The Arctic and the Antarctic in Hong KongBy Walter Ang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Guests visiting Ocean Park Hong Kong now have a new attraction to enjoy: Polar Adventure, whose exhibits simulate the natural environments of both the North and South Polar regions. In other words, guests can now get to see a small slice of the Arctic and the Antarctic and the animals that live there.
Cantopop superstar Andy Lau (yes, the same Andy Lau that comedienne Eugene Domingo “demanded” a kiss from at this year’s Asian Film Awards when she won the People’s Choice actress award) graced the grand opening ceremonies led by Leung Chun-ying, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, with Allan Zeman, chairman of OPHK.
Polar Adventure’s North Pole Encounter section is home to a variety of arctic species, including spotted seals, Northern sea lions, Pacific walruses, snowy owls, and arctic foxes. The entire area is maintained at a cool 15°C.
Its South Pole Spectacular is maintained at an even cooler 8°C and houses King Penguins, Southern Rockhopper Penguins, and Gentoo Penguins. Portions of the South Pole Spectacular can be seen at Tuxedos Restaurant via immense viewing panels that serve as the restaurant’s fourth wall.
The attractions have exhibits and videos for guests to find out more about the animals housed there. Sandwiched in between the two attractions is, of course, the gift shop where stuffed toys of the polar critters can be acquired.
The area also has the Arctic Blast, a roller coaster with a top speed of 35 km per hour. For the thrill-seekers, this is only one of several rides that the park offers. The Thrill Mountain has rides such as The Flash (with a top speed of 60 km/hour) and Hair Raiser (an even faster 88 km/hour; the fastest roller coaster in Hong Kong).
Guests with more relaxed proclivities can enjoy Polar Adventure’s Whale Karaoke, where guests can listen to recordings of their messages translated into whale vocalizations.
“Polar Adventure conveys … the plight of polar wildlife living under the threat of climate change and global warming in both a fun and educational way,” said Zeman.
Aside from its numerous animal attractions, rides, and restaurants, OPHK also has an Ocean Park Academy that offers over 35 courses on giant pandas and red pandas, dolphins and sea lions, birds, fishes, plants, and mechanical rides. The park’s breeding programs have resulted in the births of rare shark species, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, sea horses and different species of sea jellies.
The park also has its own foundation that helps with conservation of endangered marine mammals in Asia. Lau said, “As [the foundation’s] Conservation Ambassador, I am proud that OPHK has created a world-class attraction dedicated to the important issue of global climate change. With the launch of Polar Adventure, we can learn about the impact of global climate change on polar wildlife and how we can help slow climate change.”
Up and away
Located on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, OPHK is actually divided into two levels, the lower Waterfront and the higher Summit, which can be reached via the park’s iconic cable cars that travel 205 meters above the South China Sea.
For guests who want more height-related fun, the park has the Abyss Turbodrop ride, a 20 second ride up 62 meters and a drop incurring a minus one gravitational force, much faster than a free fall.
But those afraid of heights need not worry as there is the Ocean Express train. If you have friends or family members who are so inclined, there is also Hong Kong’s second longest outdoor escalator series up from Tai Shue Wan Bay to Ocean Park.
The Waterfront is where the classic Grand Aquarium is located, where guests can see up to 400 different species of fish such as the scalloped hammerhead shark, manta ray, Pacific bluefin tunas and Japanese skipjack tuna via a 13-meter giant viewing panel and the world’s largest aquarium viewing dome.
After walking inside the Grand Aquarium, the viewing can be done while seated and eating away at Neptune’s Restaurant, which offers viewing walls of the aquarium.
The Waterfront level also has the Giant Panda Adventure, which houses giant pandas, red pandas, Chinese giant salamanders, Asian small-clawed otters and Chinese alligators. The Goldfish Treasures section has a collection of over 300 goldfish of all shapes, sizes and colors, including the largest goldfish variety in the world.
A section of the Waterfront called Old Hong Kong offers a glimpse of the culture, history, and tasty delicacies of HK from the ’50s to the ’70s. With building facades designed to mimic the streetscapes of yore, there are 70 local street food stalls that feature dishes from that time period.
End the day’s visit at the Lagoon, where a night-time show spectacle features the world’s first and only 360 degree water screen in an explosion of lights, sounds and, yes, fire that burns hot and bright right on top of the lagoon’s water.