NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
I’m a Disney fanboy and I’m proud of it. Orlando doesn’t make me think of mister Bloom, but it’s the location of Walt Disney World. When you ask me about my favourite Japanese mountain, I’d prefer Mount Prometheus over Mount Fuji. And when you mention Hong Kong, I’ll always think of a dark ride called Mystic Manor. Still, Hong Kong is more than just a Disney destination. It’s actually one of the most all-round travel destinations I know: it takes less than an hour to travel from the bustling streets of Hong Kong Island to the lush jungles in the New Territories. And for theme park enthusiasts, there’s more than Disneyland alone. A few miles south of the city, you’ll find another place which made it to the top 20 of busiest theme parks in the world: Ocean Park.
Ocean Park has become a legendary theme park destination because of its unique location and the unbeatable views. In my opinion, however, it’s especially well-known for its terrible weather. During my first visit in 2013, rain kept pouring all day long. Today, I’m finally getting a second chance, but the weather turns out to be just as bad as it was last time. Luckily, there’s some good news as well: getting to Ocean Park has become a lot easier and faster during the past few years. In 2013, we needed to take a shuttle bus from the Admiralty MTR station to the park. Nowadays, a brand-new MTR line travels directly between the city centre and Ocean Park. Just take the South Island line and you’ll be dropped off right in front of the park’s main gate.
Navigating Ocean Park is just as easy as getting here. However, you should notice that the park has a quite unusual layout. It’s divided into two separate parts: The Waterfront near the park’s entrance and The Summet, a hilly terrain where most of the rides are located. The Waterfront and The Summet aren’t linked with some kind of pathway. The only way to travel between both sections is by making use of Ocean Park’s two transportation systems. They’ve got a classic cable car and a unique funicular which is called Ocean Express. This attraction feels like a subway with some very decent Jules Verne theming. And thanks to its huge capacity, this is without a doubt the quickest way to get from The Waterfront to The Summet or vice versa.
There aren’t many people at The Summit before noon, which makes this an ideal time for visiting popular attractions. Our first stop of the day is North Pole Encounter, a walk-through. This animal exhibit is home to seals and walruses. They aren’t too keen on showing themselves this morning, so our encounter is kind of limited.
The neighbouring roller coaster Arctic Blast is just as underwhelming as North Pole Encounter. In fact, I even consider it as the worst Mack powered coaster ever. The layout is okay, but it seems as if they forgot to turn off the handbrake. The ride is actually so slow that even the youngest passengers seem bored. In addition, the ride has an ugly station (where is the roof?!) and the on-ride photo is made manually while boarding the train. Very exciting… not.
We suffer from a slight panic attack when noticing that the nearby B&M Floorless Coaster is closed. However, a crew member immediately calms us down: the ride should be open during the afternoon. Yay!
The next attraction along our route is The Rapids, one the most best themed rides at Ocean Park. This rapid river winds through a beautiful landscape and an elevated pathway delivers some perfect views. The attraction isn’t soaking at all, but that can be considered as good news with today’s weather conditions.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Kolmården and Liseberg were built on hilly terrain, but that’s peanuts compared to Ocean Park. Especially Wild West Mine Train is built on a very steep slope. We actually need to take some of the world’s longest escalators to reach the coaster’s entrance. This takes a while, but it’s worth it. The views near Mine Train can’t be beaten.
Wild West Mine Train has often been praised for its incredible location. Although it’s actually a rather simple coaster, it offers breathtaking views of the high-rise buildings in nearby Aberdeen and the gigantic container ships passing by. Those views create a unique ride, so it’s kind of pointless that Ocean Park added virtual reality to Wild West Mine Train. That’s right: this might be the coaster with the most unusual views on the planet, but you’re able to experience it with VR glasses. The VR option is closed due to the weather today, but I wasn’t planning on riding with these silly glasses anyway.
Believe it or not… Ocean Park’s annual attendance is nearly identical to Hong Kong Disneyland’s. Both parks receive approximately 6 million guests per year and they’re both working hard to increase that number. While Disneyland is building a Marvel-based land and the new Frozen area, Ocean Park is constructing a brand-new water park. Tai Shue Wan Water World should be opening later this year (I wonder if that’s possible, because the construction site is still a mess) and this could be the perfect way to maintain Ocean Park’s current popularity.
More water-based fun is provided by Raging River, Ocean Park’s classic log flume. I’m glad that I survived the rapid river without getting soaked and I decide to skip this second risk to get wet. Carrie and Niek, however, don’t mind getting wet. Queues are nonexistent, which is partially due to the ride’s very remote location.
My friends aren’t afraid of water, but the leading actors of a show called Ocean Wonders are. As a result, it is suddenly cancelled in the middle of the performance due to rain. Interestingly, the leading actors I’m talking about are… dolphins. Does this make sense to you? A dolphin show which is cancelled because of the rain? I would totally understand if there were a thunder storm nearby, but this was just ordinary rain. Strange and disappointing decision.
In the next photo, you’ll witness the most spectacular thing we saw while attending the show. Just a few minutes later, those stubborn dolphins went on strike because of unfavourable weather conditions.
The show was a huge disappointment, but the views from the Ocean Theater weren’t. The location of Dragon may be just as awesome as Wild West Mine Train’s.
Dragon is one of the most common roller coaster names, but it’s mostly used for standard kiddie coasters. This one is different: Ocean Park’s Dragon is an Arrow Dynamics creation with two lift hills, three inversions and some of the most painful transitions in coaster history. Besides, the colour scheme isn’t exactly stunning either. Needless to say… the overall experience is rather weak. So if you ask me, it’s definitely time for a replacement. A B&M Flying Coaster like Manta would be ideal for this park.
In fact, B&M might be a very logical choice because they’ve already worked together with Ocean Park in the past. In 2011, these Swiss coaster gods manufactured Hair Raiser. This is a Floorless Coaster which was built on Thrill Mountain, the most elevated part of the park. Thrill Mountain mainly consists of simple flat rides, cheap-looking arcade games and brightly coloured panels. It may be the least attractive part of Ocean Park and that circus-themed B&M doesn’t look stunning either.
Not stunning, but hey… it’s a B&M. And B&M coasters tend to be super smooth, intense and extremely fun. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly true in this particular case. The second half of the layout is rather boring and Hair Raiser is considerably rougher than I expected. It’s not too bad if you’re seated in the train’s middle seats, but the seats on the outside provide a shaky experience. On a more positive note, I’d like to mention the ride’s unique location against a mountain cliff and the awesome airtime hill after the second inversion.
Our opinions on Hair Raiser are divided. I wasn’t amazed, Niek liked it a lot and Carrie had a meh-feeling, as usual. Our opinions on the next attraction, however, are similar. We all think that the Ocean Park Cable Car is awesome and terrifying at the same time. Awesome because it offers some fantastic views over the park and its surroundings, but terrifying because it looks old and the wind causes some serious swinging. The cable car is not for the faint of heart, but I do consider it as a must-do. This mode of transportation is definitely more spectacular than the Ocean Park Express, but that also applies to the length of the queue. That’s why I’d recommend boarding the cable car at The Summit, where the wait is usually shorter.
If you’re only interested in roller coasters, you may close this page right now. A majority of Ocean Park’s classic amusement park rides can be found at The Summit, while The Waterfront is mostly focused on animals. The most popular exhibit is Amazing Asian Animals, which is obviously dedicated to local creatures. The true super stars in this area are giant pandas and they cause some kind of mass hysteria here at Ocean Park. Honestly, I don’t see what the fuss is all about. They’re just sleepy giants that barely move. No, then I actually prefer those other Amazing Asian Animals, including red pandas, Chinese alligators and a huge gold fish collection.
In general, theming at Ocean Park is limited. However, there’s one area which is particularly well decorated and that’s Old Hong Kong. This section portrays Hong Kong in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s with old facades, an antique tram and some cosy food stalls. With our admission ticket, we’re invited to enjoy some local specialties at those stalls. Portions aren’t huge and the food isn’t that special, but who would complain about free food? I wouldn’t…
Ocean Park could be described as the Hong Kong version of Sea Life. It’s a lot bigger and you can’t enter with a Merlin annual pass, but the overall theme is similar: Ocean Park focuses on the oceans and the creatures living there. On The Summit, we visited exhibits like Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium and the impressive Shark Mystique, which included at least 21.000 teeth. However, the ultimate undersea destination can be found near the park entrance and it’s appropriately called The Grand Aquarium. This walk-through literally surrounds us with aquariums, which can be admired from every possible angle. Even if you’re not slightly interested in fish or whatsoever, you shouldn’t miss The Grand Aquarium while visiting Ocean Park. This truly is a visual spectacle.
Today was all about water. We enjoyed stunning views of the South China Sea, we admired hundreds of sea creatures and… it rained almost constantly. The weather was terrible (even the dolphins hated it apparently) but it fortunately didn’t ruin our day. I enjoyed Ocean Park’s great animal exhibits and the unparalleled location, just like I did in 2013. But despite all this beauty, Ocean Park just doesn’t impress me. The roller coasters are so-so and most attractions are poorly themed. The park really lacks a signature dark ride and a fantastic coaster, so these would be the perfect additions if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong: Ocean Park is well worth a visit if you find yourself in Hong Kong, but it’s a very mediocre experience if you compare it to the nearby Disney park.
So… how about a trip to Disneyland? Ariel and her blonde mermaid sister seem to like that idea a lot.
To be continued at Hong Kong Disneyland.