Walk on the wild side in Tin Shui Wai

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2006, 12:00am

Visitors to Hong Kong's new wetland park will immediately be struck by a stark contrast.

As they gaze across the park's 61-hectare expanse, their eyes will also be caught by the soaring residential blocks of neighbouring Tin Shui Wai.

The sight will be a reminder of how the Hong Kong International Wetland Park came to be - as an environmental trade-off for the bulldozing of vast areas of fish ponds to make way for the Tin Shui Wai development 20 years ago.

The park, which uses recycled materials befitting its environmental credentials, offers visitors both artificial indoor experiences and real outdoor ones.

At the visitor centre, the Living Wetlands gallery takes the public to the 'frozen north', where they can explore a large tundra model. The temperature in the gallery is kept at 18 degrees Celsius to ensure a suitably chilly environment.

Visitors to the gallery will then enter the 28 degree 'tropical swamp' forest, where they will hear and see artificial animals on models of huge peat-swamp trees. Four real crocodiles - false gharials native to Thailand - will become the swamp's first residents.

Visitors to the living wetlands gallery can move on to 'Hong Kong's wetland', where they can learn about the city's indigenous wildlife.

A stop at the Human Culture gallery will give visitors a look at human civilisations from around the world and features of their daily lives. Visitors will also be able to use the sounds of nature to compose their own melodies in an 'inspiration corner'.

A viewing gallery at the northwestern end of the visitor centre offers vistas of the park that can be viewed with the naked eye, through telescopes or on closed-circuit television.

The last gallery is the Wetland Challenge, where visitors can enjoy interactive games and learn how to preserve wetlands using the knowledge they gained in the other galleries.

In her own pool in another corner of the centre, Pui Pui, the crocodile netted in the Shan Pui River, will also be on show.

After the centre, the great outdoors beckons. Visitors can stroll along a boardwalk through man-made ponds, mangroves and mudflats, while seeking out wild birds, insects and other creatures.

The wetland park is scheduled to open on May 20. Admission is $30 for adults and $15 for students, children and the elderly. The centre is open every day except Tuesday from 10am to 5pm. However, if a public holiday falls on a Tuesday, the park will open.

Visitors can reach the park by taking the KCR's West Rail to Tin Shui Wai station, changing to light rail routes 705 or 706 and alighting at the Wetland Park station. The entrance is a five-minute walk away.