If you're a kid or a kid at heart, you'll love Ocean Park, a combination marine park and amusement center. Situated along a dramatic rocky coastline on the island's southern shore, the park is divided into two areas: a "lowland" and a "headland," connected by cable car (and, in 2012 -- after a massive redevelopment that will double the number of its attractions -- an underground funicular). Because of the wide range of attractions, Ocean Park is interesting for children and adults alike. Facilities are first class, and Ocean Park is Asia's first accredited member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
The lowland is subdivided into several areas and attractions. The most popular residents of Ocean Park are An An and Jia Jia, a pair of pandas presented as gifts from China. Kids' World has kiddie rides, playgrounds, remote-control cars and boats, shows geared toward children, and shooting-games arcade. Swimming with the dolphins is available at Dolphin University (applications must be made at least 5 days in advance).
From the lowland, visitors board cable cars for a spectacular 8-minute ride over a hill to the headland, while being treated to great views of the coastline and the South China Sea along the way. The headland area, situated on a peninsula that juts into the sea, is also subdivided into several areas and attractions. The marine life section includes an artificial wave cove that is home to sea lions; an aquarium housing more than 1,000 jellyfish and complete with theatrical lighting, multimedia sound, and visual special effects; and a tank with more than 200 sharks and rays representing more than 30 species, viewed from an underwater tunnel. Ocean Theatre features shows by talented dolphins, sea lions, and a killer whale. But my favorite is the Atoll Reef, one of the world's largest aquariums, with 2,600 fish of 200 different species. The observation passageway circles the aquarium on four levels, enabling you to view the sea life -- everything from giant octopi to schools of tropical fish -- from various depths and from different angles. Thrill rides include a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster that turns upside down three times, a rather wet ride on a "raging river," and a ride in a giant helium balloon that goes 100m (328 ft.) in the air. Other exhibits include a Japanese Garden; a 69m-high (226-ft.) Ocean Park Tower offering revolving, panoramic views of Aberdeen and outlying islands; and an aviary with 750 birds.
After touring the headland, you can take the long escalator down to the Tai Shue Wan Entrance, from which it's a short taxi ride to Aberdeen with its sampan rides and floating restaurant. At any rate, to do Ocean Park justice, plan on spending a minimum of 4 hours here, but with kids you'll probably stay the whole day.