Thursday, April 17, 2008

A deep (but bitin) experience

Manila Ocean Park, April 7, 2008

We've been to a couple of marine parks -- the Hong Kong and Minneapolis variety. There's even the old Sea World in San Diego. Like many others who have been to these must-see's, there's that trepidation that the Manila Ocean Park might not offer the same oohs and ahhs. And we heard the initial feedback from friends and acquaintances. Nevertheless, it was a must-see on our calendar.

We heard that initially, cabbies weren't allowed to drop of their rides in front of the entrance and instead were deposited outside the gates which is like a short two or three minute walk away. In this hot weather, you gotta be kidding us. At least some people come to their senses unlike the idiots at Marikina City Hall who have done a great job of destroying the private subdivisions.

Like a bank, you have to get a number and wait to be called to the counter where you buy your entrance tickets. By the time we arrive which is like 11am on a holiday, there are 100 people ahead of us. Not bad but its a 30-minute wait. It's Php 400 per adult and Php 350 per child. They've got a height thingamajig that's supposed to determine if a kid is a kid or an adult. So for folks with young bucks who stand like 5'8" even if they're only in grade school prepare to pay up in full.

If the Manila Ocean Park were completely done, then the price of admission might not be so bad -- under $10. But an hour's time inside an unfinished Oceanarium might seem somewhat highway robbery.

Make no mistake, we enjoyed like only kids can.

Animal and sea life is always enjoyable. It's like watching the Discovery Channel except you're a little up close to all the attractions.

Being a holiday, the place is crammed with folks who come with their families replete with strollers and armed to the teeth with digi and vid cams.

Some of the exhibits are bunched too close to one another that as Mai said, "people are herded" to and fro making it sometime a little difficult to enjoy watching the fish in their aquariums or even reading the fish literature. The first few are outside an air-conditioned area and the huge volume makes the heat a little more stifling.

The fun thing about this place is you'll see some fish that might have not seen elsewhere. I guess I can say that because I go to HK almost every other year and once in awhile I always go to Ocean Park where the thrill of my trip is volunteering to be a part of the dolphin show. Now that is the coolest! Hopefully, we can do that again sometime this year again.

The Manila Ocean Park experience begins at Agos (Flow) which narrates the natural flow of water from land to sea and where there are exhibits on piranhas and crabs and a Touch Pool, a literal hands-on experience with star fish, sea cucumber, and small sharks (these ones you can't touch).

The Bahura (Reef) section that features coral reef creatures is the more crowded one since the aquariums are bunched close by each other. You can use your cameras but you have to switch off the flash because these are not used to the light.

Next up is the Laot (Fishing Ground) part which is dimly lit since these are the deep sea fish that are on display here. It's more spacious and cooler here. "Shipwrecks" provide a thematic design for fish habitats and camera ops. The overhead video display is cool except that its a little hard to appreciate unless you underneath the circle. This is something similar to what they have in the Museum of Natural History.

The Buhay ng Karagatan (The Living Ocean) is easily the most facsinating one since it's like being under the sea. When a shark passed overhead, everyone gasped in amazement. It's something that never really gets old on you.

Ang Kalaliman (The Deep) doesn't feature the once beauteous Jacqueline Bisset but sharks and stingray. Its here where the Oceanarium gets a little thin. Not to many displays left.

They have a wall where one can scribble their name that they were here for the experience. It's a nice touch to the end of the journey. We kinda wish there was more though.

The souvenir shop when we went there didn't have much merchandise left. The shirts and other apparel have been selling like crazy.

My personal favorites were the electric eel (these are huge suckers), the large Groupers that look a little frightening but have been known to approach divers out of curiosity, the Blue-spotted Ribbontail Rays, and the Tawny Nurse Sharks. No Great Whites here, fellas.

It wasn't much if you've been elsewhere, but it was still plenty fun. The next time we go back, hopefully they would have finished more areas and it would be a weekday. Less people and more time to enjoy.

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