Header image courtesy of @nuttraveller (via Instagram)
If you’ve hiked around Hong Kong a lot, chances are you’ve noticed mangroves—forests of small shrubs or trees that grow in intertidal areas—dotted around Lantau Island, the New Territories, and even Hong Kong Island. Not only are these coastal forests lovely to look at, they’re also wonderful protectors of nature. As their own complex ecosystems, mangroves are crucial for sustaining biodiversity, and their dense roots provide invaluable defence against erosion from storms.
While the number of mangrove swamps in Hong Kong aren’t nearly as high as they used to be (with many having been cleared for land development) we actually have over 60 patches left—and eight different native mangrove species. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite places to view mangroves on nature excursions so that you can appreciate these natural beauties for yourself.
Remember when the “natural infinity pool” (read: freshwater catchment no one should have been swimming in) in Tai O was everyone’s favourite Instagram backdrop a few summers ago? If you also hiked to Man Cheung Po, chances are that you walked right past Yim Tin mangrove, a 20-hectare forest next to the pedestrian bridge from Tai O to Yi O. When the tide is high, the walk from Tai O is a thing of beauty—verdant mangroves on the left, sparkling blue waters on the right, and the 200-year-old village of Yi O off in the distance, framed by banana trees and lush green forests. On pleasant days, you can often find people fishing from the bridge, taking advantage of the diversity of marine life just under their feet.
As a protected marine park, Yan Chau Tong—also known as Double Haven—is one of the best places to marvel at Hong Kong’s natural beauty. But did you know that mangroves are responsible for Yan Chau Tong’s protected status? All eight species of mangroves in Hong Kong can be found in these waters, as well as two variants of seagrass—all of which act as nursery grounds for the local marine life. The mangroves are best viewed on the walk from Wu Kau Tang to Sam A Wan—and wouldn’t you know it, we have a guide on that exact walk!
There are many reasons to visit the “ghost island” of Yim Tin Tsai—to explore the abandoned Hakka village, visit the working salt pans that give the area its name, or just get out of the city. You can also add viewing mangroves to the list, as there’s a small, well-kept cluster right behind the salt pans. You can view them from the salt pans, or—if you’re feeling adventurous—you can even kayak past them while paddling around the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. Find out how here.
Despite the fact that Lai Chi Wo is also an ancient Hakka village, it’s a far cry from Yim Tin Tsai’s ramshackle charm. Located inside Plover Cove Country Park, Lai Chi Wo is a well-preserved and functioning walled village inside the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, meaning that you can take part in cultural activities, see rare geological formations, and explore some mangroves. Like in Yan Chau Tong, you can find all of Hong Kong’s native mangrove species in Lai Chi Wo—and it even has the largest mangrove trees in the territory. The trees, which are draped in gigantic climbing plants, have a primitive, almost prehistoric look to them which we like to think of as being gnarly in a good way. Find out more about Lai Chi Wo (including how to get there!) here.
Located in Deep Bay, at the northwestern tip of Hong Kong, you’ll find the Mai Po Marshes, a protected wetland managed by the WWF. The area, which is also known as the Mai Po Nature Reserve or the Mai Po Wetlands, is an important conservation area for over 350 species of wetland birds, as well as other mammals, reptiles, and insects. You’ll also find over 380 hectares of intertidal shrubbery here, making it the largest swath of mangroves in Hong Kong, and the sixth-largest protected mangrove stand in China. Seven out of Hong Kong’s eight native mangrove species are found in Mai Po, providing vital nursery grounds for fish and shrimp, which in turn provides valuable food for the local wildlife.
Not to be outdone, the Hong Kong Wetland Park in Tin Shui Wai is one of your best chances to get up close and personal with some mangroves (at least without kayaking anywhere). The 61-hectare wetland reserve, which comprises swamps, streams, ponds, farmlands, and even a crocodile enclosure, has a dedicated mangrove boardwalk, where you can view four of Hong Kong’s native mangrove species up close. From your vantage point, you should be able to view some of that biodiversity we’ve been harping on about—from tiny mudskippers to adorable crabs, and more.