Last month, I got the chance to visit Manila Ocean Park with my Lakbay Norte friends. Ida Calumpang, a fellow travel writer and a part-time mermaid in MOP organized a media familiarization tour for the rest of the group.
Manila Ocean Park, for the unfamiliar, is the Philippines’ first state of the art Oceanarium and is the world’s first marine theme park to adopt a “fusion concept”, housing open marine habitats, a boutique mall, a soon to open hotel and an oceanarium all within the same complex. Indeed, The Philippines has always been known as a center of marine biodiversity and now we can really be proud in showing the world what we have and what we can offer.
The Manila Ocean Park experience features a wide assortment of invertebrates and colorful fish all indigenous to the waters of Southeast Asia. All contained in 12,000 cubic meters of seawater which was surprisingly recycled from the Manila Bay.
The main attraction here is a 25 meter long 220 degree tunnel that in which visitors can explore the secrets of the ocean without actually getting wet. It replicates the water flow from a fresh water source that eventually leads into the sea. The journey is split into six sections each with Filipino names such as “Agos” and “Pating” and takes the visitor through the different depths of the sea each with its own attractions and inhabitants.
In addition to the Oceanarium, Manila Ocean Park has a mall with a marine theme, a soon to open boutique hotel and a mall. In the back of the mall you will find a rather unique row of restaurants along a promenade which boasts stunning views of Manila Bay. This portion of the park is free and everyone can experience a gastronomic adventure without paying an entrance fee.
The hotel will also have a marine theme and the rooms facing the bay have amazing sunset views over the bay while the the other rooms will have a one wall of aquarium in their room to captivate their interest.
But what about the mermaids? Yes, mermaids are alive, well and thriving at the Manila Ocean Park. There is a 15 minute musical performance where four petite and beautiful mermaids outfitted in colorful mermaid costumes and spin with all of the sea creatures in the aquarium. Think live sea creatures combined with a graceful underwater ballet. The show starts with the individual performance of each of the mermaids and ends with group aquatic performance much like an underwater ballet..
It is free for Oceanarium visitors and for every P150 receipt of food or non-food items bought at any Manila Ocean Park Store. One aspect that made this feature even more extraordinary was the fact that the mermaids were surrounded by all the wildlife including the big sharks and sting rays. This brought an air of authenticity to the performance that even had me going. After the mermaids completed their performance, they pose for pictures while still diving and swimming around the tank.
I would say the mermaid show is primarily geared toward the children (of all ages) who may possess their own fantasies about becoming the next Little Mermaid. It is amazing however to see the mermaids perform for so long underwater without oxygen which makes you really think that they are real.
The show takes place at the Buhay na Karagatan exhibit area which is also the largest tank in the Oceanarium, while the spectators watch in the Look Function Room. They did make an announcement that there were no pictures to be taken during the show, though most ignored that and took pictures without a flash and nobody bothered them.
I think that the mermaid show is one of the most interesting part of our tour but I heard this show was already discontinued… Yup! While almost all Oceanariums in different parts the world are copying the concept.. Manila Ocean Park is surprisingly discontinuing it indefinitely. There are only two types of decision, either its right or its wrong… Bidding goodbye to the mermaids is definitly WRONG!!!
For an additional fee you can visit “Doctor Fish” who will nibble dead skin from your feet for 20 minutes and is very popular attraction here. There are also various pool ponds where the guests can interact with stingrays and star fish as well as an artificial lake for the more adventurous folks can actually go scuba diving.
With more than 20,000 marine life composed of 300 species, the Manila Ocean Park is sure worth an afternoon if you have the time. I was also happy to note that some endangered species like whale sharks as well as other sea mammals were not included in the selection of species in the Oceanarium.