Friday, October 31, 2014 :: My Experience At S.E.A. Aquarium & Ocean Dreams Programme
I had the experience of a lifetime when I got to attend a private Ocean Dreams tour by S.E.A. Aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa. We had a guided tour inside this amazing place and also got a rare peek into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into delivering an excellent customer experience.
Being in the service (retail) line myself, I have always been interested in the process behind experience creation and delivery. Having my own retail shop, I’ve learnt that good service is really important, that’s why I always provide the best quality of service and experience to my customers, as it will pay off in the future. Therefore, it was really such an eye-opening opportunity for me to interact with the folks behind the creation of Ocean Dreams.
About the S.E.A. Aquarium
The S.E.A. Aquarium, if you do not know by now, is one of the world’s largest aquariums. It houses more than 100,000 marine animals from over 800 species across 49 habitats. It is also home to majestic manta rays, enormous goliath groupers, hammerhead and leopard sharks to name a few.
So what is the Ocean Dreams programme? It includes a 90-minute guided tour through S.E.A. Aquarium packed with fascinating information about the many wonders of our blue planet! It also offers visitors an exclusive back-of-house experience in the aquarium!
Having visited the S.E.A. Aquarium twice before – once last year, and at the start of this year, I completed the aquarium with no guidance for both times in less than an hour. So this Ocean Dreams guided tour experience was really different and interesting for me. It has a special sleepover experience, and also a guided tour by the Manta Captains! Sadly, I did not get to experience the sleepover part, but I had the company of my lovely Manta Captains, who guided me throughout this tour and answered all my burning questions patiently. Even though I took longer than an hour this time, it was really an entirely new experience and I learnt a lot through this programme.
Listening to the Manta Captains explaining more about the marine animals and their habitats was a very meaningful and educational experience. In fact, I find it more interesting to have a guide giving extra snippets of info – it makes the experience more dynamic than simply just walking through it on my own.
The iconic Ocean Dreams sleepover programme allows the participants to sleep in sleeping bags right at this spot where I am standing (and directly in front of the tank if you wish!). You get to sleep facing the mega aquarium! You know, in my time, our childhood memories are formed during happier and playful times at The Fantasy Island in Sentosa. But I believe that for my future kids, their childhood memories will come from attractions like this in S.E.A. Aquarium. A sleepover is such a great time for family bonding and I am sure my future kids will be very excited to visit, learn and play at this magical place.
Before reaching the habitat where the dolphins are, my guide, Jun Hao, told me dolphins have the intelligence of a 5-year old human child and after an entire long night with no attention given to them, they will tend to "play" or "interact" with the first human they see at the aquarium. Just as he finished his sentence, the dolphin swam over upon seeing us! It was such a magical experience! Do note the dolphins are NOT trained to do that so this was really an eye-opener and a really pleasant surprise to me! The cutie even posted with me for a photo! Aww..
These 3 lovely young people are Manta Captains who you will meet at your guided tours ;) Besides being great storytelling experts who will captivate visitors during the tour, they also help facilitate all the logistics during the tour such as games and sleeping arrangements.The highlight of my trip has to be this behind-the-scenes moments with Manta Captain and the Aquarist as seen below.
It was such a spectacular sight to see how manta rays are fed by the Aquarist. An Aquarist is a knowledge master when it comes to marine animals. In the case of the 3 lovely and gentle manta rays (cutely named M1, M2, M3), the Aquarists trained the manta rays to recognise their feeding times through conditioning and positive reinforcement. This method ensures the rays receive maximum nutrition.
The Aquarist also works in the kitchen to ensure that fresh food is being prepped and fed to all the marine animals daily. Food has to be prepared in such a way that the blood is washed clean so that the integrity of the water in the aquarium is not affected. I have utmost respect for the people working behind the scenes because this is a job which members of the public DO NOT see and possibly MAY NOT know about. This young and promising lad spoke fervently about his daily grind in the kitchen. Even though the preparation of food is extremely laborious, he enjoys doing these menial tasks day in and out for the love of animals. Today, how often do we see young people like him dedicating their lives and giving up promising corporate jobs for a job that probably pays less but has a more fulfilling purpose and contributes to society? All I know is, my eyes were fixated on him as he spoke about his work in the kitchen and at the end of it, I had the utmost admiration for him.
We even had a mini food preparation challenge to see who can chop and weigh 500g of food prep in less than 3 minutes! Judging from the way I hold the chopper, it is no brainer that I did not win this haha.
Towards the end of the programme, I was given the challenge of being in the shoes of a Manta Captain where I had to capture the kids’ attention, and even teach them how to keep their sleeping bags after a night of sleepover at the S.E.A. aquarium. I have to say.....IT'S NOT EASY, DUDE!
It is extremely tough and challenging to learn the role of a Manta Captain, as you must stay calm and composed while managing groups of participants and have the skills to analyse and profile the families, so that you apply the right communication strategy to engage them! Really, it is extremely tough and not an easy job. Like I said, I have new-found respect and admiration for the staff behind the creation and delivery of Ocean Dreams programme and the running of S.E.A. Aquarium as a whole team.
The Director of the Education and Conversation team of the Marine Life Park, Biswajit Guha, left a great impression on me and I believe that his passionate leadership has enhanced the staff development within the company. Of course, company culture does play a big role, but if you had been in my shoes and had personally experienced interacting with the team here at S.E.A. Aquarium, their passion for their jobs is unquestionable.
Also, having interacted with the people behind-the-scenes that play a big role in contributing to the entire delivery of an experience at S.E.A. Aquarium, I truly believe that the marine animals are happy, protected and well taken care of by these passionate individuals at what they call “something I enjoy doing” and not simply, just a day job.
The group photo with our mentors and the affable team leader on the far left :)
All in all, it was a liberating and enjoyable session with the team at S.E.A. Aquarium especially when we got to enjoy the Ocean Dreams tour (together with the families sleeping over at the aquarium) BEFORE the aquarium opened to the public at its stipulated opening hours. It makes so much of a difference being able to stand in front of the mega aquarium without any silhouettes and heads blocking the majestic view haha. I am sure y'all know what I am referring to, otherwise, the photo for your comparison is attached below :P
The Singapore Experience Awards
Through this experience, I also came to learn about the Singapore Experience Awards, which honours outstanding experiences offered by individual and organisations that have demonstrated the delivery of an exceptional customer experience in Singapore’s dynamic tourism sector. I have to agree that by acknowledging their efforts, it motivates them and encourages healthy competition within the sector to constantly innovate to create distinctive and compelling Singapore experiences.
In fact, S.E.A. Aquarium Ocean Dreams programme has been nominated as a finalist in the ‘Best Learning & Travel Experience’ category. This category recognises programmes curated to allow the curious explorer to discover Singapore’s heritage and culture, world-class attractions and vibrant precincts amidst our cosmopolitan city!Congratulations!! I have really high hopes for them snagging this award, after having experienced the Ocean Dreams programme.
For more information on the Awards, head to their webpage at https://www.singaporeexperience.com. You can also tag experiences you’ve enjoyed with #yoursingapore, and they could be reposted on the @Visit_Singapore Instagram page!