Ocean Park Hong Kong is a marine-based leisure complex in Hong Kong’s Southern District. It can trace its origins back to 1977, since then it has become one of the foremost marine parks in the world. In recent years, it has benefited from an investment program worth around $700 million. As a result, Ocean Park has gained global recognition as one of the world’s most visited theme parks, seeing over seven million guests in 2012.
Ocean Park covers a total area of about 226 acres. This is divided into two main areas: “Waterfront” and “Summit.” There is a sizeable mountain dividing these two sections. There are two links between the zones: a funicular railway known as the Ocean Express and a one-mile cable car system. A large escalator has also been installed for visitors who do not wish to climb the Summit hills on foot, or who have disabilities.
The park is comprised of both tourist attractions and conservation-based exhibits. There are four main roller coasters and several other rides, while the animal part of the park includes a giant panda reserve and an extremely large domed aquarium with over 5,000 fish. There are also a number of laboratories and observatories. These support Ocean Park’s mission to educate as well as entertain. The Ocean Park Foundation funds more than 40 different conservation projects across Asia.
Sir Murray MacLehose, the Governor of the then British colony of Hong Kong, opened the park in early 1977. The funds for the initial development were provided by the Jockey Club, with the land itself being donated by the government. The Jockey Club invested further sums of money into the park during the 1980’s, much of which went into adding rides and other attractions in the Summit complex, as well as improving the park’s facilities.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club divested itself of responsibility for Ocean Park in July 1987, after which it became a free-standing statutory organization. However, the Jockey Club retained an arm’s-length interest by means of a trust. The park was later transferred to the care of the Ocean Park Corporation, which remains its manager to this day. This is a non-profit organization with complete financial independence.
The Master Redevelopment Plan of 2005 was among the most extensive and ambitious plans of its type ever seen in Hong Kong’s leisure sector. The number of attractions was greatly increased, going from around 35 to more than 80. The stated intention was to mold Ocean Park into a genuine world-class complex that would attract large numbers of tourists visiting Hong Kong. The work took more than six years, with the final touches to the Plan not being completed until well into 2012.
Up on the headland of the Summit area, there are a number of world-class rides. Among the best known of these is the Abyss Turbo, a drop-style ride based around a tower rising 185 feet into the sky. As the platform rises, those experiencing the ride are given a superb view of the entire Ocean Park complex, with the best vista being available during the short pause right at the top. There is then a very fast, adrenaline rush-inducing plummet which stops just short of the ground. The ride has often been ranked as the most exciting in the park.
Other notable rides include the Flying Swing, a chair ride in which visitors are catapulted up to 23 feet in the air. There is also the longest roller coaster in Hong Kong. It reaches speeds of close to 50 mph and has a short inverted section of track. The Thrill Mountain area at the Summit collects together several of Ocean Park’s other main rides. These include other roller coasters such as the Hair Raiser and rides of varying styles like the Rev Rooster and Bumper Blaster.
Ocean Park also provides a number of shows for its guests. The hugely popular Ocean Theater is an outdoor amphitheater in which sea-lions and dolphins put on regular performances, including acrobatic displays. Meanwhile, the brand new Polar Adventure area is themed to resemble the tundra experienced near the North Pole. There are also areas devoted to the Antarctic which include penguins.
Ocean Park has a number of shows aimed at children in the Whiskers Harbor section of the park. One of the most popular of these is Whiskers & Friends, which allows visitors to get close to the animals which inhabit this area. There are also bird exhibits as well as storytelling for younger children. The harbor section includes a number of gentler rides suitable for young children, such as a bounce house and a number of simple skill-based games.