Following a successful two-month trial period, Guangdong province’s Hengqin Ocean Kingdom opened to the general public on Saturday. Officials from Guinness World Records were in attendance to confirm that the aquatic theme park had set five new world records.
In addition to its most noteworthy accomplishment – hosting the world’s largest aquarium – Hengqin Ocean Kingdom also boasts the world’s largest underwater viewing dome, largest aquarium tank window, and largest acrylic panel.
“Breaking any world record is amazing, but to become the world’s largest aquarium requires phenomenal creative vision and immense engineering efforts,” said Rowan Simons, the president of Guinness’ Greater China division. “The result is an incredible attraction experience and Guinness World Records is delighted to recognize the five specific world-beating achievements that make it so special.”
A giant whale shark statue, visible from outside of the park, beckons visitors inside. Seven themed areas, each representing a different underwater habitat, hold a staggering 48.75 million liters (12.87 million gallons) of both salt and fresh water – making it the largest aquarium in the world by volume.
The park’s Whale Shark Exhibit, housed in the Ocean Wonders area, earned the four remaining Guinness citations.
First of all, it has a volume of 22.7 million liters (6 million gallons), which makes it the largest aquarium tank on the planet. It also has a 39.6 by 8.3-meter (130 by 27-foot) viewing window that has been deemed both the world’s largest aquarium window and largest acrylic panel. Finally, the Whale Shark Exhibit features a 12-meter (39-foot) underwater viewing dome – the Earth’s largest, of course – placed over a cylindrical structure built within the tank itself.
In a video posted online, a school of manta rays can be seen gliding overhead, as tourists inside the dome snap photos with their smartphones.
“The glass in the shark and whale pavilion is, at more than half a meter, reassuringly thick,” said BBC.
According to Themeparx, Hengqin Ocean Kingdom covers an area of 143 hectares (353.4 acres). The park, which also features rides, hotels, a “5D cinema” and a circus, was funded by Chime-Long Group for a total of $806.5 million.
A spokesperson from the Guangzhou-based investment firm added that a “night safari project” is currently in the works.
The park received more than 500,000 visitors during its trial phase, which took place over the Chinese New Year holiday in January. However, some environmentalists are asking the public to avoid patronizing it.
An orca whale conservation group claimed to have found evidence that Russia will provide two wild-captured killer whales to the Hengqin Ocean Kingdom – an increasingly controversial practice since the release of last year’s Blackfish documentary.
Dolphins captured in Japan’s notorious Taiji Cove have also allegedly been purchased by the park.