Ocean Park had been on top of Jerome’s list of places to go back and visit during our stay in Hong Kong. He had enjoyed our last visit two years before a lot and would not stop telling us to go. Sometimes you get to the point where you give in, what did it matter to us if we went a day earlier or later?! Over excited we jumped into a taxi after breakfast and were among the first people to arrived just before the park opened. We bought our tickets and entered the park. The park is divided into two parts, the “Waterfront” and the “Summit”. It is a good idea to make a list of the rides you want to experience and then head to the most popular ones first to avoid long waiting times. Especially if like us you get there early to avoid crowds. Despite Jerome’s excitement none of us are really big theme park fans, especially the inevitable queues.
Like last time we decided to make our way via gondola to the “Summit” before the queues would get too long. In case you do not fancy a ride on the gondolas you can always take the Ocean Express train, which connects the two part of Ocean park with an underground train. We walked along the fake old Chinese town to get to the gondolas and as expected were able to board immediately. The gondolas first took us up the hill, over some luxury villas with swimming pools and the alongside the coast with its little islands and boats breaking up the calm sea. Once we were over the hill we could see the hair-raising loops of the roller coaster and the end station of the gondola ahead of us in the distance.
Jerome was keen to go on the Raging River water slides and we went there first as it was the furthest away from the top. We did a few rounds on the ride before we were too drenched and the waiting time got longer. Chris and I then went onto the Mine Train, a roller coaster train, which even the younger children can ride and probably put Jerome off roller coasters for life (not a bad thing perhaps!) after his ride on the train during our last visit. He said he did not mind waiting and watched us zooming by. We then went up the escalators and back via the motorboat pond to the Thrill Mountain.
There Jerome and I went on a Chair O Plane kind of ride, which was fun but nothing overly exciting. I then braved myself for an upside down ride on the “Flash”. A few screams later and some hairs looser from my ponytail we walked back to the crazy looping roller coaster, called “Hair Raiser“. The boys had dared me to go for a ride on it and I decided I was going to show them I could do it and would not chicken out. The boys went for a few rides on the bumper cars, as boys do, while I queued with other crazy people for the ride of my life. When we got to the front and I we were supposed to board the coaster I nearly decided I was too old for these kind of rides, I had always wanted to go on the rides at Fuji-Q in Japan, but in the end I went. I sat next to a shy Chinese girl who looked like she was about to cry, that’s how scared she was. I do not remember much from the ride, apart from the screams and how quickly it was over. I walked back to find the boys on my now jelly legs, they were still bumping each other in their cars.
Jerome wanted to go for a ride at a different water ride on the rapids. Close to the rapids is the Expedition trail which took us straight into the heart of a rainforest. There we saw some of the beautiful creatures that live in the rainforest, like toucans, frogs and beetles. The trail also informed us how important these vital forests are for life on earth and how to protect them.
One of the big differences of Ocean Park to Disney Land in Hong Kong is that Ocean Park is partly a zoo. This not only makes the trip more educational but also brings some variety into the visit. What child, big and small does not enjoy seeing some wild animals? We have seen some animal species here that we have never had the chance to see at other zoos or aquariums before.
Before leaving this area we went into the Polar zone to see the penguins, walrus, seals and a polar fox. Inside the building was much cooler, obviously to make the creatures feel more at home in their artificial habitat. Jerome has always admired seals, while penguins used to be one of my favourite animals. I am still always fascinated how fast they move through the water and love it when they dive in. No surprise that this exhibit seemed to be very popular with younger children and toddlers.
Back outside in the humid Hong Kong air we went for a few rides on the water rapids and got almost drenched again. Lost in time, we only realised how late it actually was when our tummies started to grumble. There are plenty of restaurants and food stalls throughout the park. We opted for the restaurant underneath the gondola station but there already was a long queue and we did not feel like waiting for half an hour until we could finally be seated. We then walked down to the eateries next to the big wheel, where we actually, sad to say, ended up at McDonalds. That way at least we knew what food we were getting and not much in the park is anything other than fast food.
After our rather unhealthy lunch we went for a few rounds of the classic chair-o-planes. Still one of our favourite rides and one, that brings back childhood memories for me.
I mentioned earlier that Ocean Park has a selection of exotic exhibits and is part zoo. The jellyfish exhibition is one of those, as soon as we entered the dark rooms we were mesmerised by their beauty. There are many tanks with different species on display, I could do without the changing LED lights but I’m sure it adds to the atmosphere for some of the visitors. I could stand in front of these tanks for hours and watch these creatures slowly float by. Funny how we are usually scared of them when we swim in the sea and this way we can admire them without needing to worry about being stung. The moon jellyfish are still among our favourites and there are thousands of them to be seen.
Jerome by then was keen to get back to the other side of the park to see his favourite exhibit, the red panda. Unfortunately the queue for the gondolas was long and it took us about half an hour to finally board one of them.
The red pandas share a huge building with the giant pandas. Ocean Park is one of the few places in the world that has a pair of Giant Pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le are a delight to see. Giant Pandas either eat, which one of them was doing, or sleep, which the other one was during our visit. Jerome was more interested in the red panda running around his pen and climbing up trees. They have some cat like features and a cuddly looking bushy tail. Jerome said he would love to have one as a pet at home, he would be more than happy to take one instead of a cat.
We let him dream on for a bit and then wandered out and straight into the world of goldfish. There are many varieties of goldfish on display in the aquariums and ponds that fill the room. Goldfish have had a longstanding history in Chinese culture and we learned a lot about their importance and message they convey to the people. Jerome was looking for the goldfish that looked like his back home in our pond but ours were too boring to be found in more than one display. We found some of them to be quite ugly, with nobbles on their head and other disfiguring features, but especially these ones were considered to be beautiful in China.
For our final stop on out tour through the park we ended up in the “Grand Aquarium”. It certainly is a good aquarium to visit, with many incredible fish species, like the rays and sharks. The tunnel and dome add to the excitement of the experience but we had been to better aquariums before. Our senses were probably also overloaded from all the things we had seen and done all day and therefore did not take as much time looking at all the fish and other sea creatures as one could.
We were not the only ones leaving the park and there was a long queue for the taxis. We took the bus back into town and walked the distance from Admiralty Bus Station to Wan Chai. We had a quick dinner at the local Chinese Noodle restaurant, Wing Wah Noodles, opposite the Southorn Playground, next to Wan Chai station. Oodles of noodles to choose from, we went for a standard noodle soup with dumplings albeit the less exotic offering. The food was nothing special but was good value and served the purpose of filling our tummies.