Header image courtesy of Matthias Süßen (via Wikimedia Commons)
Sprawled across 61 hectares, the Hong Kong Wetland Park embraces artificial and natural wetlands and a collection of ecological landmarks. Since its completion in 2006, it has become a popular destination for nature-lovers and shorebird photographers, with viewing facilities and themed galleries to advance your ecological learning. Read on for the Localiiz field guide to the fascinating wildlife and wonders that await you here.
Wetlands are areas where the soil is covered in water, creating a home for species in a concerted effort to maintain a complex and sturdy ecological network. Reed beds in wetlands perform a vital filtering function by accommodating microorganisms that clean the water, meanwhile allowing sediments to settle. Mangrove forests anchored to the loose marsh consolidate the soil and stabilise the shoreline against tidal waves.
Situated on the East Asian-Australiasian Flyway, Hong Kong is a significant stopover and wintering site, attracting over 100,000 migratory birds annually. Starting in the wintertime, you can catch their arrival in the Hong Kong Wetland Park, with endangered species making appearances. Rare travellers include the pin-tailed snipe, Chinese francolin, and Japanese white-eye, alongside the precious, endangered black-faced spoonbill.
Hong Kong Wetland Park is located north of Tin Shui Wai, a satellite town in the northwestern part of the New Territories. It is easily reachable by Light Rail and taxi.
Take the Tung Chung line to Nam Cheong Station.
Interchange to the Tuen Ma line to Tin Shui Wai Station (Exit E1).
Hop on Light Rail 705 and alight at Tin Sau Station.
Walk to the Hong Kong Wetland Park.
$30 for adult
$15 for people aged under 18
Free for children aged under 3
Concession tickets are also applicable to full-time students, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. If you are planning multiple visits within a year, consider the multi-entry pass.
Aside from a wide variety of rare animals, the Hong Kong Wetland Park is also home to a female crocodile, Pui Pui. Provided with food and shelter, Pui Pui usually spends her day lazing around the park. Don’t be too frightened if you see her with her mouth wide open—she is not starving or asking for food, but just trying to cool herself down in the heat.
If you happen not to see Pui Pui in her usual habitat, it’s because extremely good at hiding. In 2003, the saltwater crocodile first captured our attention when she emerged from the Shan Pui River. Although her origins remain something of a mystery, people speculate that she’s an illegal, abandoned pet who grew too big to be kept at home. Equipped with a mischievously smart brain, the young crocodile didn’t take the bait prepared by professional hunters.
After a rigorous, months-long hunt, the sneaky crocodile was captured by government officers in 2004. Her name, Pui Pui, was selected from a naming contest, honouring the river she was found in and the connotations that she is “the precious one.”
Overflowing with native and migratory birds, the Hong Kong Wetland Park is fitted with three bird-watching locations: the Riverside Hide, Fishpond Hide, and Mudflat Hide. Allowing for up-close observation, the hides are well-supplied with telescopes and field guides to help visitors locate landmark species. Plus, working from bird hides has its own advantage, as aspiring birdwatchers can observe the animals from a close distance, and shorebird photographers can reposition their cameras without startling the birds.
Please note that the bird hides are best accessed on a rising tide, when the feeding grounds are submerged by the incoming waves, pushing the waterbirds landward. Most waterbirds are scattered along the mudflats at low tide, which expose their feeding grounds.
Amidst the tranquil, watery mirrors of the Hong Kong Wetland Park, the Succession Walk takes visitors on a floral spin through enchanting blossoms. Stationed along the way are field notes made by botanical artists, presenting a closer look into the aquatic plants.
Water lilies, whose crowns reflect the spiritual meaning of peace, sprinkle the lake with their waxy leaves glistening with droplets. Reed beds also abound on the muddy shoreline, attracting flocks of birds. All this fauna and flora make the Succession Walk a photogenic spot, highlighting the ecological value of the Hong Kong Wetland Park.
If the Succession Walk serves up a spectacular, floral perambulation, the Mangrove Boardwalk captures the lives of its mudflat inhabitants. Meandering down the floating boardwalk, visitors can survey clusters of lush mangroves as they take root in the sponge-like marsh and admire their hardy adaptation to intertidal hardships.
At low tide, mudflat dwellers spice up the landscape: mudskippers hobbling on their crutch-like fins, fiddler crabs wielding their claws and digging burrows, in addition to snails, horseshoe crabs, and other enchanting species hardly found elsewhere in Hong Kong.
Peering out from its burrow, the fiddler crab is about to hit the dancefloor. A male fiddler crab will raise its giant claw and begin an ungainly dance to court other females, as though beckoning to the waves. Hence, these dancers are also called “wave-calling crabs” (招潮蟹).
Fiddler crabs make their homes across intertidal mudflats, feeding on microorganisms by sifting through the sediment with their mouths. You can differentiate their sex by looking at the claws: a male fiddler crab has one disproportionately enormous claw, whereas a female has two small claws which are normal for her size.
Observation area: Mangrove Boardwalk
Hidden away in the burrows, a great blue-spotted mudskipper may surprise you with its S-shaped, skyward leap. Perfectly adapted to the wetland environment, great blue-spotted mudskippers can hold water inside their gills and moist skin, allowing them to breathe both in or out of water. Hitting the land, the mudskippers limp forward with their “crutch-like” fins, and sometimes, males leap up to attract other females’ attention.
Clothed in mottled, dark grey skin with metallic blue dots, the mudskipper has an exceptional aerial vision with eyes perched at the top of its head. If flying predators enter its field of vision, the cautious creature will zoom off and disappear into the refuge of the burrows.
Observation area: Mangrove Boardwalk
Covered in snow-white plumage with spoon-like, inky beaks, the black-faced spoonbill is a rare sight in Hong Kong and around the world. Standing on long, thin legs, they can reach as tall as 78 centimetres, feeding on fishes and shrimps in shallow waters. Like migratory birds, the black-faced spoonbill travels to Hong Kong as a wintering site. Its annual pilgrimage starts from the Korean Peninsula and mainland China, flying southwards to warmer regions.
Despite their frequent visits, human developments have pushed the species to the verge of extinction. Endangered by habitat destruction and pollution, black-faced spoonbills are at-risk species with their numbers monitored annually. Please take extra care when you stumble upon this precious waterbird, which is extremely sensitive to human activities.
Observation areas: Viewing Gallery at Visitor Centre, Riverside Hide, Mudflat Hide
Don’t be fooled by its lizard-like appearance—the Hong Kong newt belongs to the salamander family and is the only member of Hong Kong’s tailed amphibians. Proudly bearing the name of our city, this rust-coloured creature was originally thought to be a species endemic to Hong Kong until biologists also found traces of them in Guangdong.
Earthworms and tadpoles make up their diet, and Hong Kong newts primarily stay in mountain brooks. Each of their bellies is marked with a unique orange-red pattern, functioning like human fingerprints. Newts are born with finger-like gills that wrap around their necks. As they reach adulthood, the “baby shower cap” gradually disappears.
Observation area: Anywhere near streams