With a huge new aquarium as its centrepiece and a location on the thriving hub of Singapore's Sentosa Island, Marine Life Park seemed sure to draw the crowds. But how has the first year been for the aquarium and what challenges did it face?
Edmond Quah (below) is the Director of Operations for Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.
Thibault Paquin caught up with him to find out about how the new attraction – comprising S.E.A. Aquarium ( the world’s largest aquarium), Dolphin Island marine animal interactions and Adventure Cove Waterpark – is faring.
Marine Life Park is now complete with all 3 attractions. What has the attendance been like?
Marine Life Park has most recently welcomed its 3 millionth visitor (4th Nov.) less than a year since it opened. In all, it contains more than 60 million litres of water across the S.E.A. Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, as well as Dolphin Island which is sited within the water park.
MLP is home to over 100, 000 marine animals across 800 species, and we are fully stocked.
Can you tell us more about the visitor experience and its highlights?
The Marine Life Park collectively is an attraction for the whole family and all ages. The park will cater to the fun-loving, thrill-seeking guests out to enjoy an exhilarating day on high-speed watersides, and those who want a more tranquil experience in the aquatic realm of marine life, including our beautiful dolphins. Everyone will bring home unique memories of exploring oceanic wonders whilst learning about the marine environment.
S.E.A. Aquarium is the Guinness World Records holder of the world’s largest aquarium and the world’s largest acrylic panel. The opportunities to learn about these aquatic animals are boundless with the resources available. Through our awe-inspiring exhibits such as the Ocean Gallery, guests will be able to marvel at the wonder of ocean life with more than 100, 000 marine animals across 49 habitats in 10 zones.
Adventure Cove Waterpark is the region’s only water park infused with marine life elements. It appeals to youths and guests who seek an exhilarating day of splashing fun. The highlights of the park include an array of slides such as Southeast Asia’s first hydro-magnetic coaster (Riptide Rocket) and a reef swim (Rainbow Reef) where visitors get to snorkel amongst thousands of fish.
MLP has also introduced a series of immersive experiences to bring guests even closer to our marine animals. Termed "Ultimate Marine Encounters", the Open Ocean Dive and Sea Trek Adventure allow guests to venture into the Open Ocean habitat, the largest in the aquarium. The unique part of the latter is that guests need not even know how to swim in order to participate. With an underwater helmet on, their hair will not even get wet. Shark Encounter puts guests in a clear acrylic enclosure, coming nose-to-nose with the apex predators of the sea. With a 360-degree view of close to 200 sharks swimming around and even beneath their feet, this is about the most comfortable way to get up close with sharks. Last but not least, guests can also get to feed over 80 rays from over 10 different species under the guidance of our aquarists in the Ray Bay experience.
Dolphin Island, an integral part of the Marine Life Park, is home to our beautiful Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins where guests will enjoy unforgettable interactive experiences and opportunities to meet the dolphins up-close in a safe environment for the marine mammals and people. There will be a variety of dolphin interaction programmes for guests to choose from, including Dolphin Discovery – a shallow water interaction programme where guests will be in waist-deep water; Dolphin Trek – guests will don underwater helmets while walking on the lagoon floor, seeing the world of the dolphins from their eyes; Dolphin Adventure – swimming with the dolphins in the depths of the lagoon; as well as Trainer for a Day – where guests shadows the trainers in a day-long programme to learn more about caring for the dolphins and taking part in interactions as well.
How does the ticketing work?
Each attraction is individually gated, and bundled ticket packages are also available. Open Ocean Dive and Dolphin Island interaction programmes will be inclusive of admission to Adventure Cove Waterpark. Ticket upgrades are also available on-site.
How do you fit in the Singapore market?
MLP is built on a unique edutainment concept, aiming to inspire visitors to do their part for our oceans, through education, conservation and research programmes. The scale of it and the range of offerings allow MLP to provide unique experiences unlike any attractions in the region, or the world. More than being an attraction, Marine Life Park will also aim to put Singapore on the world map as the region’s steward in marine life education, conservation and research. Our key markets for the entire resort include Southeast Asia, Greater China, Korea, Japan and India – markets which are within a seven-hour flight radius of Singapore.
Who are your visitors?
For the Marine Life Park, we are seeing an almost equal split of visitors between locals and tourists on average, with slightly more locals in the first year of operations.
How has the product been received by the Asian market?
The entire integrated resort was developed with the Asian market in mind, and our products and offerings are conceptualised to attract tourists from all over Asia and the world.
What is the relationship between the aquarium and the water park?
Both attractions complement each other by offering different ways of getting up close to marine animals. Guests may choose to stay dry while exploring an oceanic journey in the aquarium or get wet and even closer to our fascinating and friendly animals at the waterpark. The waterpark is sited right above the aquarium and certain habitats can be viewed at both attractions, allowing guests a sneak peek into what the other attraction has to offer. This often piques the interest and encourages them to visit the other attraction as well.
Operationally, what are the challenges encountered in running indoor and outdoor attractions involving water and animals?
The biggest challenge probably comes from the scale of the whole attraction. With more than 52 animal habitats on top of the water slides and water systems, we have more than 100 divers, aquarists and life support system specialists dedicated to the maintaining the habitats and well-being of our animals. For example, the divers alone will spend over 5 hours every day underwater to perform their duties.
Another challenge will be finding the best fit for fish in the different habitats. Our team of aquarist and curators introduce fish into environments best suited for them, depending on the habitat. Factors include if the fishes can co-habit in the same habitat and the water qualities such as pH, salinity etc. Lots of planning and care goes into the creation of each habitat.
The biggest challenge operating an outdoor attraction in Singapore would probably be the weather. In the event of severe weather with lightning and for the safety of our guests and team members, all outdoor attractions inside Adventure Cove Waterpark may close temporarily. Weather conditions in Sentosa can change frequently and rapidly, and a quick response mechanism is crucial to our operations.
The footprint of all 3 attractions is limited; do you encounter space constraints?
The attractions are designed to maximise the land usage – land space is a luxury in Singapore. To ensure optimal guest experience, we have a limited number of tickets sold for Adventure Cove Waterpark every day on a first-come-first-served basis. We have also operational procedures in place for peak days to stagger guest flow into the aquarium. This is also to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests and team members.