Truth be told, I had mixed feelings about getting assigned to tour Ocean Park Hong Kong earlier this month. On the one hand, I was stoked over going to what is considered its homegrown theme park. I’ve been going to theme parks for years, and to visit yet another one abroad was something I had been meaning to tick off my personal bucket list.
It was also going to be my first time to actually stay in Hong Kong. The region has long been a destination favorite among Filipinos. And I know plenty of people who fly out on an almost regular basis—especially during the holidays. But prior to this trip, the longest amount of time I had spent there was six hours. And that was just for a layover, which I spent mostly inside the airport.
What held back my excitement was the animal part. Besides the amusement rides, Ocean Park is famous for being a marine mammal park, oceanarium, and animal wildlife park in one. While I have nothing against animals and nature, I naively thought I had outgrown the wonder of seeing them from glass windows or even up close.
But boy, was I wrong. The park surprised me and the group I traveled with in so many ways. If you’re visiting for the first time, like I did, here are few spots and attractions you don’t want to miss:
1. Step Into Virtual Reality. Ocean Park has the distinction of bringing in the first ever VR rollercoaster to the region. Called the Mine Train, it takes adrenaline junkies on an epic journey through a virtual version of the Amazon rainforest. Believe me when I say this ride isn’t for the fainthearted. You’d be surprised what a sophisticated headset and rollercoaster can do together. Not too far from it is a VR Arcade and Challenges Zone as well as a VR Forest Adventure meant to give park goers a more immersive, cinematic experience of VR.
2. And Onto Festive Thrills. Long before VR came to Ocean Park, the Summit housed a number of exhilarating rides—from Hong Kong’s fastest roller coaster (Hair Raiser) to the 60 km/hr Raging River slide. When we visited the park, we also stopped to see carnival games and merch over at Thrill Mountain. It's the kind of place that easily brings back childhood memories.
3. See The Creatures. Both the Waterfront and Summit areas are practically bursting with animal biodiversity. There are number of species from around the world that, according to the park’s Executive Director Vivian Lee, “have their own story to tell” which will hopefully move people to support conservation efforts. Among the land and marine life you’ll spot are koalas, and, golden monkeys, sloths, mantarays, sharks, sea lions, and pandas (fun fact: An An, the oldest male giant panda under human care, lives right inside the park).
4. And Encounter Them! One of my favorite parts during the trip was getting to interact with real life penguins (something that, prior to my Hong Kong visit, I believed this was only possible in a region as far as Antarctica). To better educate guests on animal conservation and fighting climate change, the park offers one-of-a-kind encounters with some of their rarest wildlife species. The Penguin Encounter, in particular, will have you walking through the very exhibit where they raise their southern rockhopper, Gentoo, and king penguins. Not to mention, you’ll get to have your photos taken with and feed these loveable birds with the help of in-house trainers.
5. Treat Yourself To Superb, Sustainable Food. Finding a place to eat is hardly an issue, as there are seven restaurants and multiple street food kiosks scattered around the park. Besides the signature dishes in each resto, what makes dining at Ocean Park especially unique is that all their seafood is sustainable—so you don’t feel quite as guilty when you eat!
One day isn’t enough to experience all that Hong Kong Ocean Park has to offer. If you have a few to spare, they’re celebrating the launch of their annual Christmas event (Christmas Sensation 2017) which runs until January 1, 2018!
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Photographs from Hong Kong Ocean Park, Instagram.com/hkoceanpark, and the author