Monday, November 2, 2009

Manila Ocean Park: One year after

It's been more than a year since we last visited the Manila Ocean Park. We were there during its launch and personally, I was impressed by this rather ambitious undertaking. There was only the oceanarium then but looking at the development plan, we set up high hopes and expectations for the project.
Malling and sunset-watching.  On the positive side, it was good to see that the mall wing is almost complete. We visited on a grey-sky Saturday but espying the viewdecks facing Manila Bay, I knew it would be a great spot to enjoy a mug of coffee while waiting for the sunset, of course, good weather allowing. Oh, and there were quite a lot of food outlets on the ground floor. But it was worth going up to the second level, to the Makansutra Asian Food Village, for a helping of affordably-priced Thai, Indian, Singaporean or Chinese fare. (Read our insights and comments at www.happyfoodies.com).
Get the ball rolling. Right before the entrance proper, kids were having boisterous fun enjoying the giant waterballs, inflatable transparent balls suitable for kids (even adults) weighing less than 68 kilograms. At only P40/person, anyone can ride (roll?) along and around the shallow inflatable pool ably manned by MOP staff.

Minus points.  On the negative side, the long, glass tunnel aquarium is so much less impressive now. Gone are the huge table corals along with the overwhelming number of fishes that made me gape in awe before. There were glass-bottom boat rides within the tank holding the sharks though these cost P150/person. The fish spa, where schools of fishes nibble at one's feet, attract the curious who's willing to pop P120 for this unorthodox and shall we say, fishy, foot treatment.
I also find the tiangge-style stalls at the entrance an eye sore. Nothing bad with making commercial use of all those spaces but I thought there must be a better way of presenting those stalls. We lingered well beyond nightfall hoping to see the lighted dome that changes color every few seconds but were disappointed to note that it seems out of commission, hopefully not for good.
Saved by the jellies. Spending P400 for a less than satisfying time can be a bummer. It was a good thing we decided on seeing the other aquatic display -- the "dancing" jellies (P150/person). The sight of thousands of jellyfishes seemingly doing this graceful ballet in huge tanks with lighting that constantly changes color every few seconds is one surreal, nay relaxing, experience.
As Johnny Depp said in the IMAX feature, "Deep Sea," these animals can look like creatures from deep space instead of the deep sea. If I had more time to spare, I could've easily spent an hour or two just staring at these marvels instead of staring at Nat Geo reruns of Costeau underwater sceneries. Maybe one day soon, I will.

Info:  The Manila Ocean Park is located at the back of the Quirino Grandstand along Quirino Street near the South Harbor and Rizal Park (Luneta) • Open from 9am-10pm, daily including holidays • Entrance fee to the oceanarium: P400 (roughly  US$8.50 for adults) and P350 (around US$7.50 for kids) • for more info, call (632) 567.7777 or visit www.manilaoceanpark.com

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