Friday, 11 December 2015

Ocean Park Hong Kong Trip Report

The last time I visited Ocean Park Hong Kong was in 2010. At that time, a lot of things were under construction and I found the park somewhat lacking. When I came back in December 2015, the park was totally transformed! The landscaping had improved, there were more rides and even toilets could finally come close to USS standards. Honestly, I was not expecting such a dramatic transformation, and I was impressed by what the team at Ocean Park Hong Kong has done.

About Ocean Park Hong Kong

Ocean Park is a marine life theme park located at Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong. The park is well known for spectacular views and a good balance of thrill and wildlife attractions. Between 2011 to 2013, the park underwent a major transformation that saw a whole new front entrance, 3 new themed lands and the Grand Aquarium. 

Currently, the best way to get to Ocean Park Hong Kong is to take bus 629 from Admiralty station. However, from next year onward, there will be MTR connection direct to Ocean Park via the South Island Line (West). The station is just at the entrance of the theme park.

Escalator from the Bus Terminal. The MTR entrance is just across the road from here and the overhead bridge is the same level as the Ocean Park entrance gate!

The Waterfront

When I walked through the gates of Ocean Park Hong Kong, I knew I stepped into a brand new theme park. The narrow, uneven and poorly landscaped grounds of my previous visit gave way to wide, inviting paths set within a vibrant seaside village. A few steps in, you will be greeted by a nice fountain, with the Grand Aquarium looming in the background. Ocean Park really made a bold statement with this new entrance.

This looks like a scene from the Little Mermaid or something!

Now, large colourful LED signs guide inform guests on information like queue times, show times and other updates

Unlike many other fountains, the Musical Fountain at Ocean Park is always playing throughout the entire day

The Waterfront is also home to several animal exhibits such as the Panda Exhibit. In addition, the back area of the Waterfront is a small kids area with several small rides. From here, guests can choose to reach the summit by either the Cable Car or the Ocean Express (a funicular railway). I recommend trying both.

This restaurant was there since my last visit.

and so was Ocean Express! The concept of turning the train ride into a submarine experience is quite novel. They even used the scene of a Octopus assaulting the "sub" to synchronise with vibrations due to track switches.

Grand Aquarium

This is the greatest single addition to Ocean Park and, I must say, it can stand heads and shoulders with many of the world's top Aquariums. I mean, you can view aquatic life from above, below, sideways, diagonally - pretty much any angle you can think of. The density of Marine Life featured is also very good - you don't feel that the fish tanks are too empty. 

There is also a restaurant in the Grand Aquarium called Neptune Restaurant. While I like the concept of dining in an Aquarium, I think that the price is too over-inflated and you can get similar quality dining experiences at a cheaper cost elsewhere in the park. Also, unlike Ocean Restaurant at RWS, there is a big gap between the dining tables and viewing panels so diluting the underwater dining experience.

No Aquarium can be complete without the Touch Pool. However, for this touch pool most of the marine life is "for viewing only" and I felt it defeated the purpose of the touch pool. 

The Aquarium is filled with rocks and if gives whole place a cove-like feel.

And if you think MTR is crowded, why not squeeze into this tank?

The main viewing panel. Notice the balcony on the top right hand corner of the picture? That is where Neptune Restaurant is located.

Thrill Mountain

Thrill Mountain is one of 3 new themed areas of Ocean Park Hong Kong. This is also where the largest concentration of Ocean Park's thrill rides and carnival games are located. I really like the circus atmosphere of the place and the rides there will get you VERY giddy. The biggest ride here: Hair Raiser, is a Bolliger and Mabillard (B&M) Floorless Roller Coaster and is the signature thrill ride of the park.

This is like, just one-third of all the game stalls a Thrill Mountain.

Are you ready for a spin?

Hair Raiser - Ocean Park's Signature Ride

When my Singaporean friends tell me that Ocean Park has "good thrilling rides", I suspect they are referring to this one. After all, Hair Raiser is over 10 stories tall, has 4 inversions and is built by one of the top roller coaster manufacturers in the world. While I agree that this is a good roller coaster, I just do not think it has lived up to its hype.

Let me explain by comparing with our dearest USS roller coaster: Battlestar Galactica (BSG): Cylon. BSG is smoother, has more comfortable seats, more intense inversions and is a longer ride than Hair Raiser. Not to mention the first drop for BSG is straight while Hair Raiser is curved. Also, I did not like the queue line and exit - it was really confusing. So my dear Singaporeans, stop complaining that USS does not have good thrill rides.

Nonetheless, it is quite a good ride. The dive loop (2nd inversion) over the edge of the mountainside was particularly intense and the pace of the ride is very good. I rated the ride at a respectable 8.4, just behind Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars at Hong Kong Disneyland and ahead of Battlestar Galactica: Human at USS.

[tip] Take the first Ocean Express train up and head straight for the ride entrance. There is usually little or no queue for this ride within the first hour of park opening. Peak queue can exceed 1 hour.

The best view of Hair Raiser is from the Ocean Park Cable Car!

Polar Adventure

Polar Adventure is the next new area of Ocean Park Hong Kong and is an updated version of their old Penguin exhibits. The area is divided into 2 main areas: North Pole Encounters starring Polar Bears, and South Pole Spectacular featuring the cute Penguins. The temperature inside is very cold (5-10 degrees Celsius) but as far as I remembered you can borrow jackets from the attraction subject to availability. There is also a kids roller coaster called Arctic Blast and if features the longest trains I ever seen on a coaster - 40 seats in 20 rows!

It is always good to visit the animal exhibits during feeding times. Ocean Park does issue special pamphlets that provides the timing and location of all shows and animal feeding sessions.

The Tuxedo is the most high-class restaurant at Ocean Park. There is even dress code!

Look at the length of this train!


The Rainforest is the last of the 3 new themed lands at Ocean Park Hong Kong. This area is modeled after the lush tropical rainforests and the place is full of real trees, man-made trees and wooden structures! You can walk through the Expedition Trail which includes multiple animal exhibits. 

These river fishes (please don't ask me the species) are huge!

The centerpiece ride of this area is the Rapids, a river rapids ride (duh)! What I really love about this one is that you can actually spray water onto the guests via some water guns, and you don't even have to pay for it. I usually do not go on water rides when overseas, but from visual observation I say the ride has quite a good pace and the landscape that you are going through is probably the best I seen outside of Disney and Universal.

As warned, you will get wet! 

Here it is! Finally a water gun where I don't have to pay extra to play! There are actually 2 areas along expedition trail where you can spray water on Rapids riders!

Ocean Theater - Ocean Wonders

Ocean Wonders is the largest single show production at Ocean Park Hong Kong. This classic show features the park's really cute dolphins and sea lions, and showcases the intelligence and friendliness of these beautiful marine creatures. I found it really interesting that Ocean Park uses Orchestra music to accompany the show - I think it really adds to the emotional factor and is much more impactful to the audience than shows that use live band style music.

Another interesting observation. Because only the back of the theater is sheltered, most guests will just sit and the back seats leaving the prime front seats available!

[Tip] Sit at the front middle of the Theater if you want to get up close to the sea lions! See the picture below!

The Dolphin Push. If you want to get close to Dolphins, you can sign up for the "Get closer to Marine Animals" program. It is recommended that you know how to swim!

Marine World

The old area of Ocean Park is vaguely themed as Marine World. Here, there are multiple thrill and family rides and also some carnival games. The roller coaster here, The Dragon, was once the most intense ride of the park, but is now overshadowed by Hair Raiser. I personally did not like this coaster at all because the seats are very cramped and I can barely fit my head through the over the shoulder restraints.

This is Marine World. Ocean Park is known for its impressive views and that does not disappoint at all!

The Eagle was also once a great ride, but I think it is overshadowed by a similar one at Thrill Mountain which even leaves your feet dangling. Several Marine World rides was also closed for maintenance on the day I went!

No theme park is complete without a Ferris Wheel, right?

Yup! This is the one. The Gap between the 2 sides of the restraints are so small that I can barely fit my head through. I have to force my way in!

Marine World is also home to the largest concentration of food kiosks in Ocean Park - including a Pizza stall, a stall selling Western food and even a MacDonalds walk through! Just one problem: There are no enough seats for guests to sit down and eat! The Shark encounter is just above and I really love the interactive x-ray exhibits that explain the inner organs of a shark!

There are ample of food carts at Marine World selling somewhat overpriced food but not enough tables and seats for guests to enjoy.

This is a fishing village - only, it is also the entrance to Shark Encounter. Cannot tell right?

This X-Ray exhibit allows you to see the digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems of sharks!
The final area of Marine World is home to the Ocean Park's Sea Lion Exhibit. This area, dubbed Pacific Pier, is also where you get the best views of the mountains and coves of Southern Hong Kong!

Ocean Park Cable Car

I personally think that the Cable Car is one of the most iconic attractions of Ocean Park. This attraction was open as early as the 1980s when Ocean Park was still in its infancy, and is one of the reasons why people think Ocean Park is such a huge theme park (the cable car travels over large areas of unused land).

However, I dislike the fact that the entrance and exit of the Cable Car at the summit are located very far apart. The entrance was actually quite hard to find. 

[tip] The downward direction of the cable car is usually not crowded before 3pm. I was even able to ride solo in a cabin even though each gondola normally seats 6.

Even the Cable Car celebrates Christmas!?

Here is a little secret. At the side of the Cable Car station, there is a restaurant that offers spectacular views. It is very hot during the afternoon when I took this photo but you will really enjoy dinner at this location.

Australian Adventure

The final stop for me at Ocean Park Hong Kong is Australian Adventure. This attraction features the Koalas of Australia and also includes a nice pre-show movie. The outside was quite misleading though, as it said it was a movie theater. Honestly, I went inside there thinking it was a 3D attraction, only realising it was an animal exhibit after reaching the enclosures!

I cannot comment about Adventure Land or the Wild West Mine Train because the area was closed for refurbishment on the day I visited.

Overall Comments:

I must say that Ocean Park has really reinvented itself very well this time. The new themed lands are well landscaped, have some interesting new attractions and well thought out. In particular, I felt the new Aqua City entrance area really gave the park an outstanding first impression, and the problem of insufficient toilets and dining options at my past visit seems to have been resolved.

I particular, I like their approach to conservation awareness - the message is clear but not too forceful. The footpaths still can be improved and I do wish that they provide new trains for The Dragon roller coaster. Transportation now is not very good but that will not be a problem as Ocean Park MTR station is just months away from opening!

  • Roller Coasters: ☆☆☆☆
  • Thrill Rides: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Shows: ☆☆☆
  • Family Rides: ☆
  • Theming: ☆☆☆☆
  • Operations: ☆☆☆
  • Overall: ☆☆☆☆
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China and Hong Kong Theme Parks