Hong Kong Wetland Park is a gorgeous 60-hectare nature reserve located in Tin Shui Wai on the eastern shore of Shenzhen Bay. The picturesque park covers naturally-occurring wetlands as well as traditional rice paddies and fish farms, all home to countless local birds and a wide range of wildlife. This reserve-cum-park-cum-zoo-cum-museum is an ideal day trip for both the young folks in your family (and the young at heart amongst you) providing ample fodder for the budding botanist, entomologist or ornithologist.
Upon arrival you enter the 10, 000 square-meter Visitor Centre where there are numerous educational exhibits that teach you about Hong Kong’s unique ecosystem, as well as the many types of ecosystems that exist all around the world. The park explains why wetlands are so important: they are the kidneys of the planet, filtering water, storing excess rainfall and providing a habitat for many species of plants and animals.
The exhibits are impressive, informative and well done, plus many are interactive, providing fun for everyone. Most signs are multilingual with captions in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese. There is also a selection of animals, including bats, fish and the crocodile-esque gharial. When we visited, we made our own paper Black-faced Spoonbill at the Volunteers’ Origami Station in the company of extremely passionate and knowledgeable volunteers.
Leaving the Visitor Centre, you first pass the home of Pui Pui, a saltwater crocodile found in the Shan Pui River. You then enter the main area of the reserve, which consists of well-maintained boardwalks and paths that invite you to explore the natural wetlands of Hong Kong. The collection of elevated walkways includes the Stream Walk, the Succession Walk and the Mangrove Boardwalk, all allowing for great vistas, fresh air and on a lovely day, sunshine. Along your stroll you will find dozens of signboards providing interesting tidbits and and flora and fauna facts that you can happily geek out on.
The Wetland Discovery Centre has exhibits exploring the seemingly lowly mudskipper which, while it may not have the glitz and glamour of a tropical fish, shows us how our ancient amphibian ancestors first crawled out of the sea and began exploring dry land. There is also an exhibit illustrating the plants and animals of the wetlands, their role in our diets, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Finally, there is the Wet Lab and the Life Lab, both of which act as outdoor classrooms with films and guides to learn even more.
Working on your ornithology hobby? The park features three built-in bird hides and two viewing pavilions for optimal panoramas, not to mention bird-watching conditions. There are telescopes that allow everyone to get a better look at our fine-feathered friends, bird guides with colorful pictures and a board that lists the birds you can hope to see. There are also exhibits exploring Hong Kong’s rich tradition of fish farming, particularly the city’s gei wai, ponds enclosed by banks on the coast and built around mangrove stands, resulting in an environmentally-friendly way to produce seafood. The gei wai are naturally fed by the tides and the fish and shrimp feed on leaf litter and other naturally-occurring food sources. They also provide a rich habitat for waterfowl and other local critters.
Another gem in Hong Kong’s natural crown is the large selection of butterflies one can spot. Fun fact: we have over 230 different butterfly species! Over 150 of these have been spotted in the park and the Butterfly Garden is the perfect spot to learn more about these colorful, awesome creatures. There are loads of plaques exploring butterfly ecology and pictures to help you identify the most common species. The butterflies are most plentiful in April, May, June, October and November but the garden is lovely year round.
For those looking to go a bit deeper, don’t miss out on the selection of films and guided tours that are available. There are also workshops, talks and reading clubs for all ages.
The Hong Kong Wetland Park is easy to reach from Hong Kong Island, Citybus 967 departs from Admiralty and gets you there in around 35 minutes. You can also reach the park via the MTR or by car. Pro tip: on weekends, go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Hong Kong Wetland Park: Admission is HKD 30, HKD 15 for children under 17 and free for children under 3. Multiple entry passes and group discounts are available. Wetland Park Road, Tin Shui Wai, New Territories. +852 3152 2666. Open Wednesday to Monday 10AM – 5PM (Closed Tuesdays)
All images Green Queen’s own.