Middleburgh - Hong Kong Zoological and Botanic Gardens
I have taken recently to visiting Hong Kong Park early on Sunday mornings when it's cool before the masses turn up (figuatively and actually). I was rather lukewarm about it before but I have now changed my mind. I was in particulatr less than enthusiastic about the zoological exhibits comparing them unfavouarbly to those in London Zoo and the Botanical exhibits didn't excite me when contrasted with those in Kew Gardens, London or indeed suburban gardens in Melbourne let alone rursal Australia.
The change in outlook was due to fact that I visited the Aviary which frankly is every bit as good as the one in London Zoo. Hong Kong has according to the Biodiverity database 465 species of birds (although no seagulls). Even after 10 years I still cannot get over the fact that I can look out of my window window and watch Chinese Black Kites majestically soaring in the thermals between the tower blocks. Of course wild birds are viewed with some suspicion here as potential carriers of HiN5 (Avian Bird flu) and at one point the aviary was closed to the public.
Named after a former colonial governor the aviary was constructed over a natutral valley within Hong Kong Park just behind Admiralky. Open to public in late 1992 the aviary has an elevated walkway through the tree canopy where visitors can view the valley, trees, plants and birds from various elevations and different angles. The architects made use of four giant arches spanning the entire valley to support a suspended stainless steel mesh mostly hidden by trees thus making the aviary resemble a natural environment. The area enclosed is approximately 3000 square metres, with its highest point 30 metres above the valley floor. It features a collection of 800 birds comprising 100 species indigenous to Southeast Asia,including many which are on the CITES endangered/at risk lists. ie doing it's part to protect and conserve.
Early Sunday morning most of the visitors are armed with seriously expensive SRL cameras and awesome telephoto lenses.To put it in David Attenborough terms "stooped cameramen may be seen in the morning mists slowly shuffling forward like land crabs down the walkways, camera panning from side to side as if sniffing for prey in the tree canopy and ground cover. When sighted they pausw mucles tensing and the telltale sound of a lens zooming in may be heard" No doubt with all their kit their photos are much better than mine To be honest even when I have my camera with me I forget to take photos and frankly I have some work to do on my shuffle.
Apart from the birds in the aviary there are some with antisocial tendences caged elsewhere in the park and over the road (actually accessable by an underpass) is a small mammal/reptile collection similarly detained.
And as is the way with this things the inmates are always either
Facing the other way or
lurking in the dead spot (relative to wherever I am standing)
Again the collection is regional in character and contains endangered/at risk species ie whilst small it has local relevence. The key to appreciating I have realised is to come often to spend a few moments syncing your inner self with nature. Its a great place to come if you work in the city and want to find inner calm. Not however the place to come if you want a one day safari in the city (go to singapore for that!) or if you want photos
I was told recently that I had visited the conservatory after attending a wedding at the nearby Registry Office in Cotton Tree Drive ( so called after a tree in the Botanic Gardens). I don't remember - must have been preoccupied that day!!! Actually the Botanic Gardens are a favorite venue for weddding photos.
The conservatory consists of three three sections (Dispay plants;Humid Plant House; Dry Plant House) and outside some water gardens. Although I like a good pond (balanced eco-systems and all that ) I am always suspicious of "standing water" in HK because of the Mozzies. Actually the conservatory has a area for butterflies and dragonflies and I believe the Mozzies are lobbying Legco for equal treatment.
The Dry Plant House is a find. whilst not as bad as Singapore Hong Kong is frequently uncomfortably humid. If you want to escape the humidity the normal strategy is to head for a shopping Mall or cinema which will be air conditioned but invariably freezing cold. The Dry Plant House on the other hand will be dry (we are talking really dry !!) and warm. Thankfully its the middle section whichj means that you go through the Humid Plant House to rehydrate and acclimatise before stepping back into Hong Kong.
One of the things I like aout Hong Kong is that it is so "civilized". On my last visit to HK Park a couple of weeks ago there was this lovely ever so polite notice outside one of the buildings warning about "Snakes". (remember we are basically in the heart of the city). In short it mentioned that this was snake "season" and that it wasn't advisable the play in flower beds or venture into (or behind) the shrubberies and if by any chance we should see a snake we shouldn't try and catch it - as if we would - Whilst most HK snakes are harmless, there are 14 venomous land snake species, among which 8 can inflict fatal bites.
Posted at 12/16/2009 05:05:00 pm by David MiddleburghPermalink