At the heart of the Philippines, Manila Ocean Park is one of the most tourist-visited sites in the city. Its picturesque aquariums and grandiose tanks attract a huge crowd, especially during the weekends. My family chanced upon Manila Ocean Park as a surprise, while we were thinking of a fitting place for our baby’s first road trip. We wanted to take our baby to the beach, but could not go to Matabungkay resorts like we used to, so we decided to hit Manila Ocean Park instead.
Manila Ocean Park is about an hour, or 22 kilometers away from Marikina, access roads you can take can either be via C5-Kalayaan-EDSA-Pasay, or via Aurora Blvd.-EDSA-Pasay. It is conveniently located in Roxas Boulevard, near the monumental Rizal Park. Once there, you can find a cosy spot to park – it’s free, just be aware of your car, and your belongings.
From the parking lot, you’ll still need to walk a couple of meters to the Manila Ocean Park arena, where several restaurants (Pancake House and North Park, to name a few) are waiting to whet your appetites. You might also like to try the Bungee Jump first – just to heighten up the thrill!
Beginning the Adventure
Manila Ocean Park offers unique experiences for your families to try and enjoy: Aquanaut Voyage, Fish Spa, Glass Bottom Boat Ride, Jellies, Marine Life Habitat, Musical Fountain Show, Oceanarium, and Swimming and Fun.
Since we were travelling with a one-year-old tot, and two senior citizens – we chose the Manila Ocean Park Oceanarium package. Park rates are pretty reasonable, since you will enjoy swimming with giant mantarays – sans water!:
• Php 400 per head for adults,
• Php 350 per head for children 4ft below, and
• Free for children 2ft below
Manila Ocean Park pictures and videos will surely be remembered. The use of camcorders, digital cameras and photo-capturing devices are allowed inside Oceanarium – just be sure to go low on the flash feature. Please also avoid tapping the aquarium glasses, especially with hard items. Excessive sound and glaring light will scare the fishes away. Food and drinks are allowed, but be sure to throw your empty cups and bags responsibly.
By the Riverbend
We began our walk in AGOS (æ-goss), Manila Ocean Park’s freshwater aquarium. AGOS, meaning “to flow”, entrusts the welcome bidding to the great Pirarucu or Giant Arapaima.
My family and I walked into a cool garden of Manila Ocean Park and proceeded towards a wooden staircase that leads to the mighty Piranhas. I have always been fascinated by hanging vines, and their presence in the garden, along with a young croc, add a jungle-like mystique to these freshwater predators.
We tread along the wooden trail of the Manila Ocean Park and proceeded to a flight of stairs that lead to a huge, open tank of large Catfish.
Further down are the smaller fish species like the Black Ghost Knife fish and others I pray to have not noticed, since we were in the mouth of BAHURA.
Dipping in the Shoal
A shoal is a sandbank in a stretch of water that is visible at low tide which Manila Ocean Park has created similar to it. In Filipino, this is called “Bahura”. The BAHURA (bæ-hoo-ræ) stages a wonderful array of colourful shallow water fish. We were greeted by displays of seahorse, stingray, and families of Nemo’s friend, Dori, the Blue Tang fish (trivial question: Is Nemo the most popular Clown Fish?).
We also found other interesting species like the Black and Gold Chromis, Pajama Cardinal Fish, Orbiculate Cardinal Fish and other beautiful reef fishes.
The last species of fish we saw in BAHURA – and my personal favourite – is the Spotted Garden Eel. They were the shy and worm-like species. They burrow their bodies in the sand when frightened, and then slowly dance upward, like a snake in trance. This small group of eels were fascinatingly simple, yet, they were the one lot in BAHURA which I’d dream about having as pets.
Floating in the LAOT
Welcome to the deep ocean! LAOT (læ-oht) – or “middle of the sea” in Filipino – showcases the huge, captivating species of fish only to be found in the deepest parts of the ocean. Manila Ocean Park gave visitors a breath-taking view of these species with massive tanks that give the impression that you are indeed, breathing amongst these giants.
The Giant Trevally and Grouper fish will greet you upon entering Manila Ocean Park LAOT. These fish are extremely friendly, and exceptionally large! I take particular fondness for one of the grouper fish, whom I think liked my soft tapping and came nearer the glass enclosure – it even followed me for more Manila Ocean Park pictures! I could’ve spent more time with my new grouper friend, but there were more fish to catch [up with, that is!].
Before we reached Manila Ocean Park “Buhay Na Karagatan” our baby, too, made friends with a fish – I was not able to catch its name, but it was also the one of the more people-friendly fish there.
Under the Sea
The BUHAY NA KARAGATAN (Living Ocean) boasts Asia’s largest underwater viewing tunnel, stretching 25 meters long and curved at 220 degrees. Highlighting our long walk, the tunnel was promenaded by families like mine, and I found myself in the middle of a crowd of people, reef fish and huge mantarays. Our experience remains unique and enthralling, the sight of gracefully swimming fish is ultimately soothing to one who is longing for serenity and balance.
Manila Ocean Park experience is a refreshing family getaway place. It’s all you need when you want to give your family a preview of the deep ocean diving experience. I would really recommend this to my relatives and friends.
Manila Ocean Park is located at the Quirino Grandstand, One Rizal Park, Luneta, Manila. For inquiries, call 02 567 7777 or log on to www.manilaoceanpark.com.
There are hotels near Manila Ocean Park. Here are some, to name a few:
• Hotel H2O (Walking distance)
• Miramar Hotel (One of the best hotel in Manila)
• Bayview Park Hotel (See Manila bay during sunset and sunrise)
• Swagman Hotel (One of the most tourist visited)
• Mabini Mansion Hotel
• Best Western Hotel La Corona
• Lotus Garden Hotel (Nice setup and a lot of courteous and friendly crew)
• City Garden Suites hotel
• Paragon Tower hotel
• Casa Bocobo hotel (Elegant interior design and platform)
• Manila Pavillion hotel
• Gran Prix Manila hotel
• Boulevard Mansion Hotel (Highly recommended for couples for honeymoon)
• The Corporate Inn hotel
• White Knight Hotel Intramuros
• Hyatt Hotel and Casino (Full of excitement and quite interesting)
• Diamond Hotel
• Riviera Mansion Hotel
• Eurotel Pedro Gil hotel (Foods taste really good. You’ll never regret a fine dinner with your girlfriend)
• Las Palmas hotel