At Sassy Mama we’re always on the lookout for new and fun ways to keep our little ones amused. Whilst Hong Kong is great, we all know that apartment living does present its challenges, and as most of us don’t have the luxury of a big backyard, activities are essential to stop everyone climbing the walls. So we give you Sassy Mama Family Field Trips: fascinating and family-friendly activities in and around Hong Kong, handpicked to prevent cabin fever and tried and tested for you! Guaranteed to keep even the pickiest customers entertained!
This is how I found myself up a hill in the deepest, darkest corner of the New Territories last Sunday. The intrepid family fieldtrippers were two 30-something parents (thankfully not hung over!) and a 2 ½ year old girl called Gracie. We ventured out to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden from sunny Mid Levels and I’m pleased to say that the sun didn’t leave us all day, making for great conditions to explore.
First off, the history bit. If history’s not your thing then feel free to skip this paragraph, but I found it interesting! Two brothers; Sir Horace and Lord Lawrence Kadoorie founded their namesake Farm and Botanic Garden in 1956. Their aim back then was to help the ever-swelling farming population made up of refugees fleeing civil war on the Mainland to become self supporting through agricultural aid and training. Since the decline of farming in Hong Kong, Kadoorie Farm’s focus has changed to conservation, environmental education and the rehabilitation of injured animals.
So, back to the present day, and given the name, we had promised Gracie farm animals… this was unfortunately our first disappointment. Don’t go expecting to see lots of cows, sheep and pigs (although there are pigs, they were otherwise engaged when we went to visit with just a sign telling us to come back later,) and definitely don’t go telling your 2 year old that they will be seeing farm animals, or you’re in for a whole day of “where are the animals, Mummy?” The ‘animals’ here are more a collection of creatures that need rehabilitation or have been donated to, or rescued by, the Farm.
There are the wild boar and red muntjac, whose homes have really good close-up viewing windows; pigs, (apparently on holiday); flamingos, whose colour never disappoints; an owl sanctuary, where we got a good close up of ‘Bosco’ although his other friends seemed to have taken the day off; a monkey haven; a reptile lookout which was disappointing, with not a promised iguana in sight, and one very small turtle which was really more of a large terrapin; and a bird of prey aviary that had good close ups of a sea eagle and some kites. There is also a butterfly garden that we didn’t manage to get to.
One of the vegetable patches with explanations on how to plant, and get the most growth from, your veg garden… interesting for any would-be gardeners in your gang.
Now, as it’s on a mountain, the visit does involve a lot of uphill so maybe not the best if your tot is in a stroller. We did struggle at times with the terrain and couldn’t really enjoy the off road nature trails. If you’re taking a toddler, it’s probably better to use a backpack baby carrier. I would probably say that it’s better for older kids, as they are better able to understand the educational and conservational side of what Kadoorie Farm is trying to achieve, and would enjoy exploring and discovering the nature trails, streams, ponds, woodlands and vegetable terraces.
There is a shuttle bus that stops at various points up the hill, and takes you to the summit (otherwise it’s a 1.5 hour hike), so even if you do have a little tyke in tow, you can get to the top pretty easily to enjoy the views and a moment of quiet inner contemplation (toddler permitting).
Tai Mo Shan Foothills
We had lunch at Kadoorie’s only café: the Sun Garden Café, which offers vegetarian snacks such as pizza, toasties, spring rolls and basic meals (spaghetti or noodles). It’s nice enough, but you may prefer to take your own packed lunch and make a real day of it.
From Mid Levels it took us approximately 1 hour each way to get to Kadoorie Farm. We did cheat by getting taxis to and from Hung Hom to get on the East Rail line, although were later told by a taxi driver on the way back that we were crazy (in the nicest possible way!) and that it’s far quicker to take the West Rail line when travelling to and from HK Island. I could feel my hubby’s eyes rolling at this point… my sense of direction is often left wanting. We also took taxis rather than the 64k bus to and from the Farm to Tai Po Market, making our journey time a little quicker. Full details of how to get to Kadoorie Farm are here.
So, although we, and in particular Gracie, were disappointed with the lack of farm animals, Kadoorie Farm really is a beautiful place. Set in over 148 hectares, located on the northern slopes and foothills of Tai Mo Shan (Hong Kong’s highest mountain), if you fancy escaping the concrete jungle, getting your kids out of the city and back to nature then this is a great option. You’ll feel like you have been transplanted into a different country, leaving Hong Kong’s famous concrete far behind.
Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden
Address: Lam Kam Road, Tai Po, New Territories, Hong Kong.
Tel: (852) 2483 7200.
Open daily from 9.30am, with last admittance at 4pm.
If you’re planning on going over Chinese New Year check opening times as there are planned closure days over CNY.