With 7.6 million admission recorded for year 2013-14, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is considered to be the biggest theme park in Asia. Since 1977, the Ocean Park had been attracting locals and tourists with its amazing aquariums, zoological facilities, amusement rides, shows and entertainment attractions. With 91.5 hectares of land, the site is defined by two main areas: Waterfront and Summit, separated by the lush green hills of Nam Long Shan.
It has been 19 years since we last visited Ocean Park. A revisit of the park after two decades was quite interesting for us. In the old days, the park was renowned for its amusement rides, and shows of dolphins, sea lions and the orca named Miss Hoi Wai (海威小姐); today there are exotic animals and more cool amusement rides but Miss Hoi Wai was long gone. Back then, the park served mainly the local Hong Kongers; now over half of the visitors are from mainland China. As awareness of wildlife conservation grew in recent years, the park has also included educational interpretation for visitors. However, as documentaries like The Cove and Blackfish which reveal the cruel reality of marine theme parks, visiting a place like the Ocean Park has become a controversial matter. There are increasing concerns over keeping wild animals in captivity while advocating wildlife conservation through its funded programs and educational interpretation throughout the park
We spent the entire day wandering around Ocean Park, first at the lower Waterfront area checking out the splendid underwater world of the Grand Aquarium and the rare mammals including giant pandas, red panda and golden snub-hosed monkey from the Chinese Province of Sichuan pavilion and the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion. We then took a short cable car ride over Nam Long Shan to arrive at the Summit Area, where the distant scenery of Deep Water Bay and Aberdeen were equally impressive. Up on the Summit, amusement rides and wildlife exhibitions scattered upon several platform levels. We managed to see a number of wildlife exhibits before dusk, ranging from marine animals like jellyfish and sharks; freshwater fish like Yangtze sturgeons and Amazonian pirarucu; penguins, seals and walrus from the Arctic and Antarctic, etc. We took the relatively new Ocean Express funicular back down to the Waterfront area, where we made a brief visit to the children friendly Whiskers Harbour and enjoyed the last moments of the Symbio, a show that featured a 360 degree water screen, lighting effects and fireworks at the Lagoon by the park’s main entrance.
As we exited Ocean Park, we passed by the near completed MTR station. After new features have been added in recent years, Ocean Park is soon to go through another phase of transformations: first will come the convenience of the subway station, and second the highly anticipated Tai Shue Wan Water World, projected to be completed in 2018, almost two decades since the last water park closed its doors. Surviving through difficult economic times and competition from Hong Kong Disneyland Park, the ever-changing Ocean Park proved its resilience and ambitions. In 2012, it received the Swedish Applause Award, a highly regarded international prize in the theme park industry.
Bathed in mysterious blue light, schools of silvery fishes swim in circles in a multi-storey glass cylindrical tank. It is visually impressive and attracts all visitors’ attention at the Grand Aquarium designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Red panda and giant panda at the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion.
The cable car which links the Waterfront and Summit areas is an attraction by itself. The relaxing 15 minutes ride offers spectacular views of Deep Water Bay and South China Sea.
The Sea Jelly Spectacular pavilion display over 1000 sea jellies.
Splendid jellyfish glows under the special lighting.
Visitors walking through the glass tunnel while a rare Chinese sturgeon swims by in front.
“I’m FINished with fins” – A smart slogan to request people to refrain from consuming shark fins. Such education is crucial in Hong Kong where shark fin soup is still a luxurious delicacy in the banquet menu, even though there is increasing awareness among the younger generation. Years ago documentary such as Sharkwater has already explained the devastating consequences to the marine ecosystem on earth as the result of massive demand and consumption of shark fins
Close encounter with sharks at the Shark Mystique. Sharks are one of those animals often got misunderstood.
Amazonian pirarucu in the Rainforest Pavilion. These giant freshwater fish can grow up to 4.5m long.
Pacific walrus at the Polar Adventure pavilion.
The South Pole Spectacular pavilion features king penguins, southern rockhopper penguins and gentoo penguins.
Amusement rides are popular attractions at the Summit, including the “Hair Raiser”roller-coaster.
Partial view of the Summit area.
At Pacific Pier pavilion, a curious sea lion interacts with a spectator by following the visitor’s hand motions on the other side of the glass.
Ap Lei Chau, Ap Lei Pai and Lamma Island at dusk.
[left] a moon hanging above the Ocean Park Tower with slowly rotating viewing platform; and [right[ a seahorse decoration at the Ocean Express funicular station.
“Whirly Bird” chair ride beyond the Ocean Express funicular station.
[left] Cable cars bring visitors back to the Waterfront area from the Summit area in the evening when approaching closing time; [right] the light decoration of a small ferris wheel lit up in the evening at Whiskers Harbour.
When the kids’ zone Whiskers Harbour left alone without kids.
A wooden horse of a carousel in Whiskers Harbour.
Water, fire, light and fireworks are the main components of the 360° water screen show Symbio.
Named after the ship captained by Fitz Roy who took Charles Darwin on board to study natural science around the globe, Beagle Channel was one of the three sail routes where ships could go between the Atlantic and Pacific before the opening of Panama Canal. The Beagle channel is narrow, but the water is crystal clear and full of marine wildlife. Doing a cruise in the Beagle Channel is a mandatory activity for all visitors to Ushuaia. There are many tour companies in town offering various boat rides up the Beagle Channel.
After the seafood lunch at Chiko, we took a boat tour with Tres Marias. With only 10 people on board, touring the Beagle Channel on a sailboat is a unique experience unlike most of the other cruise boats that can take dozens or even over a hundred of passengers at a time. While most boats would take tourists to see the sea lions and sea birds from afar, and reach as far as the Lighthouse Les Eclaireurs, we chose Tres Marias because it allowed passengers to physically land on Isla “H”, a small island in the channel within the Isla Bridges natural reserve.
The sea was calm today. After leaving our bags in the cabin, we climbed up to the deck and sat under the boom. The trip to Isla H took about an hour. After we arrived, we got about an hour to hike around the island with our guide. The island is largely covered with small plants that can survive the harsh Fuegian winds. On a stone beach, we passed by a shell mound left by the former canoe people, the nomadic Yamana. There were also various types of seaweed and seashells all over. On the high point of the island, our guide led us to a colony of rock cormorants nesting on the cliff.
After Isla H, Tres Marias took us to a colony of sea lions on a small island. Waves were higher on our way back with water splashing onto the deck every so often. Since we were sitting at the front of the boat, we both got soaking wet as if exposed to a cold shower. Overall it was a pleasant experience to sail in the Beagle Channel. It was cold, wet, but the scenery and the wildlife made it worthwhile.
* * *
Read more on Ushuaia in 2013 South America
Day 69.1 – Magellan Straight
Day 69.2 – Arrival, Ushuaia
Day 69.3 – Fuegian Grill, Ushuaia
Day 70.1 – Museo Maritimo, Ushuaia
Day 70.2 – Chiko Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 70.3 – Beagle Channel & Isla H
Day 70.4 – Kalma Resto, Ushuaia
Day 71.1 – Pier, Ushuaia
Day 71.2 – Fuegian Trees, near Estancia Harberton
Day 71.3 – Penguins, Martillo Island
Day 71.4 – Estancia Harberton
Day 71.5 – Kaupe Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 72.1 – Post Office, Isla Redonda, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Day 72.2 – Senda Costera & Bahia Lapataia, Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Day 73 – Stranded in Ushuaia Airport
* * *
South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought