A dino-mite time at Dinosaurs Island in Clark, Angeles City Pampanga
Forgive me for sounding like I’m perpetuating gender stereotypes, but I’m going to assume that boys tend to have two obsessions when they’re young: cars and predators. With my son, it was cars and sharks. From Tomica die-cast vehicles to remote-controlled monster trucks to the Disney Pixars Cars movie, Motito has owned it all. He’s got shark books and toys and could recite the dialogue from the first Jaws movie in his sleep. But I’m puzzled as to why he has never taken more than a passing fancy on dinosaurs. When once asked to explain his dinosaur snobbery, Motito gave me a “well, duh” look before declaring “Because they’re extinct.”
I thought I’d have a hard time selling the idea of a trip to Dinosaurs Island in Clark, Angeles City, Pampanga, to a boy who’s not easily impressed. To my surprise, Motito was keen to visit a theme park built around giant reptiles that roamed the earth 230-65 million years ago. A long weekend loomed courtesy of the Chinese Lunar New Year falling on a Monday. Not that we needed a holiday to take off for parts well-trodden; we are homeschoolers and we can take vacations any day. Yeah, that’s how we roll!
Sunday morning, February 7th, saw us at the Victory Liner bus terminal in Pasay City. After securing tickets at the counter, we climbed aboard a bus bound for Dagupan via Dau (Mabalacat, Pampanga). The ride was relatively traffic-free, enabling us to reach Dau in two hours. Mabalacat bus terminal looked nothing like a bus terminal. There were hardly any seats for passengers to use while waiting for their bus. People had to pay P5 for the privilege of using the dingy rest room. For a terminal that serves as a major stop for buses that run north and back, Dau leaves a lot to be desired. We were glad to be out of there quickly.
After a quick lunch at McDonald’s, we checked in at Red Planet Hotel on Don Juico Avenue. This particular hotel once operated under the Tune Hotels brand before it was acquired by the Red Planet chain. The change has been a positive one. Guests are no longer nickeled and dimed for “extras” like toiletries, air-conditioning, Internet and cable TV. For P1200 a night, guests get a room with a double/twin beds, in-room safe and basic amenities at no extra charge. Red Planet Hotel is a short jeepney ride away from SM Clark and the Main Gate, where you will find jeepneys to take you inside the Clark Economic Zone. The hotel staff were friendly and service-oriented. Two doors down is a 7-Eleven, which can be pretty handy for late-night snack runs.
To get to Dinosaurs Island in Clark, we had to take a jeepney that stops at the Clark Picnic Grounds. With the exception of the picnic grounds, the amusement park, and the Air Force City park, Clark wore a deserted look. Was it because it was a Sunday? Everything looked so orderly and peaceful. I saw few pedestrians, and traffic was an alien concept. It was a stark contrast from the teeming Angeles City that pulsated with human activity and all manner of wheeled transport just a few kilometers away. My son and I were the last to disembark from the jeepney before it started its way back to the Main Gate.
Dinosaurs Island in Clark features life-size mechanical dinosaurs in various states of animation. Visitors follow a forest trail as they pass each of the 30 moving dinosaur displays. Each display has a marker that identifies the dinosaur and shares quick facts about it. If you’ve seen Jurassic Park or are a fascinated by these creatures yourself, you’ll be able to name many of them. One couldn’t possibly go wrong with the tyrant lizard king, or Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Stegosaurus, the Brachiosaurus or arm lizard, the Pterodactyl, and the Triceratops. The dinosaurs look remarkably realistic (to me, at least, going by what I’ve seen in books and movies). Signs cautioned against getting too close to the high-voltage animatronic contraptions. Visitors could pose for pictures inside a dinosaur egg, or while riding a T-Rex.
The trail also leads to a dinosaur fossils museum. Inside the museum are replicas of a life-size T-Rex skeleton, a Plateosaurus toe bone, a Hadrosaurus skull, and paintings illustrating the timeline of the dinosaur era, and other fascinating displays.
At the end of the trail, visitors will find a stage area where humans in dinosaur costumes dance to the latest pop tunes. The sight of prehistoric creatures shaking their booty to Beenie Man’s “Gimme Gimme” was so absurd it’s funny! The smaller kids, and my not-so-small son, didn’t feel the same way. My assurances that interactive dinosaurs were humans in costume gave Motito little comfort. The T-Rex dinosaurs scared the living daylights out of him, especially when they lurched forward unexpectedly during the dance presentation. All in great fun, though!
My son was game for another attraction, so we settled for the Jungle Safari ride. Outside the park, two buses had come to disgorge students on a field trip. By the time I’d purchased our tickets for the safari, the students had formed a long queue to ride. We sat on with picnic benches just outside the park entrance to wait it out. Nearby were kiosks selling eatables and souvers. Motito espied two grow-in-water dinosaur toys he couldn’t resist. He had to have something to remember Dinosaurs Island by, I suppose, and the P50 price tag didn’t hurt. Dinosaurs Island in Clark has two other attractions : the 7D Superscreen (a 7D adventure ride) and Wonders of the World (miniature replicas of the seven Wonders of the Modern World) and these charge separate entrance fees. We had to give them a miss, as it was almost 4PM and we were anxious to get back to the hotel.
Did our visit to Dinosaurs Island in Clark awaken the dinosaur enthusiast in my boy? Well, he did go over his Dinosaur books when we got back home. The fascination was fleeting, however, for he was back enthusing over all things Star Wars. And just like that, dinosaurs were (pre)history!