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Dinning deep under the sea
( Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2005-04-13 08:45

Allowing people to get closer to animals and spend time harmoniously with them seems to be the goal of many parks around the country. Maybe it's time for Chinese people to better understand the importance of relations between human beings and animals.

Parks are trying to make visitors less afraid of, and more comfortable with, animals.

Interactive events with animals started last year at the Ocean Park Hong Kong and the park will hold a series of similar activities again this April and May.

The park is a good place for a one-day family outing, where people can try out the adventurous facilities like the roller coaster and spend some fun time with animals as well.

Focusing on Chinese mainland tourists, which account for nearly 51 per cent of its visitors every year, Ocean Park's interactive events have been arranged around Golden Week - the Labour Day holiday.

A one-day trip can begin with a breakfast you prepare for the giant pandas, An An and Jia Jia, gifts by the central government to Hong Kong to commemorate the return of this region to its motherland in 1997. Tourists should first apply to be honourable panda feeders either by phone or online.

Every day only four feeders are selected to help zookeepers prepare breakfast for the two pandas. The animals eat bamboo and specially made fibre cookies, which are prepared by feeders with the help of professional Ocean Park staff.

Those who are not selected as feeders can still have breakfast with the pandas. The park sets up tables around the pandas' compound and visitors can eat their breakfasts just outside the rail fences while the pandas eat inside.

Similar dining experiences can be shared in several other locations inside the park. There is a buffet brunch at Pacific Pier, where people can sit on the viewing gallery to watch the sea lions and feed them with fish the park prepares. The Whiskers sea lion, the park ambassador, together with a band and clown magicians add fun to your dining experience.

The most unique among the interactive events is the Deep-sea Dinner at Atoll Reef. The park provides Western-style food inside the oceanarium, where you eat as if at the bottom of the ocean surrounded by various kinds of fish.

Staff at the park impart information about the animals during the meals and people get to know how to communicate with the animals better.

The Dolphin Encounter is a programme that visitors cannot miss. This programme allows tourists to get into the pool with live dolphins, touch them and talk with them - dolphins communicate through a hole in the top of their heads.

The interactive events are more suitable for families that have very young children that cannot enjoy adventurous pastimes such as the roller coaster. The non-profit institute gives all the income from those events to panda and dolphin protection organizations.

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