We were not planning to spend any time in Jakarta. Crowded, congested, and polluted – it was not our ides of a good time. But when we found out our flight back home had been cancelled and rescheduled for the next day, we decided to try to make the most of it and find something to do for a day in Jakarta.
Finding nothing that really stood out to us in our guidebook, we decided to look into places that were child friendly. Being cooped up in a hotel room at the outskirts of town was not Jacob’s idea of a good time. Our guide book mentioned Seaworld, said you could see Hammerhead sharks there, and didn’t have anything negative to say. We decided to try it.
We got in a taxi and head towards Ancol Dreamland. A huge resort and leisure attraction near Jakarta that is home to several theme parks, attractions, hotels and restaurants. The complex is absolutely huge, and not well signed. Even our taxi driver was having trouble finding sea world. Eventually, after what seemed like ages of aimless driving, he found some security guards to ask.
Sea world is closed. Awesome.
But he promised to take us somewhere similar. After an hour in a taxi and $20 dollars later we were ready to go something…. anything. He dropped us off outside the entrance of Ocean Dream. That’s got to be similar to an aquarium right?
As we entered the overpriced attraction we saw….a whole lot of not much. A security guard directed us towards the dolphin show, and seeing not much of anything else, we followed the crowds and miraculously found a seat.
I can’t even begin to describe how crowded and hot it was. We sat there for around 45 minutes before the show started. A camera scanned the crowd, and whenever it systematically came across a few inches of space in between two people it would project the image onto a giant screen and staff would direct people to squeeze into the spot. We didn’t think it could get any worse, but then the dolphin show started.
It started out fairly OK. They showed a short film that although in Indonesian, had an obvious environmentally conscious focus. But when the two dolphins entered the small tank our hearts dropped. These two poor and highly intelligent creatures were stuck performing trick after trick for the delight of the audience. But I guess, what did we expect? We left thinking well if it got people thinking about conservation even a little bit, then maybe it was worth it.
Wandering around the rest of the attraction we saw a whole lot of nothing. There were no animal displays, no informational boards, no nothing. The only thing to do at Ocean Dream was go between the different animal shows they had. We came upon the animal variety show. Well maybe this will be interesting. We have been to animal variety shows in Australia and you can learn a lot by seeing the different animals. But this wasn’t the typical “look at how graceful this bird can fly” type of animal show, this was just sad.
It didn’t start out too bad. They had otters, and otters are just adorable. They even showed off some different birds. But then they brought out the sun bear. Sun bears are a beautiful and threatened species of bear that lives in South East Asia. They are small and have the most adorable and intriguing squished up faces. We were hoping to learn more about this species that we so seldom hear about in Australia.
This show was all about tricks. This poor sun bear came onto stage and started trying to put a basket ball into a little hoop. It hula hooped. It walked around on its hind legs in what seemed to be completely unnatural bear behaviour. But the final straw was what would be the highlight of the show for the rest of the patrons. All throughout the show Dan and I were getting more and more uncomfortable with this place. This wasn’t a place to learn about and appreciate the animals that live among us, this was a place to watch poor exploited animals perform tricks for human amusement. But when that sun bear came out on a tricycle, riding it’s bike back and forth across the stage….. we couldn’t take it anymore. It was at that point we had to get up and leave.
I have always tried to avoid going to zoos in Asia because of the abysmal conditions the animals are often kept in. I thought an aquarium might be different. I thought Ocean Dream might be just a harmless aquarium. Instead I found it to be one of the sadness displays of the exploitation of animals that I have come across so far in my travels.
I would not recommend this place to anyone. If your options are stay in the hotel and read books or come to this place, then expand your mind with a good read. Do not support the exploitation of animals with your tourism dollars.