Friday, March 14, 2008

Manila Ocean Park

Feeling a little cooped up last Monday, March 10, 2008, I decided that I would go out and mall hop around Manila the very next day. I made my itinerary starting North of Fort Bonifacio. My intended tour was to go to Trinoma, Robinson's Galleria Ortigas, SM Megamall, Shangrila Mall, SM Makati, then ending my tour by going to SM Mall of Asia (MOA). It has been quite a while since I did that and sometimes I feel the need to just be around people I don't know as part of the crowd. Unfortunately, aside from being cooped up with my nose stuck in a copy of Susanna Clarke's - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I have been putting off reading since last year, I have also been neglecting keeping abreast of what's happening around the Philippines. Reason being the endless hearings being conducted by the Senate regarding the ZTE scandal, and the rallies being planned. Geesh. Scandal this, scandal that. When will this circus end?

So I was already set for my day long adventure the next day when it has been brought to my attention that, Tuesday, March 11, 2008, starting at midnight, a nationwide transport strike will take place. No jeepneys, buses, taxis. Heck, even tricycles and pedicabs will be joining in the fray. The only available transport will be the LRT and the MRT. But with no other means to get to their stations, going out will be pointless. Oh yes people, like any other pedestrian, I do take public transportation. Great. That will definitely put a hold on my plans. The transport groups are striking regarding the implementation of the single ticketing system for traffic violations.

Tuesday, with nothing better to do, I turned on the TV to see updates about the transport strike. Around 9:00 AM, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo caved in and signed Executive Order 712, a move that convinced the transport groups to call off their strike before noon. Hallelujah! With a major adjustment in my itinerary, and instead of going to different malls around the Metro, I decided to go to just one, MOA. I planned on visiting their Science and Discovery Center. I haven't had the opportunity yet since there was a student tour the last time I was at the MOA. My experience on this would be the topic of my next blog.

So on I went with my friend Jojo whom I asked to tag along. So after our tour of MOA's Science and Discovery Center, and with time still to spare, I decided to visit the Manila Ocean Park. I know the whole park is not yet 100% complete, but I also know that the Oceanarium already is. It was already getting dark when we got there but might as well check the place out.

The Manila Ocean Park is the first and largest aquarium facility in the Philippines. It is also touted as 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. The park is located behind the Quirino Grandstand of the Luneta Park in Manila. The park is open from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Mondays through Sundays. Admission fees are PHP 400.00 for adults, PHP 350.00 for children and PHP250.00 for students.

During our visit, the Oceanarium and Souvenir Shop is in full operation (first phase). So based on what I have seen, by my estimation, the park is only 40% to 45% complete. What that means is, the price of the admission ticket, AT THIS POINT, is a bit steep and not commensurate to the experience with the park being incomplete as of date. I learned that the marine themed hotel and mall (second phase) and the marine habitats (third phase) will be operational within the year. What I'm looking forward to in my next visit would be the glass bottomed boats. I wouldn't mind getting in line just to have that ride.

On with the tour. Taking photographs and videos inside the Oceanarium is allowed, provided no flash or video lights are used so as not to scare the marine animals. Upon entering, guests are given a brochure/map of the complex with brief descriptions of the different pavilions/sections within. The tour starts in a section called AGOS (Flow) which describes the natural flow of water from land to sea. What will immediately get one's attention are two giant ARAPAIMAS in a big tank on the right side of the entrance. On the left is a tank of OSCARS. Guests will have to go up a series of wooden steps to an upper platform to see a tank with an ELECTRIC EEL and another tank with what looks like a GIANT CATFISH. Also in this area, you hear the flow of running water from a mini waterfall then you go down to a shallow touch pool with different kinds of STARFISH. The guide told us that we can feel the texture of the starfish but we must not lift them out of the pool. I can't help myself and I asked the guide where these starfish came from. She said they came from Cavite. I wondered where in Cavite they came from since as far as I know, most of Cavite shores are polluted and these type of starfish thrive in shallow waters. The last time I saw these type of starfish was when we went to Hingotanan Island in Bohol years back. I remember vividly that they were larger and more colorful than these in the touch pool. There were also several smaller tanks with smaller fish, which I later found have bigger relatives inside the other sections. By the way, you can click on the pictures to see a bigger version.

The next section is called BAHURA (reef). At the entrance is an interactive kiosk which showcases the types of marine creatures within. Most notable in this section are the CLOWNFISH (of Finding Nemo fame), obviously, they are very popular with children and REEF STONEFISH (synanceia verrucosa), SEAHORSES, PORCUPINEFISH (buteteng laot), BOXFISH, different varieties of ANGELFISH, LIONFISH, etc. There was also a small tank with three transparent embryos of the BAMBOO SHARK. Also in this section you will see a JAPANESE SPIDER CRAB said to be the largest arthropod, in its temperature controlled tank. Going around this section is very relaxing. It reminded me of the old Acuario de Manila (Manila Aquarium) located at Calle Real del Palacio (Gen. Luna Street), Puerto Real Gardens in Intramuros but without the fishy smell and adobe walls.

Moving on, we went in the next section called LAOT (fishing ground). This section has four large tanks. Inside, you will find an array fish that can be found in deeper waters. In one of these tanks you will see a GIANT GROUPER (lapu-lapu). That fish is so big and looks so tasty that different lapu-lapu recipes ran through my mind. In the center of this section, there are several sofas arranged in a circular pattern where tired guests can sit and relax in the subdued lighting. Overhead, one will also find a cylindrical screen showing various deep ocean sceneries. Also in this section is the entrance to the 25 meter long acrylic tunnel. and in my view, the Oceanariums' main attraction. It was a great experience to see deep sea fishes swimming overhead from one section of the aquarium to the next. RAYS (pagi), TREVALLIES (talakitok) and so many others that I don't know what they are called. It's a sight to behold.

BUHAY NA KARAGATAN (the living ocean) is the next section of the Oceanarium. The main feature of this section is the 25 meter long tunnel mentioned above. It shows various marine animals and how they interact with each other. Also in this section are, eels and many others. In here, one feels what its like to live under the sea inside a bubble, without feeling the pressure or getting wet. Guests are allowed to sit alongside the tunnel railings on both sides.

Next stop is ANG KALALIMAN (the deep). In here, guests gets to view different kinds of schooling fish like the BARRACUDA (torsilyo). In this section, one will get to view the tunnel aquarium from the other side. Make sure to look up lest you will miss the overhang aquarium where you will see different sized STINGRAYS at rest or slowly gliding at the transparent bottom. In here you will also find the MULTIMEDIA FACILITY section. But of course, who would not be fascinated by the shark tank which extends to the second floor of the Oceanarium. There are three kinds of sharks in the tank, namely: The BLACKTIP REEF SHARK, WHITETIP REEF SHARK, GRAY BAMBOO SHARK. Also in the tank is the GIANT GUITARFISH which is actually a type of ray with two tall dorsal fins.

Roaming around the different sections, looking at tank to tank, I didn't realize that almost two hours has already past, and we haven't even been to the second floor yet. Lucky for us that there weren't too many people so we got to enjoy the place more and moved freely without too much crowd.

Having seen all we have to see on the ground floor, we proceeded to the second floor. Upon getting there we found two shallow pools which they call the Fish Foot Spa. Several people were trying it out so I took some more photos and videos while the little doctor fishes were doing their job of nibbling at the dead skin cells of the guests' feet. An attendant approached me as I was snapping away and encouraged me to give it a try. With a smile I begged off and said I will give it a try next time.

I went over to the shark tank. This same tank is the top of the shark tank located on the ground floor. being up here, I realized how thick the glass is. My estimate, it's about 2.5 to 3 inches thick. Maybe even thicker. The top is open and sharks swim about freely on top as in the bottom of the large aquarium. A note to parents, be mindful when your kids approach the tank. It's not that high. It's only slightly more than a meter high. Right beside the shark tank is the Stingray tank. I gathered this is the top of the overhang tank. Aside from these, nothing much is special about the second floor. Also located on this floor is the entrance to the Ozeano Restaurant which is still non-operational. From the brochure, it says it will offer a variety of cuisines from around the world and offering more than a dozen buffet and ala carte menus. Ozeano Restaurant is owned and operated by Tamayo's Ozeano Philippines, Inc.

With nothing else to see, we decided to exit the facility. We were confused at first since there was no clear signs where the exits were until a guard pointed us in the right direction through the restaurant. The place is indeed unfinished since we saw floor tiles that still need to be installed. Even the exit stairs are still rough and if one is not careful, you might trip. The pathway led us through a corridor to the souvenir shop. Even the shop still leaves room to be desired since their selections are too common and not specialized. Most of the items on display bears the Manila Ocean Park "sticker" not imprinted nor embossed. So we just continued on. One more turn and we are back in the Dome. Interestingly, this dome gives me the impression that I am in a giant dried up sea urchin shell. And my kudos to the one who thought of the slow changing lights which cycles through red, pink, light green, green, blue green, aqua, to blue.

Yes dear readers, the whole park may not yet be finished as of this writing, but having experienced walking through the Oceanarium, I retract my earlier statement and say that it was worth it even though it's not yet complete. Also, I must add that the tanks need a lot of work. A lot of the artificial reefs and corals are obvious. Nonetheless, I can't wait until they finish the whole complex. I'm looking forward to seeing the marine habitat soon and to try out that glass bottomed boat ride. Just a little advise fellow pedestrians, if you intend to visit the Oceanarium anytime soon, do so on a weekday. Doing so, you will avoid large crowds which will make your visit a lot more enjoyable.


bertN said...

Looks like Manila Ocean Park is on its way to being one of the best Oceanarium in Asia. I hope they consider setting a two price structure: a lower admission price for locals and school groups and a regular price for the others.

ohmski said...

great photos. sana makapunta ako soon!

Anonymous said...

Nice, planning to get there soon.


Gian said...

Hi bro! Thanks for the review on the newly opened Manila Ocean Park. You're right. For an unfinished park, the admission fee is indeed steep. Anyway, I'm here in Cebu right now and the only time I'll be able to go to MOP is in June when I take my vacation in Luzon. I hope that the park will be more complete by then. I like the Underwater tunnel pics. Nice shots! =)

Clark Can't said...

Ang ganda. Sana makapunta rin ako dito. Sana makapunta muna ng Maynila. Hehe. =)

Eric said...

The sea animals are fascinating and truly it reduces your stress from the pressure of the cosmopolitan the moment you look at them...but being a member of PETA..I think we should respect them by allowing them to swim freely in the ocean not just confining them in the four corners of that Oceanarium....

by: Genkuro said...

Thank you for your comment Eric.
Like you I too believe that these sea creatures must be free as with the animals that are in the zoos around the world.

But in this manner we can have a sliver of opportunity to learn about them and how to best preserve them and not be afraid when we get the opportunity to meet them in the wild.

Twilight Zone said...

nice, nice one.i also plan to visit one day,many times i asked my son if he had some time to visit but seems hes not interested lol, maybe because he thinks that they're all the same since he saw it in HK and last year in Shanghai,but i believe that our's are more better,we have more species than the other countries i believe so im still interested to visit one day.
once again,very nice and very detailed post Andro

FoxyReign said...

I would want to go back there like a child having his field trip!