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Typically regarded as an epicentre of commerce, Hong Kong is revered for its bustling get-up-and-go. But have you considered the beauty that lies beyond its gleaming cityscape?
Home to some of the planet’s most arresting nature reserves, Hong Kong’s less-wandered paths are ideal for holidaymakers seeking an escape from the hubbub of the city. Here at Cruise 1st Australia, we’ve put together our pick of Hong Kong’s top natural beauty spots, and the unique experiences you can expect from a visit to each one.
Mai Po Nature Reserve
Calling all amateur ornithologists, Mai Po Nature Reserve is sure to entice, with a reported 380 species of birds to peruse amid a backdrop of unparalleled rural charm. Stretching 380 hectares, Mai Po Nature Reserve is a humble yet distinctive wetland, where shrimps, insects and marsh-dwelling creatures traverse sweeping channels and rolling green spaces. Hong Kong’s largest mangrove forest is situated towards the south of the reserve and promises unique encounters with exotic flora and fauna. Choose from one of the numerous guided tours available, or go it alone to explore the mysterious allure of Mangrove Boardwalk at your own pace.
Hong Kong Wetland Park
This 60-hectare reserve is among Hong Kong’s finest natural spaces, with everything from eco mazes and butterfly gardens to bird-watching hides and stream walks to tempt nature lovers. It’s odd to think that the hustle and bustle of the city is only 40 minutes away when you consider the almost-oceanic paradise surrounding you. Also interesting to note is the intricate yet varied ecosystem of Hong Kong Wetland Park; home to dragonflies, reptiles, fish and other more elusive species, it’s an ecological wonder in its own right. But a word of caution – make sure you pack long-sleeved tops, trousers and repellent spray if you plan to travel in the summer months, as the expansive waterways can attract mosquitos.
Tai Mo Shan Country Park
One of the most glorious aspects of Hong Kong is its skyline – a blend of structures old and new. There really is nothing like experiencing it from the dizzying heights of Tai Mo Shan, where 957 metres up, the city and all its wonders are laid bare for you. It takes around two hours to reach the summit but the path is paved and level and promises unforgettable views at the top. On your travels, you will see a landscape marked by the tea terraces of days gone by, as well as scenic beauty hard to beat on the country trail. Keep an eye out for butterflies, bamboo snakes and even the occasional cow.
Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park
Affectionately known as ‘Bay Beneath the Sea’, Hoi Ha Wan is a fantastic destination for snorkelling enthusiasts. Tucked neatly away in the hills of historic Hoi Ha, this tranquil oasis is evocative of the aquatic world lurking beneath Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan surface. More than 60 types of hard coral and 120 species of coral fish inhabit the park, so remember to pack your diving gear if you want to discover the true depths of this vast underwater kingdom. Of course, if you prefer to travel light, you can always call in at one of the many snorkel shops in the nearby village.
Kam Shan Country Park
If you’re mad about monkeys, Kam Shan is an essential addition to your itinerary. As one of Hong Kong’s first country parks, this 339-hectare space is famed for its azure reservoirs, emerald vistas and, best of all, its resident troop of macaques. Aside from interacting with these mischievous primates, a visit to Kam Shan reveals long, sloping ridges and well-preserved WWII military forts, marking the location as a symbol of Hong Kong’s contemporary wartime history.
Lantau Country Park
Lantau Country Park is Hong Kong’s largest island reserve and a breathtaking display of the region’s natural majesty. Rugged mountains climb out of cerulean pools, while bays, coves and hidden plantations offer boundless opportunities for discovery. Pui O Beach is the park’s hidden gem, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it retreat complete with a campsite, barbeque facilities, and a backdrop of steep peaks and leafy vistas. If you’re a big hiker, be sure to plan in a mini trek to Fan Lau Fort on the southwestern tip of the island, Hong Kong’s oldest military stronghold and staunch defender of the Pear River Estuary from pirates and smugglers during the Qing dynasty.
Nan Lian Garden
Travel closer to Hong Kong city in search of natural splendour, and you’ll chance upon the Nan Lian Garden and its stunning homage to seventh-century Tang dynasty architecture. Grand temple halls and icons of the Buddhist faith exemplify the region’s time-honoured spiritual traditions, while natural waterways, trees and rocks provide a striking natural backdrop. With plenty of ground to cover, you’ll be glad to know there are two delightful eateries, including a vegetarian restaurant and a traditional tea house.
Fine dining, world-class shopping, panoramic views of striking landscapes; it’s hardly surprising that Hong Kong is one of the most popular stops on an Asian cruise. This is a destination that delights travellers from across the world with its vivid contrast of ultra-modern architecture and tranquil beauty spots, providing countless opportunities for cultural discovery.