Ocean Park is designed especially for kids, although adults will certainly enjoy visiting, too. At first glance it appears to be just a big amusement park, with its plethora of rides, games, mascots, and fun food. Look closer and you will notice an emphasis on wildlife conservation, with an estimable animal population on this sprawling complex along the south coast of Hong Kong Island. A mix of entertainment and education is the key to its flourishing success since opening in 1976.
Ocean Park is so large that a cable car connects the two areas (Headland and Lowland) separated by a ridge. There are so many things to see and do, but I made a beeline to the cable car for an exciting introductory journey above the grounds. Enjoy the futuristic vision of colorful bead-like pods coasting over treetops and near the blue Deep Water Bay. There are plenty of thrill rides, but this slow people-mover provided a scenic buzz for me.
The Lowland features a habitat with two panda bears (named An-An and Jia-Jia) lying about and a Dolphin University for up-close dolphin experiences. You can also see birds, butterflies, and goldfish in their respective pavilions. Otherwise, there are kid-friendly rides and activities, and you are bound to run into Whiskers or one of his other mascot friends.
The Headland features rides like the Dragon roller coaster and the Abyss freefall. More animal encounters include the impressive Shark Aquarium, the colorful Atoll Reef, the feeding of the seals at the Pacific Pier, the Flamingo Pond, and the Aviary. Precious peaceful moments can be attained in the Japanese Garden and along some of the lovely paths with superb views of the natural landscape, or what is left of it. The Middle Kingdom injects some historical displays within brightly colored recreations of Chinese temples and pagodas.
There is plenty of walking to do at Ocean Park, so one must refuel at one of the numerous food outlets and shops sprinkled amongst the grounds. For real meals, check out the buffet and the splendid views at the Seaview Cafe, or the dim sum at the Middle Kingdom Restaurant. From one of the stands I ordered a surprisingly appetizing lunch of chicken and rice, accompanied by a tangy tomato sauce.
Ocean Park faces stiff competition with the new Disney theme park, which opened at Lantau Island late in 2005, but I feel that Ocean Park will retain its fair share of the business thanks to its unique “something for everyone” variety of rides, animals, and educational fun. There are a good number of buses that will take you here, and usually these are breathtaking scenic rides over and around Hong Kong Island while riding one of these buses.