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Even the fish are living it up in Aqua City, the HK tourist spot?s newest attraction
YOU KNOW an aquatic theme park is bound to be cool when the CEO touring you around the facilities is a man named Tom Merhmann, who looks like the doppelganger of Robin Williams, while Chairman Allan Zeman thinks nothing of strapping a rocket to his back to propel himself onto a stage for the opening ceremonies of Ocean Park Hong Kong?s latest attraction.
Aqua City is the newest addition to one of HK?s oldest tourist spots, another completed phase in the park?s HK$5.55-billion six-year master redevelopment plan. The opening of Aqua City coincides with the relocation and unification of Ocean Park?s entry and exit points, making the park easily accessible to visitors.
The flagship theme zone replaces the park?s 34-year-old aquarium called Atoll Reef, as it, too, will undergo renovations to modernize the facility. At first glance, Aqua City?s design is a modern architectural feat, from the giant blue egg-shaped façade, which looks like an alien space pod when lit up at night, to the inside, where the Grand Aquarium is home to 5,000 marine animals of roughly 400 species.
All these are showcased in giant viewing domes like the Bubble Tunnel, the world?s largest aquarium viewing dome, with a diameter of approximately 20 feet.
Touring the inner workings of the Grand Aquarium, I?ve come to realize that these marine animals living at Ocean Park have it made. They are fed as much as six times a day, while their behavior is keenly observed for any signs of illness or unrest.
Aqua City?s layout is meant to immerse the visitor in aquatic experience?without getting wet. Even the zone?s theme dining area, Neptune?s Restaurant, is set across a floor-to-ceiling glass aquarium, giving you the experience of eating in the company of sharks and other big fish.
Younger guests or any marine life enthusiast can learn more about the aquarium?s advocacy of ocean conservation in the classrooms, where they can be educated on how to rehabilitate oceans and how to practice sustainable fishing for food. This consistent message of sustainability and conservation is also evident in the nightly outdoor show called Symbio!, featuring light, water and fire in one not-to-miss spectacle.
Aqua City, dubbed the crown jewel of Ocean Park, is hardly the final salvo in its master redevelopment plan. More attractions are upcoming, like the floorless roller coaster set high up on a cliff and other thrilling additions, making Ocean Park a must when in HK.
An Ocean Park planner
PLANNING a trip? Check out these tips for a super fun experience
1. Plan ahead. Check the weather forecast. Explore Ocean Park on a sunny day to fully enjoy the areas. The folks at the park have estimated that spending eight hours at Ocean Park will allow you to visit 16 different attractions. Check their site at www.oceanpark.com.hk and look at the map to mark the priority attractions.
2. Dress comfortably. Ocean Park is situated on a cliff overlooking the sea, so expect inclined terrain and make sure to wear shoes made for walking. Avoid bringing unnecessary items to lighten your load.
3. Bring a camera. You?ll want to take lots of photos, and you?ll definitely want to check out the sunset?try riding the ferris wheel around this time.
4. Go on a weekday. If you can, avoid visiting the park on a weekend to maximize the number of attractions you can explore, and minimize long hours at the queue.
Top 10 things not to miss:
1. Say hi to the welcoming otters by the Ocean Park entrance.
2. Check out the very adorable pandas at Giant Panda Adventure. You?ll want to take a video of them gobbling bamboo leaves.
3. Check out the Grand Aquarium at Aqua City.
4. Take the Ocean Express train to The Summit.
5. Ride The Flash, a ride that swings like a 360-degree pendulum.
6. Try the awesome fries at The Terrace Café.
7. Check out the trippy neon colors of jellyfish at Sea Jelly Spectacular.
8. Ride The Dragon, The Abys and the Ferris Wheel.
9. Take the cable car back to Aqua City.
10. Catch Symbio! and have dinner with the sharks at Neptune?s Restaurant after.