MANILA OCEAN PARK
After living in Manila for a few years one thing I have discovered – There are not many tourist attractions to visit. I think it may come back to World War 2 where Manila was one of the most bombed cities in the whole of the war and not much survived. Pair that with a very poor country and you get Manila that it is today.
The main lobby area of Manila Ocean Park
It was school holidays and we decided to take the kids to Manila Ocean Park. The Ocean Park was fun for the kids. It gives them an experience they might otherwise not have. If you have been to Sea World or other such water parks you will be let down by Manila Ocean Park. If I was just visiting by myself or with my partner I would have been a tad disappointed, but seeing the kids have fun is what it is all about.
Manila Ocean Park is on Manila Bay, half on the land and half on a massive pier/jetty structure. Admission to the actual park is free and there is a hotel onsite. This will get you access to the food areas, hotel and some rides for the kids that you will need to pay for, like dodgem cars and that sort of thing. To get admitted to the exhibits you will need to purchase tickets. You can buy tickets in bundles of 2, 5, 8 or 9 exhibits, but you do not get to choose which ones. I will try to give my advice here so you may be able to make an informed decision. We bought the tickets that allowed us access to all the shows and attractions and was 900 Pesos (about $22 AUD).
The different tiers of pricing in 2014
This is the main focus of the park and includes many different areas to walk through and look at the marine life. Lots of fish tanks, holding many varies of fish, sharks, eels and sting rays that are indigenous to the Philippines and South East Asia. The main attraction is a 25 metre long curved walkway where visitors can walk on the ‘bottom of the ocean’ with a great view of the sea life around you. This attraction would be a must when visiting Manila Ocean Park.
TRAILS to ANTARCTICA
This had some penguins in an enclosure. We could see people feeding them, but got the impression you had to pay extra for the privilege. It has a long slide, but the children were all too short to ride. We had a 6, 4 and 1 year old with us. I think the minimum height was 3 foot tall, so we did not experience this and lastly there was an area that
simulated Antarctica. It was very cold and they made us wear big jackets. The ground is covered in snow and provides for some great photo opportunities. For people of the Philippines in a tropical climate it must be fun to frolic in the snow momentarily, but if you have seen snow before, there is not much to see here. I would have rather have saved 200 Pesos and missed out on this exhibit.
Trails to Antartica
It will only take five minutes to walk through this exhibit. It has two darkened rooms with lots of cylindrical and conventional shaped tanks full of different species of Jelly Fish. They are impressive to look at and the different coloured lighting is certainly a highlight. While there is initial excitement and wonder with this exhibit, it quickly wears off.
This was in an amphitheatre overlooking the bay and the main sections of Manila Ocean Park. Like the rest of the place, it was good for the kids and lasted about 10 – 15 minutes. It comprised of birds flying into the staged area from off stage. Big birds like Eagles, Macaws and Cockatoos. The Cockatoos do a little show as well. They fly in over the crowd and surprise the audience.
All-Star bird show
SEA LION SHOW and MARINE LIFE HABITAT
This was staged in the same amphitheatre as the bird show and was great fun to watch. It went for about 10 - 15 minutes also and comprised of sea lions putting on a show for all. The staff picks a pretty girl from the audience and the sea lions gives her a kiss. They also jump in and out of the water doing tricks. They are well trained and the show is entertaining. The marine life habitat area allows you to walk around the tank where the sea lions live. It has two levels and from up top you look down on the enclosure at the animals frolicking about. Down some stairs and it is possible to get up close as you look through the glass of the tank under water.
This trainer was having loads of fun
A chance to get up close to some Sea-Lions
BIRDS OF PREY KINGDOM
This area is a large aviary where it is possible to walk on a large jetty like structure and watch the birds fly around you. Photography is not allowed, but didn’t seem to stop most people. The birds are a type of sea eagle called Brahminy Kites (Haliastur indus) and is common on the islands of the Philippines. Interesting and fun to watch them swoop down close to your head and perch on the nearby rails.
MUSICAL FOUNTAIN SHOW
This was a fun show and worth waiting around until 6.30PM to see. A mixture of lights, water fountains and lasers all jumping around in sync to the music, to bring us a great way to wrap up the day. Set in the outdoor amphitheatre again. The kids loved it and I was also surprised at how good it looked. They even have some dancing star fish people dancing to the music.
It was supposed to happen every half an hour, but when we got there they said the next show was in 2 hours. It was the end of a long day by this stage and we decided to give this one a miss and head home.
There are also other encounters you can experience but you need to pay extra. Swimming with the sharks and stingrays for some photo opportunities, an aquanaut experience in the main tank with sting rays or sharks, which is basically a big helmet connected to an air source. There is a fish spa, where you sit with your legs dangling in the water and the small fish eat the dead skin. A very weird sensation.
There is an area in the Oceanarium for the kids to colour in
It states that kids over 2 feet tall need to pay, and even though my one year old is taller than that we did not have any problems entering the different exhibits or shows. There are many different places to buy food with many restaurants on the boardwalk area to choose from catering to all budgets. There were a few places that stated food and drinks could not be brought into the place, yet we brought some water bottles and potato chips and no one said anything.
There are plenty of areas to buy souvenirs as well, but the sellers can be over the top and pushy sometimes. We did have a go on the dodgem carts and merry go round. I was surprised that each person needed a ticket on the dodgems rather than per car. I had to accompany our younger boy on the ride as he was too small, but both of us needed to buy a ticket, which I thought was a bit of a rip off. We did have a go on a 4-D ride, which is a small dark room, sitting in chairs that are shaken and moved in time to the video on the screen at the front. It was good value for money and even though the 4 year old was a bit scared, he wanted to go again.
The park is not a very pram/wheelchair friendly place. Quite often I would have to lift the pram up a flight of stairs to be able to get to the next area where we needed to go.
All in all, a fun day for the family. I would recommend the 700 Peso tickets, missing out on the Antarctic experience as it wasn’t that impressive and for a big family, saving P200 each can add up and better spent on food or other rides. Don’t expect a major fun park; but if you approach it as just a series of small exhibits you should have a good day.