starts with the 1st zone, AGOS (FLOW). This is where you're supposed to learn about the natural flow of water from land to sea. This explains the sounds of flowing water as you roam around the area. The highlight of Agos is the "touch pool". Guests will have a chance for a hands-on experience with some of the Park's inhabitants such as starfish and sea cucumber.



The 2nd zone is BAHURA (REEF). This is the most vibrant area for me and perhaps where the most familiar species are. Think of Nemo and Dori, you'll find them here. Thanks to the movie "Finding Nemo", it famed that vivacious, sparkling clownfish kids are now fond of.


Third zone is LAOT (FISHING GROUND). It features marine species living in the deep waters of the sea. Big aquariums are located here but ironically houses only quite a few. The most interesting subject of this zone is the giant grouper (Lapu-Lapu) which can weigh as much as 660 pounds. That bony fish is real big! This is pretty much the darkest area as well and the "no flash photography" is strictly being implemented. The designs of the aquariums are by the way notable.


The 4th zone is perhaps the main attraction of the Oceanarium, BUHAY NA KARAGATAN ( THE LIVING OCEAN). This is what they said is the real deal of the Park, the 25 meter-long tunnel encasing various marine animals. Manila Ocean Park claims big about this glass tunnel beating that of Singapore and Hongkong. But did it? Apart from the sharks, sting rays and other lots of marine inhabitants graciously swimming above my head, I can hardly see the vastness they said they're showcasing. Yes, it is quite big but content wise, I'm still craving for more.



The 5th zone is ANG KALALIMAN (THE DEEP). This zone features the different kinds of schooling fish such as the Barracuda. Again, very few schools can be found.


The 6th and 7th zones are PAGI (STINGRAY) and PATING (SHARK) respectively. I would say these particular sorts dominated the whole Oceanarium. There's an over hang tank where top and bottom views of sting rays can be enjoyed. Likewise, an open tank for closer shark viewing is made available at the second floor of the acitivity area. Other activities to experience in the second floor are Fish Spa (Php100/30 mins) and Glass Bottom Boat Ride (Php150). I tried the fish spa merely for the experience (and I would say that's really just it, no more no less). This is how the Fish Spa experience is going to be: you pay for your entrance ticket, remove your shoes, dip your feet into the water and be tickled by the small fishes as they ripped off your dead skin cells, wait for 30 mins to last, ask for some white towels to dry your feet and your done. It's fun but I have some reservations in trying it out again here. First, there's no "pre-washing" of feet. You head straight to the fish pond/pool and dip. I wonder how many different kinds of feet landed in there?! Much more how they maintain the cleanliness of the water? Second, there's no mention of what good or what makes fish spa a different experience even just in posts or prints. How will others be encouraged? Unless they got intrigued, it's likely, people will just pass by this one. Third, they can hardly monitor when the session is finished. It's really just up to you when you want it done. But honestly, who would want to stay longer? I just won't dare.

On the whole, the Oceanarium promised an imaginable adventure to its guests. Partly this promise came to life. But I want it to sparkle more with other new sea creatures. I know our thousands of islands have more than just that. The Oceanarium is the perfect place to show the bounty and beauty of our natural resources. On the contrary, if the Park mirrors the real condition of our marine habitat, that would be a real disturbing thought for now. Thus, it's just apt and timely to flash this environmental concern. But it should not just sit on the floor of the Oceanarium, it should be realized.


Manila Ocean Park
Behind Quirino Grandstand
Luneta Park, Manila, Philippines
Tel. #: 5677777
Fax #: 5672309
Open Mondays - Sundays 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Entrance Fee: Php 400 - adults, Php 350 - kids

1 comments:

CandySwirlz said...

Hi! Thank you so much for this really helpful post. I went to the park 2 (I went there with my family, and then our school field trip) times already but still I didn't pay attention to the different zones that is, obviously in our 2nd Quarterly Test. Anyways, thank you again!
-Justine Pena - 11 years old, Grade 5
:)