A few weeks ago (what can I say? I’m tardy), we finally ventured up to Hong Kong Wetland Park in Tin Shui Wai. I say “finally”, as this particular day out has been on my to-do list for, oooh, about four years and counting now, but I’ve always been put off by the process of actually getting there.
Little did I know that the journey is half the adventure…
Setting off bright and early one Saturday morning, we made our way by bus from Discovery Bay to the catchily-titled Tung Chung Development Pier. (Fun fact – this tiny and little-known spot has actually made a guest appearance on this blog twice before – once in our review of Hong Kong DolphinWatch, and the other as a fun alternative route to a foodie family day out in Tai O). Basically, all you need to know about Tung Chung Pier is that, unless you live on Lantau Island, you’re unlikely ever to stumble across it, however if you do somehow find your way there, (did you, perhaps, catch the wrong bus this morning?), you’re probably destined for a day out, as its ferry services don’t really go anywhere that could be deemed conventionally useful.
Anyway, we hopped aboard the 10.30am sailing to Tuen Mun Pier, and it was the ideal way to start our day with two transport-mad kids. The older style ferry has a canvas roof with open sides, which made for some fun and quite blustery ship and plane-spotting on our 25 minute crossing.If you have the time (and, let’s be frank, the inclination), I’d really recommend catching the ferry, not least for the great views of planes taking off and landing just across the water at Chek Lap Kok. You can also pick it up from its origin at Tai O, where it calls at Sha Lo Wan and Tung Chung before eventually terminating in Tuen Mun. Adult fares cost $18, and you can pay with Octopus on board, so it’s a cheap and cheerful novelty too.
Docking in Tuen Mun, it became immediately apparent to us that we had grossly miscalculated just how far it actually is to the Wetland Park. After a quick assessment of our public transport options (the Light Rail network runs this route but takes a loooong time), we decided to bite the bullet and call an Uber, which set us back around $160 and took around 25 minutes. This served only to confirm my suspicion that the Light Rail journey between the pier and the park would have probably been too long for an impatient toddler ready to bust out of his pushchair, and so we were happy enough to splash out.
Arriving at the Wetland Park, we took a quick pitstop to eat our packed lunch on the sloping lawn outside the main entrance (this is uncharacteristically well-organised for us), allowing the kids time to run free before we began the afternoon’s adventuring. There’s a small maze here that was a surprising hit with biggest boy, although his little bro got a bit intimidated by the shrubbery being taller than he is and had to be fished out.
The Hong Kong Wetland Park takes up 61 hectares of the northern New Territories, and is one of quite a few Hong Kong ecotourism sites that often fly well under most tourists’ radar. Admission is cheap (see below), and it’s a fabulous place for cooped-up apartment-dwelling lunatics like my children to stretch their legs. Of course, as it’s a nature reserve, whooping and hollering is firmly discouraged unless you’re an endangered marsh bird, but, assuming you can keep them reasonably tame, they can roam free in nature all day long for less than the price of a Starbucks.
Of particular interest was the mangrove boardwalk, a floating bridge that runs through a dense plantation where we found loads of mudskippers, and the butterfly garden, which was teeming with brightly-coloured butterflies, ladybirds and beetles. Young Master T-T spend a happy half-hour here taking what we later discovered was approximately 784 bug photos on Daddy’s phone.
There are three, three-storey high wooden bird hides dotted throughout the park, with binoculars and telescopes allowing for great views of the various species that live within the wetlands. There are also plenty of helpful pictures so that you can actually figure out what you’re looking at, along with plenty of factual information about the park’s history.
Finally, right by the main entrance, you’ll find Pui Pui, the park’s celebrity-in-residence. This hefty salt water crocodile was fished out of the Shan Pui River back in 2003, and has been resident at the park since 2006 in a purpose-built enclosure. Nobody is quite sure of her provenance, but it’s suspected that she was kept as an illegal pet by someone clearly too stupid to understand that tiny reptile hatchlings tend to get bigger, and will inevitably grow out of a Hong Kong apartment bathtub. Sigh. Anyway, Pui Pui draws the biggest crowds of all, although she seems distinctly unbothered by her A-list status.
After close to three hours of strolling around, we headed back to the main visitor centre, only to notice a bonus attraction – a large indoor soft play room. I did feel that this was somewhat gilding the lily, but happily they limit kids to 15-minute slots, so Mr T-T and I to took the weight off our feet while the boys mined their seemingly endless stores of energy.
Eventually it was time to deploy our own catch-and-release programme and return our wild things to the outside world. We decided to tackle the Light Rail on the way back, catching the 706 train from Wetland Park Station to Tin Wing Station, where we changed for the 751 train to Tin Shui Wai MTR Station. From there, we caught the West Rail line to Nam Cheong Station where we changed again for the Tung Chung line to Sunny Bay, before catching a bus back home to Discovery Bay. Exhausted just reading that? Imagine how we felt.
And, to be honest, the schlepping was my only issue with the entire day. I were to visit again, I would personally choose to book a taxi, however it appears I’d be roundly outvoted by my kids, who were absolutely delighted with their bus-ferry-car-light rail-MTR-bus adventure. Talk about seeing things through the eyes of a child…
Costs: $30 for adults, $15 for kids up to 17, under-threes go free
Opening hours: Daily, 10am to 5pm. Closed Tuesdays (except Public Holidays).