The kids meet Nemo and the penguins | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

THE PENGUIN who wouldn’t leave!
THE PENGUIN who wouldn’t leave!

After an exceptionally long and hectic week for my husband, all he wanted was a full day of bonding with the kids. We thought about where we could go and what we could do that didn’t involve going to the mall, and offered something new for the kids.

I thought of checking out the Mind Museum at The Fort, but it wasn’t open yet (can’t wait to check it out next week when it does open!). Then it hit us—the Manila Ocean Park! So off we went to Manila.

My kids are at that age (1.11 and 3.9) where they really enjoy animals and fish, so it was the perfect place to take them.

We arrived at around 10 a.m. on a weekday. We thought it wouldn’t be so busy since it wasn’t a weekend, but boy, were we ever wrong!

There were lines of students on field trip everywhere, but surprisingly, it didn’t feel crazy or crowded at all. The Ocean Park staff has worked out a pretty efficient system.

At the entrance were different packages to choose from. There was the basic package which included admission to the oceanarium. Add-ons, such as watching the sea lion show, the jellyfish room, the glass boat ride, and the penguins and snow village, had to be purchased separately.

Initially, I didn’t like this setup, as I prefer just buying one all-access ticket. But then they explained that chopping up the sections allowed  pricing that would let people  choose what they could afford, so that more children could enjoy the park. That  made sense.

WE found Nemo!


The entrance was impressive—high-dome ceiling. We were surprised to enter a rainforest area with long roots dangling from huge ficus trees. It turned out we were in the freshwater fish area.

It doesn’t sound exciting, but here we saw huge, freaky-looking fish such as the arwanas and giant catfish longer than my son! Some of the fish we saw were capable of growing up to 18 ft, according to our guide. They had to cover the tops of their aquariums to prevent them from jumping out and eating birds! I sure wouldn’t want to come face to face with them in a lake somewhere.

We also saw crocodiles and starfish, which Adriana promptly recognized as Patrick from Sponge Bob. Oh dear.

Past the freshwater fish, we entered a darkened room where there were all kinds of beautiful and unique species inside lighted aquariums. There were sea horses, eels and lion fish, among many others, but one of the coolest things they had on display were the white spotted bamboo shark eggs that were held up against the light. There were eggs in different stages, and you could actually see the little shark developing and swimming inside!

DEVELOPING baby sharks moving inside the eggs!

Soon it was time to move on to the aquariums where they kept the really big fish, including the puffer fish. I can’t remember the names of the others,  but for some reason I kept thinking they looked like good ol’ tilapia.

Finally, we moved into the highlight of our Oceanarium trip, the underwater viewing tunnel. It turns out that this is the longest in Asia, stretching 25 meters long! It was an awesome experience, seeing the fish swim around and above you, especially when the rays would glide by smoothly with their wings outstretched.

At the end were the shark tanks housing more fish that I was certain I would not want to bump into on any of my diving trips. We walked past the fish foot spa, where you could have tiny fish eat the dead skin from your feet, and the line for the glass bottom boat ride, but opted not to try either any more because by this time, we were all famished and the fish in the tanks were all starting to look more delicious than interesting. It was time to grab a bite.

Asian food

Fortunately for the fish, there were choices,  such as North Park and Pancake House. There is also the hotel restaurant, Makan Makan, which served all kinds of Asian food.

After lunch, it was time to head over to the sea lion show. It was very hot, but there was a good number of shaded seats. The show featured a very smart female sea lion named Sandra and a lazy male named Vincent. They were a charming pair who did their tricks perfectly every time. It was a fun break from the aquariums.

But the best part of the trip for my kids was the park’s latest addition—the penguins and the winter wonderland! There was an ice slide as well, but it was only for bigger kids and adults. Juanmi was absolutely delighted to see the penguins! They were behind a glass wall in a setting that looked straight out of Antarctica.

My little sweetheart laughed his head off every time they came close as they persistently tried to knock on the glass with their beaks to get the toy in Juanmi’s hand!

At the Snow Village, it was Adriana’s turn to be delighted by the freezing cold weather and, yes, snow and ice all around! They make you wear a jacket before you enter, but I still couldn’t last more than five minutes inside. But finally, my daughter’s dream of seeing a snowman had come true! Who would have thought Adriana would see her first snowman in the Philippines?

By this time, it was already nap time for my kids, and the jellyfish room was the perfect way to wind them down. It was pitch black inside, with what sounded like a classic wedding march playing in the background as different kinds of jellyfish swam gracefully around amid the changing colors of their aquarium’s light.

As much as I wanted to stay and wait for the musical fountain show that night, there was no way my kids would stay awake until evening, so we decided to call it a day.

Of course they came back to life the minute we passed the gift shop and the tiangge stalls, but soon they were sound asleep in their car seats, as we made our way home, probably happily dreaming of Nemo and their new penguin friend.