Hong Kong Ocean Park Rainforest: The Amazon meets Ripley's Believe It Or Not!
Hong Kong Ocean Park has a new attraction: a rainforest zone where pocket-sized monkeys live next to dog-sized rodents.
The just-opened zone does the Amazon Rainforest justice with more than 70 exotic South American animals, many of whom are on display in Hong Kong for the first time.
The completion of the 500-square-meter Rainforest zone is a key part of the New Ocean Park experience of "edutainment" envisioned in their six year HK$5.55 billion Master Redevelopment Plan.
It also features The Rapids, a permanent water ride that takes you throughout the zone and leaves you drenched.
A wet introduction
Starting at Ocean Park’s entrance, the Ocean Express shuttle train takes visitors on a simulated submarine ride destined for the Rainforest.
The train is fast and efficient -- far better than the usual theme park cable car slog -- and feels a little like a dark, cold ride from Central to Admiralty. Only with sharks. LCD screens show realistic-looking hammerheads swimming above the train.
Once at the Rainforest, visitors can opt to bundle onto The Rapids water ride as it's the best way to get an overview of the park.
At The Rapids, you share a rubber raft and float along the twisting river which circles beneath the Rainforest Expedition Trail.
There are also many moments where you get drenched. Getting wet is almost unavoidable, even with the raincoats that the park hands out. Other park visitors get to station themselves at vantage points and aim buckets of water and even water guns at unsuspecting rafters.
The Rapids isn’t big or fast enough to terrify -- it’s no roller coaster -- but with strangers gleefully aiming water pistols at you, it sure is unique.
Mini-monkeys, super-size rodents
The Expedition Trail is a walk-through attraction. Highlights include the weirdly adorable pygmy marmoset, the world’s smallest monkey, which grows to the size of a teacup; and the kinkajou, which looks and acts like the love child of a monkey and a lemur.
Hanging by its prehensile tail, the kinkajou performs impressive feats, such as feeding upside down. Kids can’t get enough of this.
Another resident of the park is the world’s largest rodent, the capybara.
No, not that other theme park’s mouse. Ocean Park is now home to the South American native capybara, with an average body length of 106-134 centimeters. Males weigh around 50-60 kilograms, about the size of a small mountain lion. Or pesky secondary student.
The capybara is an oddity worth gawking at, but only for a few minutes, given that the creature generally displays the disposition of a sedated kangaroo at a condemned petting zoo.
Making you a better person
Following Ocean Park’s “edutainment” mission, The Rainforest has lots of displays that instruct visitors on the importance of conservation of the rainforest.
Signage is colorful and peppered with detailed rainforest information like fun facts about such groups as “Ye´kuana Venezuelan tribes, ‘people of the canoes.’” They're interesting enough that you can actually stop and read things without feeling like an old man at a science museum.
“The Rainforest offers a holistic experience with educational messages, animal displays, interpreters and a family water ride through which visitors can appreciate biodiversity in a fun and entertaining environment,” says Ocean Park spokesperson Annie Chung.
Brochure-speak translation: The Rainforest is not only nice to look at, it’s good for your brain.
Despite the fact that there is very little shade in this section of the park (even the most fashion-conscious should consider bringing an umbrella to block the sun and ward off heat stroke), The Rainforest already appears to be a hit with all ages.
At a time in which “Amazon” is more often associated with online books than with the threatened home of thousands of rare creatures and magnificent landscapes, it’s heartening to see a homegrown theme park bringing environmental awareness, fun and some unusual animals to Hong Kong.
Ocean Park, Aberdeen, Hong Kong, +852 3923 2323; adults HK$250, children HK$125. Citybus route 629 runs daily to Ocean Park from Admiralty MTR Station or Central Pier No. 7. Bus fares are HK$10.60 for adults and $5.30 for children (ages 4-11).