Ocean Park, situated on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, is Hong Kong's premier educational theme park. The current park covers more than 870,000 square metres of land and features a diverse selection of world-class marine attractions, thrill rides and shows divided between three areas: Lowland, Headland and Tai Shue Wan. Operated by the Ocean Park Corporation, a statutory board, it is a not-for-profit organization that aims to provide elements of entertainment, education and conservation at an affordable price.
The park has consistently rejuvenated and reinvented itself to better serve its guests, establishing itself as a major tourist attraction both locally and abroad. Since its opening more than 30 years ago, over 100 million guests have visited Ocean Park. Over 5 million guests visit Ocean Park each year. In 2006, Forbes.com named Ocean Park one of the "10 Most Popular Amusement Parks in the World", and in 2007, Forbes Traveler ranked Ocean Park as one of the "50 Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the world".
Ocean Park was officially opened in January 1977 by the then Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Murray MacLehose. It was built at a cost of HK$150 million funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club with land provided for free by the Hong Kong Government. Between 1982 and 1984, the Hong Kong Jockey Club allocated a further HK $240 million to fund the Park's second phase of development, which included facilities at Tai Shue Wan and thrill rides at the Headland. The objectives were to diversify the Park's attractions, increase its popularity and revenue and utilize more fully the land granted by the Government.
A new Master Redevelopment Plan (MRP) for Ocean Park was unveiled in 2005, which will see significant upgrades to the quality and availability of features at the Park. The Lowland will be completely redeveloped into a new area called the Waterfront, while the Headland will be transformed into a fantastic new section called the Summit. The Waterfront will feature an exclusive themed resort and a brand new Aqua City, showcasing a Grand Aquarium with 3 levels of viewing galleries approximately four times the size of the existing Atoll Reef; the Amazing Asian Animals themed-area, which incorporates the themed Giant Panda Adventure, highlighting some of Asia's rarest creatures; a redeveloped children's area called Whiskers Harbour and an array of refreshment and retail facilities. At the Summit, guests can visit the Polar Adventure to feel the chill of the North and South Pole, or journey down river rapids to discover the beautiful Rainforest. Thrill seekers hunting for excitement need look no further than Thrill Mountain, while the famed dolphins and sea lions of Ocean Park will continue to delight guests at Marine World. To connect guests to these exciting new attractions, a first of its kind high-speed funicular express train will be built with the capacity to transport guests from the Waterfront to the Summit in less than 3 minutes.
Groundbreaking for the MRP took place in November 2006, signalling the start of this HK$5.5 billion project, which will be completed in six years over eight phases while the Park remains open throughout. The number of animal attractions and rides will be doubled from 35 to 70 when the redevelopment project is completed in 2012.
Going hand in hand with the leaps Ocean Park has made in terms of developing itself are the numerous achievements the Park has earned for its achievements in the field of animal conservation. In 2002, Ocean Park gained accreditation from the renowned Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), making the Park the only animal facility outside of the United States of America to earn this important industry recognition and validation of superior animal care, which meets, or exceeds world standards, as established by the Association. In 2008, the AZA renewed Ocean Park's accreditation for an additional five more years.
The Park's continuing commitment to animal conservation is reflected in the successful breeding programmes undertaken for its unique collection of insects, fishes, birds and marine mammals. Births of rare shark species, sea lions, sea horses and different species of jelly fish have been recorded, while endangered birds and butterflies are also being hatched and reared at Ocean Park. Research and development into breeding marine mammals via artificial insemination (AI) produced the world's first bottlenose dolphin pregnancies through AI in 2000. This was followed by the births of the world's first two bottlenose dolphin calves achieved via AI in May 2001.
As part of its initiatives to coordinate international conservation efforts for endangered marine mammals in Asia, Ocean Park established the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCF) in 1993. The Foundation hoped to significantly improve attitudes and practices towards conservation in Hong Kong and Asia through cooperative programmes with other conservation organisations. The Hong Kong Society for Panda Conservation (HKSPC) was also launched in 1999 to educate the community and support conservation of the giant pandas and their habitat. Both the HKSPC and OPCF were merged into a single organisation on 1 July 2005 as the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK). The OPCFHK advocates, facilitates and participates in the conservation of wildlife and habitats, with an emphasis on Asia, through research and education.
Ocean Park offers two modes of transportation to enable guests to move between the Lowland, Headland and Tai Shue Wan. The Headland and Lowland is connected by a 1.5 km long cable car system offering not only just a convenient but also exceptionally scenic route between these two areas, with spectacular panoramic views of the southern side of Hong Kong and the South China Sea. Guests can also opt to ride the second longest outdoor escalator in the world stretching over 225 metres, connecting the Headland and Tai Shue Wan.
The Headland is home to Ocean Park's many thrill rides, including the Dragon, Eagle, Crazy Galleon, Ferris Wheel, Flying Swing, Raging River, Space Wheel, Mine Train, and Abyss Turbo Drop. For a less frenetic form of fun, guests can also adjourn to the Marine Land nearby. The Ocean Theatre is a family favourite where dolphins and sea lions participate in lively daily shows that both entertain and educate its audience about the habitats of these marine mammals. The world-class Atoll Reef aquarium holds 2,000 fishes from close to 250 species, including sharks and a variety of unusual sting rays and marine specimens. At the unique Sea Jelly Spectacular, guests can interact with 1,000 beautiful sea jellies set against stunning music and multimedia displays. As one of the tallest observation towers in Southeast Asia, the Ocean Park Tower boasts a 360º gently rotating viewing room 72 metres above ground that enables guests to see clear to Aberdeen and the outlying islands. And Pacific Pier brings a slice of the sunny Californian coast to Hong Kong, complete with an interactive underwater exhibit view of the sea lions at play.
The Lowland features Ocean Park's latest themed-area, the Amazing Asian Animals – an educational and highly entertaining collection of exhibits bringing together some of Asia's rarest animals. Red Pandas will be making their debut in Hong Kong for the first time ever at the Giant Panda Adventure, which will also house giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le. A viewing pavilion of hundreds of shimmering goldfish, including some of the latest and rarest species, can be found at Goldfish Treasures. For the bird watchers, the Panda Village offers a great opportunity to spot Ocean Park's avian friends high above the trees, as well as visit some delightful Asian Small-clawed Otters. Young and old guests alike will delight in the starring attraction at the SkyFair – a helium balloon 22 metres in diameter that will raise guests 100 metres into the air. Finally, children will love the Whiskers Harbour, an area made especially for them, with a large and exciting array of kid-sized and kid-oriented rides. The whole family can join in at the Whiskers Theatre, where live shows take a fun peek at a day in the life of Ocean Park's sea lions. The nearby Dolphin University, which also encompasses Ocean Park's dolphin breeding centre, also offers an excellent opportunity for guests, particularly the young and the young at heart, to learn more about the hidden lives of dolphins, as well as the efforts underway to conserve these intelligent marine mammals.
For guests' dining needs, Ocean Park currently offers four spectacular venues, the Bayview Restaurant, the Terrace Café, Café Ocean and the Panda Café. The latest addition to Ocean Park's eateries is the Panda Café, a uniquely panda-themed indoor and outdoor café certain to delight the entire family. Café Ocean, located on the Headland, is based on the concept of the classic Hong Kong-style café with a wide selection of local gourmet menus. Guests can also indulge in the oceanic ambience at the Bayview Restaurant, featuring an aquatic backdrop with sea jellies, or enjoy alfresco dining at the relaxing Terrace Cafe with its breathtaking sea view. Both the Bayview Restaurant and the Terrace Café offer extensive international menus as well as unbeatable views of the South China Sea.