Sharks and Rays Encounter: yet another dream come true at the Manila Ocean Park

Sharks; you watch them in movies with razor sharp teeth, gigantic jaws and killer instincts. They are fast, scary and ruthless to their victims. Rays on the other hand are less frightening until the news about the death of Steve Irwin (the famous crocodile hunter), who believed to be struck by stingrays barb in the heart, went out and shocked the world. No wonder the very thought of these two freaking creatures strikes fear in most of us.

Now, who would dare to meet them face-to-fin, raise your hands!

I’m raising both hands including feet. Hell yeah I’m afraid, who isn’t anyway? But sharks and rays encounter is yet another dream for me. Who wouldn’t want a dream come true or should I say a life changing experience? After all, these two, are still God’s beloved creations.

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An outdoor view at the Sharks and rays encounter

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Me cuddling a Ray for the half body encounter

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Bloggers on their sexy swimwear together with Evir

The dream come true happened last Saturday at the Manila Ocean Park. Fellow bloggers and I were given the chance to try one of a kind attraction - considered a first in the Philippines and Southeast Asia known as the Sharks and Rays Encounter. We were able to swim, feel, cuddle and touch these two creepy creatures of the deep sea.

Sharks and Rays Encounter Programs you can choose from are as follows:

  1. Aquanaut – exciting underwater activity using a special diving helmet that lets you breath freely.
  2. Full body encounter- Swim full-body in the outdoor pool and get to touch and hold the stingrays and a chance to see the bull shark up-close, pose for pictures and learn about their habitat, feeding, breeding and behaviour.
  3. Half body encounter -Go waist deep into the water and have a rare interaction with sharks, rays and starfishes all in one place.
  4. Dry Encounter- No need to get wet or change clothes. The touch and feel contact heightens your appreciation to care for the ocean and its inhabitants.
  5. Sharks and Rays Intimate- A specialized CSR program focusing on sharks and rays encounter by persons with disabilities and special needs.

Before the encounter, a briefing is done to make sure people are aware of the dos and donts. A trained staff discussed to us which friendly sharks and rays species we will encounter, how to interact with them and some of the misconceptions about them. Somehow the discussion made the feeling of excitement overtook fears.

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According to the trainer this is how to gently grab a ray; shoulder level (lower down if needed), not too wide opening and no screaming. :)

After the briefing, an eat all you can buffet was served by the Liquid and Pool Lounge. You try it, their food was superb, I can’t resist eating more than my usual meal. Fish, fruits and pasta carbonara were my favorites. Yet another cheat day for me.

Then we proceeded to the encounter proper. I will let the pictures below speak for themselves.

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View of the friendly rays from the aquarium walls

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Touching a Ray with bare hands was a dream come true! Thanks to Kuyang Trainer for calming the ray every time it feels uncomfortable with me

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Me, the Mermaid together with friendly fishes and rays

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An underwater shot of me trying to reach/feel these couple sharks. Failed on my first and second attempt. Succeeded on my third!

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Reaching out to you, can you feel it too… ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

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Close encounter with a shark

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Brother and I on the last minute of the 45 minute encounter. I was the happiest and the most satisfied!

The whole experience was surreal! I never thought I was able to get near rays and sharks and be able to touch them. It was so cool I cannot stop talking about it to anybody up until now.  I know it may seem exaggerated to those who heard my story over and over again, describing it as a total life changing experience. But believe me, it’s real. I even asked some staff on how to become a qualified trainer, as I never wanted anything in life that moment but swim with these friendly creatures. (You can check more event photos HERE)

I really would like to go back and try the other programs. It is indeed a once in a lifetime experience you cannot miss! So thank you big time Manila Ocean Park.

Photo Credits to Manila Ocean Park (Official) and Juan Hapito. Also thanks to Mommy Lariza and Evir for the invite. And Kuya Ed Aguilar for lending the underwater camera used in most of the pictures here.

Manila Ocean Park is located behind Quirino Grandstand, Luneta, Manila. For updates and details, check out www.manilaoceanpark.com or call 567-7777 loc. 153. Or like them on FB Page and Twitter.

8 comments:

  1. Those are not bull sharks as you've said on your blog. hope you step on a real bull shark someday.
    By the way, that's a nurse shark.

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  2. This is horrendous! To stress the poor sharks and sting rays by poking and prodding them day in and day out is just terrible. Manila Ocean Park needs to rethink this as it's going to get more environmental activists on their case and will do the park more harm than good. Also, I really hope the picture of what looks like you stepping on one of the sharks is an optical illusion by the blurry camera shot - it doesn't look good.

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  3. Is the first commenter one of those people belonging to that group who wrote an open letter mentioning the name of this blogger and lifted one of this blogger's photos..? Because the point that the commenter is trying to make is very similar to the one stated in the letter. In any case, it is utterly unnecessary to bully people by hoping for them to step on an aggressive shark. You can make your point without offending someone. True, we should respect animals but sometimes we forget to respect people which makes it disappointing because you defend a species by attacking another. There are just so many nicer and more respectful ways to make your point.

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  4. Dear Clariss,
    I found your blog through concerned animal friends. And no, I do not wish you any ill feelings. I agree with you, meeting these wonderful creatures are awesome but it would be better to meet them in the wild and at a safe distance. It can be said that touching or cuddling these amazing creatures is a damnation but you did not know. Maybe you knew before going to Manila Ocean Park that they should not be touched but Manila Ocean Park apparently have advised you that it's safe. Clariss, you have been wronged. I believe you, as a blogger, have the power to inform people of the misinformation you were given. I believe people have the right to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences but I think animals deserve to enjoy life as well. Peace... MM

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  5. I hope the life changing experience you were talking about is taking care of the said animals in the WILD and not support their captivity. It's my dream too to swim with these creatures but I would definitely prefer wild encounter, because there is where they should be and it will teach you not only how to take care of them but to respect them. And please do research too on dolphin captivities, so that you will know how much of the dolphins die for every 1 captive dolphin. And please do watch The Cove. It's eye opening and life changing.

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  6. i thought the essence of the activity is to educate people about sharks and rays? then how did you end up coming home thinking that those sharks were bull sharks?

    being a scubadiver for many years, i have a biased way of thinking about caged / confined creatures of the ocean. but i also understand that many filipinos dont have the privilege or even the slight interest to get certified and see these creatures in their natural habitat. so i dont really judge those who patronize activities such as the one you did. it is the business end of it that is really detestable. just like what they do in oslob cebu.

    i know you just wanted to experience interacting with these beautiful creatures. i just think that manila ocean park's ways of giving people the chance to do so need some rethinking.

    im glad you had an awesome time. and im glad some concern organizations found your blog. some of them can be harsh. some are respectful. but the bright side of it all, now you will REALLY learn about sharks and rays :)

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  7. http://savephilippineseas.tumblr.com/post/62890841797/letter-to-manila-ocean-park-about-the-sharks-rays

    This organization, group, whatever is unreliable. They didn't even care to ask Ocean Park nor people who've experienced this "close-encounter". What a bunch of lazy bums.

    I'm sick and tired of you environmentalist fcks that bandwagon over every little shit without even doing proper research. Did you guys go to college? Weren't you taught how to properly check if a source is credible? Idiots.

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  8. Dear all, Thanks for dropping by and taking time to read this post. I can feel your deep concern for animals while reading your comments. I agree that these animals deserve to enjoy their lives and be respected as well. I apologize if some of the photos made you think we're harassing them, but honestly it's not our intention to make them feel that way. The photo of me stepping on the shark is an illusion. It's not true. I was actually treading for the fear of stepping on them, since the trainers told us to never step on the sharks and rays.

    Also thanks for all your comments, good or bad. It only shows how compassionate you are to animals. Will definitely take note the good ones. Sorry i had to remove some comments containing foul words. And by the way, I already sent your message to MOP. I believe they have answers on the way. Again, thanks and have a blessed week! :)

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