Wake Up, Philippines!

The adventure has gotten even bigger

Posted in Uncategorized by Erineus on May 2, 2009
May 2, 2009, 11:45am

It all began when a group of American zoologists were working as consultants for a project in China back in the late 1990s. Just when the project was set to finish by the end of the decade, one of the zoologists, Tim Desmond, went on a tour of the Subic Freeport Zone in the Philippines. He was pretty impressed by what he saw.

“We toured the West Ilanin Forest, which was the perfect setting for a marine park. It’s situated in Subic Bay, which means it’s protected from the rough waters of the China Sea, especially during stormy weather. And the backdrop is acres and acres of forests,” he recalled.

Tim Desmond noted that setting up a marine park in Subic would also serve a purpose. It would be the ideal home for the animals they had in China. . “As we were wrapping up the job, the people from Subic called to ask if we were still interested in setting up the marine park,” he said.

Thus, Ocean Adventure was born and it quickly went on to become Subic’s biggest attraction.

Since its opening nine years ago, the park has set up three stadiums with each serving as separate venues for the dolphin and whale shows, the sea lion shows and the high diving show. Each stadium holds at least two shows a day.

The park also has an aquarium dubbed the Ocean Discovery Aquarium, a souvenir shop and restaurant, a learning center, and a sea lion training center.

Desmond went as far as hiring the man who was managing Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, John E. Corcoran. He’s now the president of Ocean Adventure. (Tim Desmond is the park’s CEO and chairman.) The structures within the park were designed by Desmond’s old buddy, Terry Nicholson.
Obviously, the park’s primary market is composed of visitors belonging to the AB economic bracket. A lot of the park’s income is also generated from school field trips and company outings and picnics.

Desmond attributes the park’s success to aggressive marketing. “We decided to do our own marketing because we wanted to push the park as the major destination of Subic and not just one of the port’s attractions. A few other businesses in Subic chose to present themselves as merely one of the attractions. Their businesses suffered as a result. Some of them had to close,” he says.

It also helped that Desmond assembled a team composed of zoologists and park experts he had worked with before. Yet both Desmond and Corcoran prefer to give credit to the Filipino staff they hired to run the park and train the animals.

“It’s great working with the trainers we hired,” says Corcoran. “They learn very quickly and now they’re simply among the finest animal trainers in the world.”

Gail Laule, the park’s senior vice president, couldn’t agree more. It’s Laule who creates the concepts of the shows but she echoes Corcoran’s comments on the Filipino trainers.

Her passion for animals is epic. She keeps a home in Subic and California and both places are home to several cats and dogs. Most of these animals were strays and were rescued by Laule. “Animal activists probably don’t like the fact that we’ve been been keeping animals in captivity for commercial purposes,” she notes.

“But the park also pushes for animal preservation through the shows. We make the shows educational. The audience is taught to be more responsible when they’re in the ocean and advised to avoid doing things that could harm or kill the marine animals.”

Laule notes that in their own way, the sea lions, dolphins and whales in the park are doing their part in preserving marine life. “And I like the fact that the animals here will never go hungry and they will always be safe from predators,” she points out.

Meanwhile, the team of Ocean Adventure isn’t resting on its laurels. The park at this point has a new attraction; a high diving show staged by a Florida-based company called Brown Entertainment. Headed by veteran diver Bill Brown, the company holds three high diving shows a day at Ocean Adventure.

Brown brought in around eight divers to perform daring dives designed to thrill and entertain. The team is composed of champion divers from Canada, Russia, Poland and the US. The show includes a comedy skit and a breathtaking dive from an 80 foot tower. The show is quickly paced and the divers know a thing or two about acting. Brown describes the company as a traveling troupe of sorts. “Right now we have divers performing in South Africa and other parts of the world,” he says.

Brown’s divers will be performing in Subic until June.

The park is now also getting bigger. It has annexed the adjacent beach and put up a new resort, the Camayan Beach Resort. It’s open for day tours and the hotel has around 45 guestrooms housed in two newly-constructed three-story buildings. Right now, the resort is constructing another wing to house more rooms and suites and a swimming pool for the exclusive use of hotel guests.

Resort manager Livingston Kofi Quashigah expects the new building and pool to be completed before yearend. “The project is moving quickly because everything is being done in-house. Construction is on-going 24 hours a day. We also made measures to shield resort guests from the construction work,” he says.

The resort was also designed by Terry Nicholson who created an authentic resort atmosphere in the place. “Terry insisted on using local materials,” says Quashigah. “He’d rather use Vigan tiles than ceramic floor tiles, because all the other resorts are using ceramic tiles. He didn’t want to have a modern-looking resort. He wanted the place to blend with the environment.”

Just recently, Ocean Adventure annexed the beach at the other end of the park. Dubbed the Adventure Beach, it’s been developed to host roughly 2,000 guests and is reserved for private parties and corporate events.

The park has more plans under its belt. Across the street is a forest which will be the home of the terrestrial animals that will soon be sharing top-billing with the park’s sea lions, bull sharks, bottle-nosed dolphins and human high divers.

Obviously, Subic’s biggest attraction is getting much bigger.

For inquiries about Camayan Beach Resort and Ocean Adventure, call 706-3344 up to 46.http://mb.com.ph/articles/204531/the-adventure-has-gotten-even-bigger