It’s the wild, wild East!
Ocean Park HK introduces new animal attractions and rides
Where can you go to chill out via a grand polar adventure, shoot the rapids and discover the lushness of the rainforest, shrill to your heart’s delight in a peak that’s called Thrill Mountain, watch a colorful display of jellyfishes and other aquatic resources, and an integrated animal exhibit all in one place? The Ocean Park Hong Kong!
The park recently unveiled part of its redevelopment efforts to the tune of HK$ 5.5 billion (US$750 million) that is expected to double the number of animal attractions and rides upon its completion in 2012.
“As a tourist destination, Ocean Park relies heavily on the massive influx of tourists. It is the reason why we introduce a critical mass of offerings. We believe that we have to give them more things to do to make them stay longer and spend more money,” said Ocean Park Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Tom Mehrmann.
Changing with the times
As part of the redevelopment project, the Headland will be transformed into the Summit where guests can have a grand Polar Adventure and feel the chill of the North and South Poles, journey down the river rapids to discover the beautiful Rainforest, or go for a unique voyage in the Thrill Mountain.
Of course, dolphins and sea lions which are the trademarks of Ocean Park will continue to delight guests at the Marine World. Then, there’s also the Sea Jelly Spectacular where over a thousand jellyfishes are sheltered, set against stunning music and multimedia displays.
The Lowland, on the other hand, will be changed into the Waterfront. It will house the exclusive themed resort Aqua City which features the Grand Aquarium with a three-level viewing galleries, four times the size of the Atoll Reef; the Amazing Asian Animals Park which incorporates the Giant Panda Adventure, and the Whiskers Harbour, which is a redeveloped children’s area.
An integrated animal exhibit, the Amazing Asia Animals Parks, is composed of eight attractions such as the flagship attraction Giant Panda Adventure, Gator Marsh, Panda Village, Goldfish Treasures, and Amazing Asian Animals Ed-venture, among others.
The park will have a tasteful blend of traditional Chinese architecture and modern technology, lush greenery and rock walls reminiscent of ancient Chinese structures. Its exterior is made of a “large span tuss system,” coupled with Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) which enables the sun to shine through without the nuisance of heat.
The Giant Panda Adventure is home to four red pandas from Chengdu, China as well as the breeding pair of giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le. The Chinese salamander, alligators, Asian small-clawed otters and other animals will share the habitat.
The Goldfish Treasures features more than 300 varieties of goldfish, making it the world’s largest goldfish collection in a theme park.
Finally, there’s the Sky Fair, a huge helium balloon, almost 22 meters in diameter, that takes guests 100 meters into the clouds amidst a lively carnival setting, and the Whiskers Harbour, an area made especially for children with large kid-oriented rides and live shows at the Whiskers Theater which provides a sneak peek at the day in the life of sea lions.
To connect the Summit and the Waterfront, Ocean Park will build a high-speed funicular express train, dubbed the Ocean Express. It is a useful passageway in exploring the Summit and the Waterfront, especially when the aerial cable cars are not available for use.
The design of the train was inspired by the Jules Verne’s 19th century submarine explorer. Each station combines new technology and old-world futuristic retrospective. Through its glass-paned parts, guests can watch various marine animals, combined with multimedia action, inside their train cabin which gives an amazing underwater experience. The Ocean Express’ maiden voyage will be in the fall of 2009.
Tourism and nature preservation
Going hand in hand with its consistent redevelopment projects, Ocean Park boasts of its numerous achievements and efforts in animal conservation. The park commits itself in protecting and preserving the animal kingdom through its breeding programs which are undertaken for its unique collection of fishes, birds, and marine mammals.
Since its opening in 1977, Ocean Park has entertained and educated over 85 million guests, an average of five million annually, about the habitats of animals and demonstrated ways to conserve the environment where these animals live.
Park officials agreed that tourism continues to play an important role in the overall economic situation of any country. This is not surprising since it perks up domestic consumption and becomes a source of livelihood. A substantial influx of tourists into any country requires considerable services and these translate into more job opportunities.
In Hong Kong, the total expenditure associated with inbound tourism in 2008 has reached HK$ 158.95 billion or an 11.7 percent increase over the previous year’s figure. The average per capita spending of overnight visitors amounted to HK$ 5,439, while the same-day in-town visitors surged to HK$1,498.