HK Magazine Archive

Guide to Hong Kong: Natural Heritage

A series of stories, recommendations and tips on Hong Kong from people in the know. Explore our city based on the travel experiences that interest you and get itineraries for off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:56pm

Hong Kong may be a buzzing urban metropolis, but its little-known secret is that some 40 percent of the territory is formed of country parks and nature reserves. Step outside of downtown and you’ll discover steeple-top mountain chains, remote hiking trails, rugged coastlines and wild beaches. Plus with more marine diversity than the Caribbean and one-third of the total bird species in China, you’ll soon want to spend all your precious time outdoors.

Rocky Beginnings

The most prominent protected nature reserve is the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China, in northeasterly Sai Kung. One of the prettiest of these areas is Yan Chau Tong Marine Park: a happy result of violent volcanic eruptions some 180 million years ago. With little erosion, it’s worth a visit to explore the rocky headlands and cliffs surrounded by picturesque bays and turquoise waters.

Under the Sea

To discover what lies beneath Hong Kong’s calm waters, escape to Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park (Hoi Ha literally translates to “under the sea”), a sheltered bay that’s famous for its coral collection. You might be able to spot more than 60 species of hard coral just from a clear spot on the surface, or dive down further to happen upon colorful soft coral and more than 120 species of fish.

Feeling Reserved

Keep your feet on dry land at the renowned Hong Kong Wetland Park, some 60 hectares of wetland reserve with specially designed habitats for its water-bird species. The large visitor center holds regular themed exhibitions, plus you can meet the salt water crocodile “Pui Pui.” Mai Po Nature Reserve is another must-visit wetlands that supports thousands of birds during migratory season.

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Spotlight on: Tuen Mun

Situated at the mouth of the Tuen Mun River in Hong Kong’s westerly New Territories, the district of Tuen Mun owes its very early settlements to the abundant natural resources. Small villages and eventually a market town built up around the waterfront, which once fed the livelihood of the Tanka (boat dwelling) fishermen. Today, although much of the neighborhood is now residential, there’s a whole host of natural beauty that’s just waiting to be explored. To explore Tuen Mun’s ancient natural heritage you can hike to the Castle Peak Basin, boasting jaw-dropping views down over the territory.

Go Dolphin Spotting

Tuen Mun is also home to Tai Lam Country Park, Hong Kong’s second largest, with Tai Lam Chung Reservoir at its heart. Further west lies the village of Lung Kwu Tan, which with its unimpeded views out to sea is a popular spot for searching out the Chinese white dolphin, actually a pink humpback dolphin that cruises the South China coastline. Take a quick walk up to Chinese White Dolphin Lookout with a pair of binoculars and you may be in luck!

Treason and Plot

For an intriguing taste of history, Hung Lau, an early 20th century Grade I historic building set in Chung Shan Park is where legend has it that Chinese revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-sen plotted his uprising, and you’ll find a plaque commemorating his theories that’s believed to have been handwritten by the man himself. Another building of historical significance is Tsing Shan Monastery, one of the three oldest temples in Hong Kong, with records that date back to 1464. It comprises three groups of buildings, including a ceremonial arch, gatehouse, prayer halls and dormitories.

Food and Flea Markets

With such strong ties to the land and sea, there’s ample fresh local produce to be had in Tuen Mun. Freshly farmed produce can be found in the rural community of Lam Tei, at the aptly named Farmer Restaurant, where you’ll find true Cantonese countryside fare. Alternatively, opt for some flavorsome meat dishes at Lam Tei’s renowned Red Season Aroma Restaurant. Meanwhile, Lok On Pai Siu Lam Flea Market has more than 100 community stalls selling everything from pot plants, dolls, goldfish, handbags and sunglasses.

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