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Destination #2: Manila Ocean Park, Metro Manila, Philippines

If you like aquariums and aquatic life in general, you can head on over to the Manila Ocean Park located just beside the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. The attraction has improved a lot since I first visited a number of years back (I believe it was in 2009) with more sections to explore such as the Jellies exhibit and the water fountain light show which I haven't seen before. To be able to maximize the experience, I would suggest taking a package deal that includes the park entrance fees and a stay at the Hotel H2O which is just beside the park. That way you can go to the attractions early before the crowd builds up especially during the weekends and stay late for the fountain/light show. Do take note the different attractions have separate entrance passes which you can purchase piecemeal or alternatively, get a package that is best suited to your interests.

I wanted to show my mom the place since she has never been there before and she mentioned a long time ago that she would like to see it one day. So when the opportunity presented itself (she was coming over to visit for a week), I decided to treat her to a nice aquarium room in Hotel H2O and a day pass to the Manila Ocean Park attractions. The park did not disappoint and I would readily recommend it to anybody who is into aquariums and aquatic life. I have been to similar marine-themed parks outside the country (S.E.A Aquarium in Sentosa Singapore, Aquaria KLCC in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, and Marine World Uminonakamichi in Fukuoka Japan), and I could say that it could hold its own with those others places.

Manila Ocean Park Entrance
The Manila Ocean Park and Hotel H2O shares a common entrance
There is a parking lot located on the left of the main entrance for those who are staying in the hotel, but parking space should not be an issue. Tickets can be pre-purchased online or bought from the ticket counters just outside. This is where you can avail of packages and you can choose only the attractions that interest you. You will be issued a park wristband with a barcode that will allow you access to the attractions you have paid for. The park shares an entrance with the Hotel H2O (the hotel is actually part of the building) which leads to a central open space. The individual entrances of the attractions, together with alleyways leading to shops and food establishments, are located around this central space.

Manila Ocean Park activities
There are a lot of activities offered in the park (mermaid lessons anyone?)
The main attraction is the Oceanarium which features an underwater tunnel that lets you enjoy the view of the various sea creatures swimming on either side of you and overhead. The tunnel can get a bit crowded though since unlike some parks that features a moving walkway, you can actually linger on one spot and watch as the fishes swim by. It is still an enjoyable experience, especially whenever huge rays swim overhead.

Manila Ocean Park Jellies Exhibit
The jellies exhibit is a fascinating area featuring various jellyfish species inside ever-changing lighting conditions
The jellies exhibit is fascinating to look at in the first few minutes with various species of jellyfish inside swirling tanks with ever-changing lighting conditions. Then you realize that although it does look spectacular, it does not really represent the conditions in the wild and is all just theater to dazzle the visitors. I am actually wondering how these changing colors affect the overall wellbeings of the jellyfish in the tank since as far as I know they do have photoreceptors. There is a room with columns of cylindrical tanks with mirrors for walls which creates the illusion that the exhibit goes on forever.  

Manila Ocean Park - Sharks and Rays Encounter
Get a chance to get close and personal with the Sharks and Rays Encounter
Another interesting area of the park is the Sharks and Ray shallow pool where visitors can interact with some of the sea creatures under the guidance of the park personnel. The staff is very helpful in answering some of the questions from the audience. Be prepared to get wet however as there will be a lot of splashing involved.

Manila Ocean Park - Sharks
Shark tank

There are also other areas of the park that are dedicated to non-aquatic exhibits such as the Creepy Crawlies Exhibit where they showcase snakes, lizards, spiders, frogs and a lot more terrestrial creatures. There is also a barnyard, a bird exhibit, and the popular Trails to Antartica where the penguins are exhibited.

Manila Ocean Park - World of Creepy Crawlies Exhibit
A pale frog in the Creepy Crawlies Exhibit.
The musical fountain show is typically included as one of the "attractions" if you take a package deal but really it is nothing more than a laser projection synchronized with the music and the fountain. Quite enjoyable if you are into that sort of thing but I would suggest you spend the remaining time with the exhibits inside the park before they close.

The musical fountain show starts in the early evening
Overall, I would say that the park is definitely something worth checking out especially if you are interested in aquatic life. The park has a lot to offer to visitors of all ages. If you are planning a visit, do research the various attractions carefully and choose a package that is best suited to your interests.

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