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February 2000

Natural heritage of Hong Kong

Alternative tourist sites

By Samson Lam

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Hong Kong is well-known as a concrete jungle. But the Hong Kong Tourist Association now is telling tourists to expect something different from this “City of Life”.

What the Tourist Association is promoting are the 23 country parks, three marine parks and one marine reserve, occupying about 40 percent of the land in Hong Kong.

“Lush lowlands, bamboo and pine forests, mountains with panoramas of the sea and secluded beaches are the little known alter ego of Hong Kong,” said Ms Donna Mongan, assistant public relations manager of the Hong Kong Tourist Association.

A survey undertaken by the Hong Kong Tourist Association in 1998 found that around 15 percent of visitors are interested in taking part in outdoor and hiking activities in Hong Kong.

Said Ms Mongan: “Surveys have shown that a destination’s heritage and environment attractions are very popular amongst tourists all over the world.”

The Hong Kong Tourist Association plans to promote the concept of “Green Hong Kong”, or “Green Tourism” by organizing tours to the countryside, bringing people to the wilderness areas and the hundreds of kilometers of trails in Hong Kong.

There are numerous tours on Sai Kung Peninsula, a place is known as the “Back Garden of Hong Kong”, featuring some of the finest scenery.

“People may not associate Hong Kong with green tourism,” said Ms Amy Chan, the Hong Kong Tourist Association executive director. “But our country parks are not only beautiful, but also easily accessible by public transport from urban areas.”

“Most visitors who take walking tours in Hong Kong are surprised by the beauty and diversity of the natural scenery, which are close to urban areas,” said she.

These tours are tailor-made and not too strenuous, thus their popularity is growing fast.

Elementary hikers may consider a gentle and accessible walk from Peak Tram station to the Pok Fu Lam Country Park.

This beguiling excursion features striking landforms dating back to the Jurassic Period, ravines and woodland.

For the more athletic, a walk to Sharp Peak on Sai Kung Peninsula may be a good choice. This 5-hour hike takes walkers to the rugged countryside along picturesque coastlines.

People who do not know the places very well are not totally clueless, though. Every tour is led by a tour leader, who must take training and familiarization courses.

“Our leaders are very familiar with Hong Kong’s country parks and generally have an educational background in botany or environment. They are also fit because they have walks regularly,” said Ms Mongan.

Dr. Martin Williams is one of the trained tour leaders.

“I have been leading nature tours for more than 10 years, and I find the job very interesting and full of fun,” said he.

He added that he enjoys being a nature tour leader not only because he has genuine interest in hiking, but he can also help promote the idea of conservation.

He said the tourists are usually surprised when they saw the beautiful scenery.

He said, “One time, I hiked with three Americans in Dragon Back in Shek O, they found the view amazing and breathtaking.”

Now, there are some more “Green Hong Kong” tours on trial.

For example, the Land Between Tour aims at incorporating nature with heritage and exploring Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong, and Luk Keng Village near the boundary of China.

And the Mai Po Wetlands Tours include visits to Mai Po, the a resting and feeding ground for migratory birds, a watching tour of the East Asian-Australian Flyway, and a visit to Inner Deep Bay.

The Hong Kong Tourist Association also co-organized the Hiking Festival 2000 with the Agriculture and Fisheries Department. The Hiking Festival 2000 took place from October1999 to January 2000.

“It is the peak season for hiking in Hong Kong as the weather is excellent for outdoor activities,” Ms Mongan said.

The hills in Hong Kong sprang to life on 5 December 1999, as thousands took the trails in Pak Tam Country Park on Sai Kung Peninsula.

There are already hundreds of well-established countryside and heritage trails in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Tourist Association is working closely with the Government and other relevant bodies on enhancement programs.

“Our countryside can brighten our image in overseas markets,” said Mr. Mike Rowse, the Commissioner for Tourism.







leisur02.jpg (53774 bytes)

(Courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourist Association)

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(Courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourist Association)

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(Courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourist Association)

Internet Links:
Hong Kong Tourist Association
Agriculture and Fisheries and Conservation Department

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