The side of Hong Kong you never knew – Top nature reserves in HK

Hong Kong – Skyscrapers, busy streets, cosmopolitan city – the description is what one would associate with Hong Kong. But that’s just the Hong Kong that most people know, there is more to this neon-lit metropolis that meets the eye. Not many people know this but three-quarters of its 1,104 square kilometers of land is actually rural and nearly pristine with emerald hills and cotton-soft beaches.

Here are some of the top nature reserves in Hong Kong:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to C J B Scholten

1. Tai Mo Shan Country Park – Being the highest peak in Hong Kong’s New Territories, the views from the top are simply spectacular. On a good day, visitors would be able to see most of Kowloon, Victoria Harbour and even Hong Kong Island. As Hong Kong is usually hot and humid, people from the city make special trips to Tai Mo Shan to look at icicles during those rare winter spells. This 957 meters tall mountain is also home to Hong Kong’s highest waterfall, the 35-meter Long Falls and the park has over 100 species of birds and butterflies, and as well as tons of snakes.

Getting there: There are many hiking trails in Tai Mo Shan Country Park. Check out the AFCD Tai Mo Shan page for more details.

2. Kam Shan Country Park – Located in the ranges north of Kowloon, Hong Kong, Kam Shan Country Park is Hong Kong’s own monkey haven. Known to locals as Kam Shan, or Monkey Hill to most locals, Kam Shan Country Park is a famous macaques kingdom in Hong Kong. The macaques are the largest group of mammals in the park. The most significant species occurring here are the Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) and the Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis). Feeding the monkeys is prohibited by law and is ill advised as the monkeys can be quite dangerous when they become aggressive. In fact there are many stories of monkeys who attempt to steal food right out of people’s bags and hands.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, credit to Germandemat

The monkeys aside, the rest of Kam Shan is quite verdant and inviting. Panoramic views can be enjoyed from the slopes of Golden Hill and several places along the western ridge at the park. From these vantage points, the whole length of Smugglers Ridge, Tai Mo Shan, Needle Hill, Sha Tin New Town, Lion Rock and Beacon Hill can be seen.

Getting there: Take bus 72, 81, 86B, or a red minibus to Tai Po Road near Piper’s Hill. 

3. Kiu Tsui Country Park – The Kiu Tsui Country Park archipelago is Hong Kong’s very own tropical island vacation destination with the beaches being the most popular attraction. On a typical day, the beaches are full of people and the vista is of an endless aquamarine sea dotted with millionaires’ white yachts. Not surprising considering that the beaches have full facilities, including toilets, showers and barbecue pits, making this the perfect tropical getaway for city folks. Getting to Kiu Tsui Country Park is pretty easy as well, hop onto a private ferry service along the Sai Kung promenade and get off at Hap Mun Bay or at Kiu Tsui.

4. Lantau South Country Park – One of two rural parks on Lantau Island, the Lantau peak is the best place in Hong Kong to watch the sunrise. Many locals hike to the summit around four in the morning and with the hike usually being two hours, arrive just in time to catch the dawn of a new day. A surprisingly popular activity, given the unearthly hour to take a hike, it is considered one of Hong Kong’s most unique experiences in nature. If you don’t want to be hanging around all night or morning should we say, you can spend a night at a nearby hostel and start climbing at 4 a.m.

Getting there: Take the ferry to Mui Wo at Central Pier 6. At Mui Wo Pier bus terminus, there are bus routes to all parts of Lantau. Or take the MTR to Tung Chung station where you can take Ngong Ping 360 cable car or bus to Ngong Ping. Lantau Peak sunrise trail entrance is near the Wisdom path.

5. Tai Po Kau Special Area – This wilderness preserve in Tai Po area of the New Territories in northern Hong Kong and is regarded by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and other bird enthusiasts as one of the best locations for seeing forest birds in the country. It is also preferred by them for other reasons such as having less foot traffic. Unlike country parks, there are significantly less recreational facilities available at this nature reserve therefore not as popular with your main recreational tourist. With full preservation, trail walkers can spot exotic birds, butterflies, other critters, indigenous flowers and fruits.

So if you ever feel that you need a break from all the sights and sounds in the city, head onto Tai Po Kau Special Area and immerse yourself in all that nature has to offer.

Getting there: Take buses 72, 72A, 73A, 74A, or green mini-bus 28K at Tai Wo MTR station, alight at Chung Tsai Yuen Bus Stop and you should see the entrance to Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve. 

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