The spanking-new Manila Ocean Park (MOP) opened this year. It is an enviable accomplishment for being highly accessible, affordable and impressive in both physical size and marine species housed.
The country boasts uncounted pristine beaches, two diving sites that have been designated UNESCO Heritage Sites and unparalleled marine biodiversity all over a long archipelagic coastline.
Thanks to these natural riches and a lending hand from foreign investors, Manila now has a modern Oceanarium that is a fitting showcase for the millions of visitors that come each year.
Built suspended on reinforced concrete pilings right at the water’s edge of Manila’s Rizal Park, Manila Ocean Park is mere steps away from the American Embassy, historic Manila Hotel, the equally-famed Quirino Grandstand, where Philippine presidents have traditionally taken their oaths of office and a brisk walk from the nearest mass transit line.
Largest Ocean Park in Asia?
Manila Ocean Park claims to be the largest Oceanarium in all Asia, mainly because the three-storey main concourse has a floor area spanning 8,000 square meters.
More important, the sheer richness of Philippine waters will enable MOP to eventually showcase over 400 species of marine life, compared to the 300 or so that counterparts in Japan, China and other Asian countries manage to assemble.
Where is the Manila Ocean Park?
Entrance rates go as low as 200 pesos (about US$ 5 at current exchange rates) for students and around 400 pesos (US$ 10) for walk in tourists.
That is about the price of guaranteed-seating movie tickets in any of the IMAX theaters around town and comparable in entertainment value because Manila Ocean Park was designed as a tourist destination.
Just before the entrance are two open-air pools dubbed “Open Water Marine Habitat”, obviously as a preview for the indoor attractions and perhaps even to satisfy all the conservationists out there.
Once you enter the main level, you encounter the airy Central Plaza atrium, obviously a venue for special events. Turn right and you are at the Oceanarium itself where you can stroll not around but through and at seabed level of five main tanks with two smaller ones waiting at the end.
This is a fantasy come alive for all those who have ever dreamt of living in the sea along with fish and coral gardens. Are the other viewers with you walking in a trance or do they also imagine themselves sprouting a mermaid’s tailfins and gliding languidly along?
Manila Ocean Park has more to offer than fish viewing.
MOP is obviously positioned to offer fun, education, business if you must and a bit of commerce, why not? The Oceanarium has a multi-purpose hall where functions can be held.
The “park” is also home to a marine-themed hotel with 120 rooms. Each has the requisite view of Manila Bay but the really unique, blow-your-mind amenity is that one wall of the room is an aquarium!
This is unique to the property. Best to check that your aquarium wall is not the wall to the adjoining room, though!
MOP also houses, you guessed it, a marine-themed mall!
This is home to shops that sell unique items, like shells and other ornaments not usually sold in other places. Bet your bottom dollar there will probably be a shop or two offering tropical fish for all the families with aquaria to add to their collections.
But maybe not a Fisherman’s Wharf kind of market where they cook anything you point your credit card at.
Can I dive with the fish at Manila Ocean Park?
If snorkeling and diving are among your interests, you need not go to far flung places just to enjoy your unique interest.
Manila Ocean Park caters to the diving fanatics of the world by opening to the public marine water habitats, where you can enjoy the feeling of swimming with the fish, although it is not advised to “sleep with the fish” figuratively or literally.
At the end of the day, Manila Ocean Park is the place to be if you wish to enjoy the wonders of the aquatic biosphere.
With a hotel and a strip mall to make the Oceanarium experience complete, MOP is just the place to go for the ultimate “immersive” experience you can have in the city.