The first time I visited Manila was more than 6 years ago. That was my 15th birthday and the volume of the crowd was surprisingly predictable, considering Christmas was approaching in a matter of days. Parent’s tour us around with my brother to a place called Manila Ocean Park, where I recently came back still carrying the same excitement, but with no idea what to expect.
Situated along Manila Bay and a few meters walk from Luneta Park, Manila Ocean Park is a sure fun destination for all ages, international tourists or locals alike. The spectacles of colorful life underneath the ocean, a variety of never seen before species, and a showcase of awesome entertainment, is hard to believe all possible in just a day of visit.
With more than a dozen of attractions and encounters to choose from, I went straight to the main course of the table; the Oceanarium. After passing through the entrance with a warm welcome from the fresh water species like Crocs, Arwana’s, Arapaima’s, and Koi Fishes, you’ll found yourself amazed on pillars of separate aquariums with different array of fishes. Try to look for Nemo, or Dory, perhaps. There’s also Stone fish do the camouflage you can barely notice, Lionfish coated with black and white stripes similar to a zebra with venomous spikes you won’t want to stick with, the creepy eels swam like sea serpents, small yellow sea horses coil their little tail on the branch of the corals, and a pair of bloated Puffer fish.
Hop onto a much wider aquarium called “Lost Atlantis” and witness a group of larger fish around an abandoned ship-wreck. There’s a scene of abundant coral formation almost kind of similar to Tubbataha Reef, located at Sulu Sea. Then lose yourself inside the tunnel aquarium of approximately 50 meters with a 360° view of assorted sea creatures roaming effortlessly as seen on their natural habitat. With a collection of thousands of marine animals, including hammerhead shark, manta rays, and different kinds of fish, this majestic place definitely excite the kid inside me.
Trails to Antarctica
After the stroll on the tunnel, there’s no way to miss the encounter of the adorable swimming birds called Penguins on the “Trails to Antarctica” attraction. Living in a tropical country like the Philippines, a rare sight of even a single Penguin on the water is obviously close to impossible. A glance of them playing around is the cutest thing to make your day. Did I mention you can also feed them up close?
On your way out, head to Yexel Sebastian’s personal collection of action figures and life-sized fiction characters from popular movies and TV series. This very spot is surreal for kids and kids-at-heart. Like Minions? How about Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit collection? Or a lifetime die-hard fan of Star Wars? I can not think of ways for you to miss this one. Have you ever dreamed of ruling the world of 7 Kingdoms? Sit on the Iron Throne from the Game of Thrones series and pose like the King of Westeros and the other six kingdoms.
Sea Lion Show
Ever saw something whiskery perform incredible funny tricks? Pick the best seat on the front row of the stadium (like I did) and enjoy the lovely tandem of sea lions on their live show. Get along with their groove, help look for hidden items, and clap with them as they excite and cheer with the audience. Be a trainer for a day and get a close encounter when you participate. Teach them tricks, catch a couple of treats, and get a sweet kiss afterwards. Kids will surely enjoy it as much as I did.
Sharks & Rays Encounter
Beside the stadium is where the Sharks & Rays encounter. Soak into the pool with some of the friendliest creatures on the park because these harmless animals are used to people. As per their keepers, rays like it even more when you pamper them with a gentle massage as if they’re humans.
Bird’s of Prey Kingdom & All Star Bird Show
And then there’s the “Bird’s of Prey Kingdom” where mighty winged creatures locally called “Lawin” reside. Native in the Philippines, this new attraction with a great number of well-treated, protected raptors have thought me the importance of conservation of our dying forest lands where sadly, these birds live. Well, speaking of birds, you can also watch some of our intelligent friends such as Cockatoos and Macaws perform at the All Star Bird Show.
I ended my tour on the colourful display of Jelly Fish dancing to the melodic music at the Jellies Exhibit. Here, I reviewed my Gopro shots before heading back home.
To wrap up my simple itinerary and advice, I took a bus from Ortigas all the way to Rizal Park or Luneta Park, and a few meters walk behind the Quirino Grandstand is where Manila Ocean Park located. If you’re staying nearby, walk along Manila Bay area and head up North, otherwise grab a taxi if you prefer a quick ride to the venue.
If you happen to be not really on a short budget and looking for a next level staycation experience, why not check-in to an aquarium themed hotel inside the park itself. Hotel H2O offers the best of the best accommodation for the family. Book a room for a night and have your own private slice of aquarium surrounded with corals and fishes. Sleep away the exhaustion after touring all the attractions and encounters with your loved ones. There’s also a restaurant, bar, and food stalls almost everywhere. If you’re into shopping, there are souvenir shops specifically on every attraction for a very reasonable range of prices.
When is the best time to go visit?
Now especially the prices were discounted to half. I went there Monday or can be during weekdays for a lesser crown compared to weekends.
How much for a day pass?
Depends on the package of attractions you opted to choose. I booked a package of 10 attractions online (metrodeal.com) and scored a great discount.
Any recommended sidetrip?
Have a picnic with your loved ones at Luneta/Rizal Park and wait at around 6-7pm for the Light and Sound Fountain Show. Also, malls are everywhere in Manila.
After a day in Ocean adventure full of charm and wonder, I put down my bag, open my laptop, browse my emails, and start the work as an auditor on a night shift.