Road Test: Lions Nature Education Centre
Tucked away in Sai Kung, this 16-hectare site is a popular excursion destination for local primary schools. Organised into different themed areas with placards containing educational information, the centre still remains a refreshingly unstructured space for those who go without a tour guide.
To avoid the throngs of uniformed students one busy Saturday, we headed towards the crops area first. Each patch is labelled, giving visitors a good picture of where their veggies really come from. The educational information was lost on my two-year-old son and one-year-old daughter, yet they seemed disinclined to move on. I realised they were unwinding, and that this relatively wild greenness - themed planting notwithstanding - is what we had been lacking in Hong Kong.
We proceeded to the quieter dragonfly pond (devoid of said dragonflies), bamboo grove and wetland. The latter, populated by tortoises sunning themselves, kept my toddler so occupied that we had to prise him away.
Another hit was the lotus pond, and while we spotted just one lotus, the silence broken by the cacophony of frogs was enough to strike awe in my son. My daughter, meanwhile, was especially charmed by the schools of fish.
Past a greenhouse filled with Chinese herbs is a cafeteria - a peaceful spot to stop for a cup of tea, sandwich or bowl of soup noodles - and a shed where fresh organic vegetables are sold. I was pleasantly surprised that the vegetables were reasonably priced and attracted a fair number of takers.
The park also has exhibition halls, such as the insectarium and the shell house. A couple of educational touchscreen games are probably better for older children guided by a teacher.
In addition to freewheeling children, many pet owners take advantage of the park's welcoming attitude towards dogs. The centre also attracts a number of photography enthusiasts, so if nature photography is your thing, there are plenty of secluded nooks to set up that perfect frame.
Verdict: a refreshing change from the over-manicured and rule-ridden parks found in Hong Kong.
Lions Nature Education Centre, Tsui Hang Special Area, Sai Kung; lnec.gov.hk/en/about.php admission is free