Saturday, March 03, 2012

Discover Manila: Manila Ocean Park’s Once upon an Ocean

When Manila Ocean Park opened several years ago, I thought the place was built for kids to enjoy aquariums and marine life. But since my visit to the ocean park last Christmas holiday, my perception about Manila Ocean Park as a place for kids changed. It is not just all about aquariums and fishes but also a great place for recreation with family and friends while learning about the importance of marine life and our ocean environment. Today, with hotel, shopping, restaurants, entertainment and club facilities, Manila Ocean Park is now one of Manila’s premier must-visit sight.

A swirl of big fishes at Ang Kalaliman.
Before entering Manila Ocean Park, I thought it was only an aquarium of fishes and marine animals. I didn’t know that the park also has penguin and sea lion shows as well as a fountain show and arctic world facility to depict life in the cold world of Antarctica. Manila Ocean Park also boasts a hotel accommodation, the H2O Hotel along with complete shopping facilities and numerous restaurants around. It also has a bar lounges – White Moon Bar and Liquid – for those who want to enjoy night life at the ocean park. But before a visitor can enter the park, one must choose first a ticket with a good package of sights to visit inside the park with a corresponding price rate. I think our choice package was good enough to savor the sights of Manila Ocean Park fully.

Welcome to ocean world!
Rainforest motif of Agos.
Touch pool in Agos.
Bamboo Shark eggs attached to a stone.
The oceanarium is the first facility that visitors should see first. It’s an ideal place to have a closer look and learning about marine life and marine animals. I was greeted by a forest theme area complete with piranhas in fish tanks and crocodile in a river-like den when I enter the oceanarium. The walls are covered by various tropical plants and a ceiling partly covered with plants that have draping roots to give an authentic forest theme. There’s also a touch pool where once can marine animals that live in shallow reefs like white spotted bamboo sharks and its eggs, blue sea star, chocolate chip sea star and target fishes. I didn’t know that this – a rainforest motif section is Agos (Flow) and next to it is Bahura (The Filipino term for reef). I am delighted to learn that Manila Ocean Park used Filipino phrase and terms to describe the different sections of the oceanariums to give a genuine Filipino theme.

Reef fishes in Bahura.
Seahorse Galore!
Baby seahorse! Small as half a thumb!
Various fishes in aquariums at Bahura.
In Bahura, there are numerous aquariums that display fishes and marine animals found in reefs like blue ribbon fish, angel fish, clown triggerfish, lionfish and live bamboo shark eggs where you can clearly see the moving baby shark inside the egg. If you don’t know anything about the name of marine fishes that you are seeing there are information boards below each aquarium that gives the name of the species complete with its scientific name and Filipino common name for it as well as a short information about the marine animal. Among the displayed reef fishes and animals that fascinated me are the seahorses which comes in yellow color and their hatchlings which is so tiny like a piece of thread and firefish because of its yellow dotted head with a horn-like dorsal fin, a body colored half white half deep red and a black tailfin. Another fascinated me was the Edong or Spotted Garden Eel that looks like small snakes borrowed in sands and chatting with each other! According to the information board, they usually live individually in burrows from which they protrude.

Edong or Spotted Garden Eel.
A very attractive firefish.
Bamboo Shark's live eggs - the babies are moving clearly!
Stripped lionfish!
In Laot (means middle of the ocean), there is a vast space in circular pattern where on the circular sides are huge aquariums that displays big fishes Eagle-spotted rays in a long tank. Inside these aquariums are depiction of sunken shipwrecks and its debris that we typically seen in National Geographic diving documentaries. Those depictions give a visitor a feel of what diving is like in ”laot” of our oceans.

Welcome to the middle of the ocean, the translation of Laot.
Big fishes in Laot.
Yours truly, with a big fish!
In Buhay na Karagatan, walk through Asia's largest underwater viewing tunnel, stretching 25 meters long and curved at 220 degrees. Here, I saw a lot of marine fishes that are found in our seas like sharks, sting rays, eels and a lot of colorful fishes. There are over 5,000 varieties of marine creatures from around 300 species, all indigenous to the Philippines and the Southeast Asia according Manila Ocean Park. While, there are side seats for visitors to admire this beautiful section of the oceanarium, this is also the most crowded section of the oceanarium. A lot of visitors stay longer in this section that’s why walking inside the aquarium was slow as if there’s a human traffic. So, I got a sudden feeling of moving away from this section. I just stayed for a while with my family and took some souvenir shots before proceed to the next section. Though, the oceanarium is quite short in length for a walkthrough, I think this has the widest viewing aquarium glass at least to give a real feel of what is life like in the ocean world.

An underwater viewing tunnel.
Fishes at Buhay na Karagatan.
Sting Ray or Pagi.
Our family Christmas Holiday 2011 at Manila Ocean Park.
Next section of oceanarium is Ang Kalaliman (The Deep) which also contains the sections of Pagi (Sting Ray) and Pating (Shark). In this section of the oceanarium I saw a large aquarium containing sea bass and other fishes that can be found in the deepest parts of the Philippine waters and various species of sharks like Blacktip Reef Shark, Whitetip Reef Shark, Leopard Shark and Tawny Nurse Shark. But above this section on the ceiling is a large aquarium like an overhang tank containing sting rays or “pagi”.

The Deep.
Promoting "Going Green"
Water Recycle - very important in conservation of our water resources.
After this, we proceeded to the gallery section where on exhibit are ways to do water recycling and information about water pollution. The gallery also exhibits attractive drawings and illustration to draw visitors’ attention into conservation of our water supplies and marine life. This is a part of true testament of the park’s commitment in environmental awareness and protection particularly to marine environment and oceans. For me, this is a great way of spreading the concept of Green Travel.

Stunning Manila Harbor.
Manila Harbor viewing area - Perfect for rest, relaxation or just breathing a fresh air.
One of the paintings in the art galleries spreading the message of saving and conserving our oceans.
 The exit to the oceanarium leads to a spacious view of Manila Bay where the charming harbor is docked with ships and beautifully illuminated by the sunset sky. After admiring the bay, I and my family proceeded to the entrance to the Arctic World section where there are illustrations, information and pictures about life in Antarctica and how it is to live in the cold environment of the continent. Next are art gallery paintings that illustrate the different ways on how to take care of our oceans and marine life. It also depicts how people badly affect our seas and marine life. The final stop is the y proceeded to oceanariums’ souvenir shop where souvenirs items can be bought like stuff toys, t-shirts, keychains, mugs and pens.

Jellies - dancing sea fairies!
You'll marvel at their dance.
Dancing to the sound of Beethooven or Mozart?
Warm flash of colors.
I also visited a special section of Manila Ocean Park, aptly named Jellies, dancing sea fairies, which is one of the must-see sights of the marine park. Why? Because there are only few marine parks that displays jellyfishes of various species in an aquarium gallery. One of the amusing feature of these aquarium display of jellyfishes is the play of a classical music (I’m not sure if these is in a Beethoven or Mozart music) that seemed to make the jellyfishes dance gracefully to it. The seemingly choreograph swimming motion of jellyfishes to the music along with flashes of colorful lights made these marine animals perfect to be dubbed as “dancing sea fairies”. Your attention will be drawn to the jellyfishes’ graceful dance in the water. The various species of jellyfishes on display are box jellyfish and moon jellyfish.

Jellies - the dancing sea fairies!
Moon jellies delight!
See the graceful dance of the jellyfishes...
Dancing gracefully...
Dancing to the sound of music and flash of colors.
A box jellyfish doing a solo act dance number.
It was almost seven in the evening that we finished seeing the Jellies section. We then proceed to the open-air amphitheater to watch the much-awaited Magical Fountain Show which will start at 7pm and the last show for the day in Manila Ocean Park. The Magical Fountain Show is one amazing show that every visitor must see in Manila Ocean Park. I say it is a must-see show because it is not only just a spectacular display of colorful fountains, sound and magic but it also has a very important message about the conserving our oceans and seas.

Once upon an ocean...
Shoot up!
Blast of water and lights.
Truly magical!
The Magical Fountain Show started with a laser light reflector of a fish narrating the story of “Once Upon an Ocean” where the entire show will center. It is then followed by the intermingling trick of colorful lights and various sounds of the fountain show. Also part of the show are the funny sea animals mascots like starfishes, shrimps and lion fishes that sings, dances and acts. To the delight of the audience, the show also featured a laser light display against the water fountain of character marine animals like clownfish (the Nemo character to everyone), seahorse, jellyfish, sword fish and stingray that danced to the tune of the song of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours. It was followed by an octopus character playing a piano music in the form of laser as well. The fountain show returned again for the finale with a grander exhibition this time to amuse the audience. The show of the water fountains is more colorful and the sounds are attention getter this time up to the end where a The Magical Fountain Show ended in a spectacular display of water fountain tricks but the narration of the ocean story and its message is clear at the end about the awareness, conservation and importance of our oceans and seas.

A sample video of Magical Fountain Show

An amazing display of lights and water fountain.
Beautiful finale!
I had great family bonding at Manila Ocean Park. This is also why this visit is special as it is holiday time spent with my family. At first, I thought the marine park is just popular for kids but now I realized that it is for everyone. People of all ages are seen visiting the marine park. Anyone who loves the fishes, the seas, and the marine world will definitely love a visit here. It is fast-becoming a premier destination in Manila that is helping the city to boost its tourism. I’m sure anyone who wants to have a great family and friend bonding will be worthy spent here. I had a worthy enjoyable day spent at Manila Ocean Park. It is not only because of the family bonding I had and the amazing marine animals that I saw in the aquariums but also because of the essential environmental lesson that I learned about our marine life and our oceans in which Manila Ocean Park imparts to all its visitors.

Discover Manila is a series of travel stories and articles about the interesting places of Manila in promoting the capital of the Philippines as a destination of choice and proof that the Manila still has the must-see and must-experience for every visitor.

Manila Ocean Park
Behind the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park, Manila.
Contacts: 567-7777 loc. 118, 119 & 123
Learn more about Manila Ocean Park, here.
This is not a paid article promotion.


  1. The place is amazing! My visit to Manila Ocean Park was one of my most enchanting experiences. :-)

  2. oohh nice photos!
    ang creepy nung eggs no? gumagalaw tlga. hehe

  3. gang ngayun di pa rin ako nakakapunta jan, shame on me :P

  4. @bridal Cars and Anonymous: Thanks for the visit!

    @Chyng: Yup, creepy para kang nasa lab habang tinitingnan yan... thanks!

    @Christian: ako din after 5 years ata since nung sumikat sya as premier destination in Manila. Try it, worthy naman.

  5. thanks for the virtual tour. d pa ko nakapunta jan. ganda pala nung mga jelly fish! hehe

  6. @PinaySoloBackpacker: Actually yung Jellies yung isa sa pinaka-highlight ng MOP trip. Punta na... Thanks for dropping by!

  7. The kids will enjoy there so much :)

  8. As the Manila is one place where i want to stop while doing my world trip just after I finish my university, it gives immense excitement when I come through interesting articles about Manila....thanks..Keep writing..

  9. @Makati Apartments: Thanks for visiting!

    @Sunil: There's one more article about places to see in Manila that I will publish here soon. Hope you come back and read it. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Awesome post you have here! I will definitely check this out. I'm sure me and my friends are going to like it. You should also check out Ayala Triangle, I'm sure you'll like it! Anyway, thanks for sharing.


All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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