Last Wednesday, 11 January, Su had an urge to visit the Hong Kong Wetland Park, which both of us haven’t been to. Indeed, I was not too much aware of its existence. My knowledge and experience of wetlands were limited to the one at Deep Bay which I had visited as an undergrad, bracing the cold and damp for a field trip on a wintry day, and to the Mai Po nature reserve which apparently were managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature in Hong Kong and with which I had been involved at sometime in my capacity as a Rotarian to raise funds or create awareness for the part they played in conservation in general and bird watching in particular. Su did some research and was confident that we could drive there in less than 40 minutes, under her guidance.
It was a warm and sunny day; and my electric car indicated a range of 160 km; so off we went, arriving at the Park shortly after 3pm, without using the toll tunnel. Later, we checked that the return trip was under 65 km, and we won’t get there much faster using the toll tunnel, which would have been somewhat expensive. On arrival at the car park, the attendant showed us where to park – parking spaces are actually rather limited, but it was a weekday and so on – and where the park entrance proper was, with emphases that the park closes at 5pm when everyone must leave. Parking fees were HK$8 an hour. There was no one waiting at the Ticketing windows; and the staff were very polite and helpful. Su decided that we would each get a six-month pass. Being over 65, mine is cheaper, at HK$25, but hers didn’t too much either, at HK$50. The standard admission fee is HK$30 for each entry, half the rate for seniors and free for children under three. It was thus we had a great afternoon, enjoying the warm sun and fresh air and learning a lot on wetlands, birds in general and migratory birds in particular as well as the resident birds. There are plenty of plants and trees, all labelled carefully, boardwalks over the marshlands, plants and insects in water and at the water margins. The place was serene, calm, peaceful and picturesque. The leaves on some tallish trees were turning red, which added further tonal shades, while the extensive stretches of water lilies would have attracted Claude Monet to paint more canvasses. The water lilies had mostly wilted, but many still stood upright in the waters with dignity and from a distance and against the pine trees appeared to be a group of birds or cranes looking for food.
I learned later that the Park was first opened in May 2006 and is financed and managed by the Government, specifically the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and the Hong Kong Tourism Board to expand the ecologically significant area to a wetland ecotourism attraction. The Park features the famous Pui Pui Home; and for the benefit of the initiated and the unaware, Pui Pui is the name of a female saltwater crocodile found in the gutters and captured in Shan Pui River in Yuen Long in June 2004 and was estimated to be about four years old at the time. She was moved to the Park in August 2008 into her landscaped enclosure and has since become a local celebrity. The species can live up to 100 years. Other features include special species of crabs, bird watch towers, mangrove boardwalk, walks by the streams, rivers and in the wild, and an extremely educational, informative and user-friendly Visitor Centre. The Park apparently is well staffed and very well maintained. We left before 5pm and were back in Mai Foo by 5:30pm.
The next day, Su decided to visit the Park again with more sophisticated cameras and by public transport. She had to do it by herself because I had other appointments. She was overjoyed – at least that was what she said in her blogs – and took photos of the migratory birds just as the Park was about to close. Su was also very much impressed by the liveliness and population density of Tin Shui Wai, and of course the Light Rail Transit. The return trip cost her HK$3.8 and no more. Two days later, on Saturday, she decided that I should share the public transport and bird watching experience and got me up early. The plan was to return Mei Foo shortly after 1pm in time for the technicians from Cable TV to fix a faulty wire; and we did. It was thus we had already got our money worth for the Park Pass in less than a week, but I am sure that Su would visit it again, and again.