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Manila Ocean Park
Manila Ocean Park
In November 2008 I visited the recently opened Manila Ocean Park. Located very close to Rizal Park and just off the Roxas Boulevard it is easy to find and quite a pleasant walk from Malate, Manila.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Ocean Park was a big as it was and even more surprised to see that it was less than half open...though I imagine the greater part will be devoted to a shopping complex.
Manila Ocean Park is part of the China Oceanis Philippines Inc and claims to be " the Philippine's first state-of-the-art Oceanarium, open water habitat..."
Manila Ocean Park
Herein lies a problem
Herein lies a problem. What exactly is a Oceanarium, and an "open water" one for that matter? The meaning is not very clear. This is certainly not what springs to my mind when I think of an Oceanarium whereas the excellent 'Ocean Adventure' at Subic Bay in the Philippines does.
Still, what is in a name? This is a big Aquarium and quite a good one at that.
I Like Aquariums
I like aquariums. I visit a lot of them. I spent the better part of my youth in the sea diving for pearl oysters, watching fish, collecting shells and spear fishing (now reformed). Aquariums when done well are not only interesting and relaxing but also offer, for me, something of a return to my past.
I am though more critical of aquariums than I am of zoos because of the many failings of aquariums.
Zoos and Aquariums
Zoos today...and I am talking about good zoos here, have well established breeding programmes. Most animals held in zoos were born there or born in another zoo. Animals are very rarely taken from the wild anymore. Zoos are in the happy position to be able to return animals to the wild when it is practical to do so. Unfortunately due the activities of Man it does not look like this will be practical for quite some years to come.
Aquariums on the other hand still DO take fish from the wild. Okay, they do have their successes breeding and occasional exchanges and even environmental returns but these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Each time a new large aquarium (or Oceanarium) is set up then someone is sent out to catch fish to stock it. Fish may come from other aquariums but these were usually wild caught elsewhere.
Aquariums have a special responsibilty
By virtue of the fact that Oceanariums and Aquariums are taking fish from the wild they have a much greater responsibility to get everything else they do absolutely right...perfect. This means care of the creatures they house and education, education, education along with research and conservation. This must be genuine, above board, ongoing and not some token stab at some dreamed up protocol or Mission statement.
Manila Ocean Park is in partnership with the Worldwide Fund for Nature and is "deeply committed to conservation." Sorry but I am none too sure what exactly that means. It sounds a bit of a cop out to me. Then they are cooperating with the University of the Philippines into research of Coral Reef progation. That sounds a bit better but really I think there needs to be more. Really doing something.
A bit expensive
I suppose I should be a little pleased that I was not charged extra to enter as is the case in Thailand. There there is the 'falang' price and the local price.
Here it was 400 Pesos to get in. In Philippine terms that is really expensive. I would imagine that this is more than three quarters of the population of Manila earn in a day. Okay, I see the need for a profit...I understand that but I can also see the other point of the argument. Perhaps school kids are let in for free. We must after all educate the young.
Entering the Aquarium
A tour of the Park
I liked Manila Ocean Park. One passes through several well maintained and very spacious themed areas. The tanks themselves I thought were very basically furnished...definitely room for improvement there.
The educational signage was very good indeed. I like it when there is not too much information. Too much loses people, they just don't read it. Information should be presented well and in 'mind bites'. I especially liked the fact that the Tagalog names of the fish were included. This was my partners first ever visit to an aquarium. She was fascinated and being able to identify by way of the Tagalog. It made her very happy.
I did NOT like the piped music. It was loud and harsh and out of keeping with the Ocean atmosphere. Far better the sound of waves or Handel's Water Music.
I especially liked the exhibit of Flashlight Fish Anomalops katoptron which I don't actually remember seeing before...though I must have done. The tank was kept in darkness so one could clearly see their little flashlights flicking on and off. Pity then that I was unable to read the sign because it too was in the dark. A valuable education exhibit that was losing out.
One activity which I have not seen before was the "Fish Spa" where for 120 Pesos you can roll up your trousers and dangle your legs in with a few hundred 'Doctor Fish' which will pick away any dead skin and try to remove any hairs from your legs.
The Park makes no special medical claims for the procedure as some places do..."rejuvenate and relax the soul"...bah...rubbish.
Fish Spa's are all the rage in Asia just now and I know that some aquariums I have passed through these past two years now have them. There is even one in Pattaya, Thailand which charges an astounding 800 Baht.
Never been to one. Never will but I have experienced been nibbled by fish in Ayn al Fayda in the Abu Dahabi desert as well as in the sea off Goa, India.
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Manila Ocean Park IS worth a visit and I will go again in the next couple of months. I am interested to see how things develop as more areas are opened up. Early days and I am sure they have a few bugs in the system. I do hope that there will be a much bigger contribution to conservation than there appears to be at present.