Name three dinosaurs that you know. Quick! Let me guess — you named some of the common dinosaurs: T.Rex, Triceratops and the Velociraptor. These dinosaurs have been popularized by that amazing 1993 movie, Jurassic Park. Imagine these dinosaurs (and more) are moving, roaring at the top of their lungs, and you can interact with them, face to face, in an enclosed location that resembles Jurassic Park? If that’s a tad difficult to imagine, then better visit the Dinosaurs Island.
Recently opened in August of 2012, the Dinosaurs Island is, well, not an island. It’s located in Clark (Pampanga). There are no electric fences, unlike Jurassic Park, but, standing at the ticket counter, under that huge signage that reminds you of the Jurassic Park logo, you can’t help but notice, and wonder, what’s making all those loud, scary noises inside the high gate.
[See also The Dinosaur-stars at Dinosaurs Island]
It might help to keep in mind that the Dinosaurs Island is the “first-ever animatronics dinosaur park in the Philippines.” The brochure says so, and those “creatures” inside the “island” will soon prove just that. Focus on “animatroics”. Sure, you’ll see a fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Rex at The Mind Museum] in Taguig. But those are fossils. Dry, preserved bones of long-dead creatures that ruled the earth millions of years ago.
There’s so much room for improvement, of course. Maybe they should start with the name. We spent the entire trip home from the theme park arguing if it should properly be “Dinosaur Park,” instead of “Dinosaurs Park.” Or if they want to insist on the plural, at least put an apostrophe to denote a possessive noun. But considering that naming a resort is entirely the prerogative of the owners, at least they should start with the revision of the “quick facts” written in markers for each dinosaur — grammar, spelling and all. We, too, make mistakes, but this blog is a hobby, not a multi-million investment like the Dinosaur, er, Dinosaurs Park. A free-wifi wouldn’t hurt. A souvenir shop strategically placed at the end of the “tour,” just like what they do in The Mind Museum, Manila Ocean Park or the Ocean Adventure, wouldn’t hurt either. There’s a lot more where these suggestions are coming from, but let’s leave that for another day. It’s really a great place and minor details are as important as the dinosaur-stars themselves.
At the Dinosaurs Island, those creatures made extinct by a meteor strike, those cute, cuddly dinosaurs (why, Barney is a T.Rex, right?), come “alive”. And they’re far from cute.
Many of them are huge. Some, like the Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus, are as tall as the mature trees that litter the area. Those trees, shrubs and undergrowth add a different dimension to the experience. It’s quite boring to see those dinosaurs in a concrete, air-conditioned building because, well, they did not exist in that habitat. They lived in a hostile and savage world. Hot and humid. Where survival of the fittest is the name of the game. And where weaker, smaller creatures — just like you and me — are fresh meat ready to be served. Or grabbed.
Here’s a dare. When you go visit the Dinosaurs Island, and we suggest that you go soon (we’ll never know if those dinosaurs will go extinct again), tell the guide, the park personnel that shows you around, “thanks, but no thanks.” Tell him/her that you’ll explore the place by yourself. We don’t know if they’ll allow that. The guides are there probably for your safety. But try to request that you go afoot on your own. It should be fun. And scary.
Sure, you’ll probably say, “but nothing to be scared about… those are animatronics…uhm, what is that?” A quick trip to wikipedia will tell you that “animatronic figures are most often powered by pneumatics (compressed air), and, in special instances, hydraulics (pressurized oil), or by electrical means. The figures are precisely customized with the exact dimensions and proportions of living creatures. Motion actuators are often used to imitate “muscle” movements, such as limbs to create realistic motions. Also, the figure is covered with body shells and flexible skins made of hard and soft plastic materials. Then, the figure is finished by adding details like colors, hair and feathers and other components to make the figure more realistic.”
In short, life-like. And terrifying.
You’ll see their chests expand, like they’re breathing. They move their heads. They move their limbs. Their tails swing. They look at you with those steely, steady gaze. They open their enormous jaws wide, baring those sharp, pointed teeth. Most are there solo, like the T.Rex, but one vicious group, the Velociraptors, overwhelm their prey with numbers. And speed. Just like Manny Pacquiao.
Just around the bend waits a dinosaur. Sensors are strategically placed so that when you go near, whether you see the dinosaur or you have no idea that it’s there, it lets out a deafening, heart-stopping roar that will stop you dead in your tracks. That, of course, is a figure of speech. So, what do you say? Tell the guide not to accompany you when going around the Dinosaurs Island.
How to get there. This should be easy if you’re familiar with Clark (or is it Clarfield?), Pampanga. Simply proceed to the Clark Nature Park (Picnic Grounds) and you’ll see the Dinosaurs Island at the farthest end. But, of course, we’ll assume that you’re not familiar with the place. The brochure provides two directions. First is from the main gate: “Take M.A. Roxas/Turn right at C.M. Recto/until Gil Puyat/Turn right at Gil Puyat until Clark Nature Park (Picnic Grounds).” Second is from the Mabalacat Gate: “Straight at Gil Puyat Avenue/Turn right at Clark Nature Park (Picnic Grounds) until Clarkland (Dinosaurs Island).” Still confused?
[See also Maps and Directions to Dinosaurs Island]
We took a different route. A direction that we took when we visited two other fun destinations in that area. If you’re from the direction of Metro Manila, simply take the North Luzon Expressway (NLE) then enter the Subic-Clark Expressway (SCTEX). After getting your card/ticket at the entrance/toll plaza of SCTEX, proceed to the direction of Clark North (that’s the right curve of the fork right after the toll plaza, the same general direction to Baguio), then turn right at the first exit. You’ll notice the long bridge at the right side (along Prince Balagtas Avenue), which would take you to the Zoocobia Fun Zoo and Paradise Ranch (Sacobia, Clarkfield, Pampanga), if you intend to go there. But that’s not where you want to go. Just go straight.
After around 20 meters, you’ll hit the checkpoint. The Centennial Expo, that huge, white structure is visible if you go straight from that intersection. That’s where the Around the Philippines at Nayong Pilipino (Clarkfield, Pampanga) is located. But, again, that’s not your destination. Take the left turn on that checkpoint. You should be along Panday Pira Avenue. Drive through it until you hit the circle/rotunda. Just go straight (of course, going halfway around the rotunda) and you’ll hit the Gil Puyat intersection after around 50 meters. Go left. You’ll see the El Kabayo to your left, then the Clark Picnic Grounds, then the Dinosaurs Island. Bingo!
If that’s still confusing, well, sorry. Just go on a trip of discovery. Anyway, if there’s one thing abundantly clear in that attempt to give you directions, it’s the fact that you could hit three dinosaurs, er, birds with our stone. You could actually spend the whole day in that area, also visiting the fun destinations nearby — the Zoocobia Fun Zoo and Paradise Ranch (Sacobia, Clarkfield, Pampanga) and the Around the Philippines at Nayong Pilipino (Clarkfield, Pampanga).
Park operating hours is daily, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Since it’s open air and naturally prone to what the weather gods grant to us mortals, it’s hot from noon to around 2:00 pm, the reason why we chose to go there at 3:00 pm. Regular rate is P350 per head. Students (up to college) is P300 for private school and P250 for public schools.
The Dinosaurs Island is a great place for kids and kids-at-heart. It’s a great destination for family travels. We’d even go on a limb (no pun intended) and say that it’s a great dating place for venue. Imagine your date tightly hugging your arms (or, vice versa, an excuse for you to hug your man’s arms) when the dinosaurs roar from nowhere. Then again, you have to accept our dare: go around without a guide. Request the guide to meet you at the end of the “tour”, at the mini-dino interactive show area. And do it as the sun is about to go down, with the added element of limited lighting. It would be a real blast. Go now, before those dinosaurs become extinct again.