Manila Ocean Park Review
The Manila Ocean Park is an aquatic based theme park in downtown Metro Manila, Philippines. Sea life is main attraction, but there is other animal life as well, for example Birds of Prey. The park is attended by both tourists and locals. When you go, you can expect to be involved with the sea life as little as or much as you want. Be a casual observer or active participant; the choice is up to you.
The Manila Ocean Park entrance fee varies on which package you purchase. Each combo comes with a different blend of the park’s key attractions. Tickets range from ₱ 590 ($11.80 USD) – ₱ 2985 ($58.52 USD) We chose the ₱ 590 combo, Deep Sea Rush 6. It included the following six attractions – OCEANARIUM, BACK OF THE HOUSE, JELLIES EXHIBIT, SEA LION SHOW, SHARKS & RAYS DRY ENCOUNTER, and the SYMPHONY EVENING SHOW.
We arrived around 9:45a to purchase our tickets at the will-call booth. As Modus Operandi dictates in the Philippines, the ticket booth opened late. The H20 Hotel security guards (the hotel attached to the theme park) were kind enough to allow us to wait in the local coffee shop. However the barista was not prepared until 10:00 am.
The Aquarium Exhibits
Our first showcase was the Jellies Exhibit, and actually stood out as one of the highlights of the package. Inducing a quasi psychedelic experience, a diverse variety of species were on display in the dark. Brightly colored lights and the cool atmosphere were ethereal. Spineless sea creatures floated about their cages in a trance inducing dance. Where as many aquariums have different attractions, I had never seen a jelly fish display quite like this one. The use of mirrors increased the exquisite effect as the reflections amplified the surroundings.
Next, we went to the Sea Lion Show. It was listed as an ‘experience’ as opposed to an attraction. The show is offered at three different times throughout the day, so you are allowed some flexibility in choosing your performance. The show consisted of two South American sea lions, their trainers and an MC. She recited a narrative as the trainers guided the highly conditioned mammals through a humorous routine. As usual with the rest of the theme park, somewhat pushy vendors walked through the crowd and attempted to sell overpriced snacks, trinkets and photographs. It is exactly what you would expect, but still enjoyable.
We had to wander a bit to find the next attraction. The overall condition of the theme park facilities are a bit dilapidated. A touch of paint, cleaning and repairs in places would go a long way to improving presentation. It reminded me of a blend between discount Sea World with a splash of stereotypical Asian mall commerce. Poor design layout of the Manila Ocean Park forces you to walk back and forth through the merchants hawking cheap novelties. Magic flaming wallets and other Chinese made junk are the order of the day. We decided to get something to eat before moving on.
Wendy’s was in the food court. Or something that had the Wendy’s sign, conversely was clearly anything but the iconic Columbus, Ohio food chain. The were few choices, but the Cheeseburger combo option (₱ 96, $1.95) was a microwaved pre-made cheeseburger. No fries. The ‘combo’ portion of the meal was a doubling of the burger with a small 6 oz. sweet tea. For better meal options stick to the local cuisine. Not only will your pesos go further, you’ll get a higher quality meal.
The Back of the House tour was an inside peek at the water filtration and breeding tanks used at the Manila Ocean Park. It was a real missed opportunity, and felt it could have been developed a lot more. Also, strangely enough, there was no security posted in this area. It felt odd that anyone could have tampered with the sensitive equipment.
Retracing our steps back through the only path, we once again walked past the cheap marketplace to get the Sharks and Rays Dry Encounter. At this point, being subjected to the vendors was beyond ‘getting old‘ and evolved into annoying. No one pays hard earned money to be constantly acosted. A little better planning on our part, or access to an elevator to bypass the strip mall would have improved the day’s experience. The Sharks and Rays were located outside beyond the the ticket booth, nearly to the taxi stand. The dry encounter meant you did not get into the water with the animals. Trainers brought two different sting rays over and allowed patrons to pet the smooth back of the rays. Sleepy nurse sharks also laid at the bottom of the tank in a corner.
The Symphony Evening Show did not start until 6:30pm. We opted to forgo this attraction.
The last exhibit of the day was The Oceanarium. One of the largest showcases at the ocean theme park, it featured a multitude of aquariums and species. Sea Horses, turtles, and rays were all there. Fish of all makes from large Alligator gars (Atractosteus spatula) to the venomous Red lionfish (Pterois volitans) were on display.
Finally, if you need a hotel near Manila Ocean Park, the Hotel H20 is directly on the premises. We didn’t stay here, but thankfully there is a coffee bar on the ground floor lobby close to the entrance. The air conditioning blasts refreshing cool air and really helped to take the edge of the Philippine heat. An Americano cost about ₱ 100 ($2), and was helpful to get psyched up for the endurance cab ride ahead through late afternoon traffic gridlock.
Overall, I recommend the Manila Ocean Park for a day’s entertainment. There are points that might frustrate a Western traveler, but it is accommodating.