Hong Kong Hiking Escapes

Mai Po Nature Reserve
By Katharine Fletcher & Eric Fletcher
  |  Gorp.com

The Mai Po Nature Reserve is located in the northwest sector of Hong Kong's New Territories, surrounded on all sides by industry and forests of tall apartment buildings.

Wetlands comprise crucial habitats for wildlife throughout the world, and Mai Po provides essential resting and feeding grounds for migrating wetland species. This sanctuary was created in 1984 by the World Wildlife Fund; 11 years later it became a wetlands of international significance under the Ramsar Convention of 1995. Overlooking Deep Bay, the reserve still faces the threat of pollution from mainland China.

We spent four hours on an extremely leisurely exploration of Mai Po's extensive network of walking trails around intertidal shrimp ponds — called gei wei — built in the 1940s. Today the 1,500-hectare (3,700-acre) site is home to an excellent educational center, several"hides," or large blinds, from which you can observe wading birds like the black-winged stilt, and a raised wooden boardwalk through a mangrove swamp full of purple blossoms.

Because of the spring migration, April offers superb sightings of extremely rare species like the black-faced spoonbill, which feeds and rests here prior to flying to its Korean nesting grounds. Seeing these birds feeding in this tiny sanctuary with the looming backdrop of apartment towers is an awesome sight. Our guide, Samson So, explained that the 72 individuals we counted represent 25 percent of the world's entire population of black-faced spoonbills. Amid the group were several individuals with antennae affixed to their rear ends indicating radio tracking devices. (We wondered if they interfered with the mating ritual.)

Mai Po has over 340 species of birds, 25 of which are considered endangered.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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