Animal retreats in our own backyard.
All kids love animals and, as parents, it’s important to teach the little ones about our world and how to preserve and care for all of the wonderful creatures in it. Did you know that today is World Wildlife Day? Why not celebrate it with the family by taking your children to some of the great places in Hong Kong where you can view, touch and teach children about the wide variety of creatures found inside and outside its concrete jungle.
It’s also a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the temperate weather, as well as visit some parts of Hong Kong that you and your family may not have ventured out to yet. Here are some of the best places in the city to see (and sometimes touch!) a variety of critters.
Editor’s note: We at Sassy Mama care very much about how animals are treated and housed. If you visit any of the locations mentioned here and see something you don’t like, you can contact the Hong Kong SPCA on its 24-hour hotline: 2711 1000 or contact the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
Please also note that some of these places (or certain sections) are currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, so make sure to call and check what’s open before visiting.
Read more: 50 Things To Do With Kids In Hong Kong
Kadoorie Farm is an active organic farm, garden and wildlife sanctuary that initially started as a way to provide agricultural aid to poor farmers in the New Territories in 1956. The farm’s main focus now is on nature conservation, holistic education and sustainable living. The farm covers 148 hectares of land and walking trails on the hillsides of Tai Po. While the steep inclines might be a challenge for young kids or the elderly, Kadoorie Farm offers a shuttle bus tour to make sure no one misses out.
The location is serene and beautiful and there are some curious and cute creatures here that are worth seeing: hawks, owls, parrots, boars, small reptiles, alligators, flamingos and even a couple of Asian leopard cats! The farm’s animals are all rescued and unable to return to their wild settings, but the enclosures are very well maintained and mimic their natural environment well. You can also visit the exclusively vegetarian cafe, with the ingredients coming directly from the farm. It’s a fun place to talk to your kids about animal conservation and food sustainability.
Admission: Adult – $30; child – $15; children under 5 or adults over 60: Free
There are more than 600 birds and 70 different species at the Edward Youde Bird Aviary, which has been open to the public since 1992. The birds here are mostly indigenous to the region and there is a raised walkway so you can catch all the birds in action without disturbing them. The facility is enclosed by 3,000 square metres of mesh, with an emphasis on preserving the already existing trees and foliage. It tries to mask the mesh by adding further greenery inside and outside the aviary to recreate a rainforest setting.
Located in Tin Shui Wai in the New Territories, Hong Kong Wetland Park is a conservation, education and tourism facility. The park holds 61 hectares of diverse wetland as well as a modern and beautiful visitor centre, exhibition galleries, theatre, souvenir shop and indoor play area. It’s home to a variety of birds, insects, turtles, rodents, small mammals, amphibians, fish, spiders and even a crocodile named Pui Pui! It’s extremely family and wheelchair-friendly, and with the size and range of activities available you can easily make a day of it.
Admission: Adults – $30; children – $15
The Mai Po Nature Reserve is a World Wildlife Federation (WWF) area and is listed under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance of Hong Kong, so while individual access is restricted, you can book guided tours to view the beautiful marshes. If anyone in your family is a bird lover then it’s not to be missed. Over 90,000 birds naturally migrate to the Mai Po Nature Reserve every winter and 35 of these species are of global conservation concern. There are also some beautiful mangroves and a vibrant insect, fish and mudskipper population.
There are four different tours available, with varying prices and large discounts for early bookings and larger numbers. Check out Mai Po Nature Reserve’s website for further details.
Mai Po Nature Reserve, Mai Po, Yuen Long, New Territories, Hong Kong, 2526 1011, www.wwf.org.hk
Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park is another WWF offering here in Hong Kong. The marine park has over 60 different species of gorgeous corals and 120 different fish species. It offers an educational guided tour on its glass-bottomed boat so that the coral and fish can be viewed safely, as well as showing a video accompaniment about the threat of plastic in our oceans. The tour is for kids aged five and over with all kids under 18 required to have parental accompaniment. The park is a 15-minute walk from Hoi Ha Village or a short minibus ride (for a small fee, the park offers round-trip shuttle pickups from Sai Kung).
Admission: $150 with discounts for multiple tickets. For an additional $100 per person, lunch can be provided and for an additional $60 per person, you can get round trip transportation from Sai Kung to the marine park.
Departing from the Auberge Discovery Bay Activity Centre every day of the week, Discovery Bay Horse-Drawn Carriages is a perfect excursion for your little ones or horse-crazy kids. The carriages hold up to four people and the scenic trips are ten minutes in length. The carriages are drawn by two Percheron mares or Belgian geldings. This is a good opportunity to introduce your children to larger animals and get first-hand knowledge from the people that work with them.
Admission: $300 per ride
Kam Shan Country Park is the place to go if you want to see monkeys. It has some beautiful hiking near the Kowloon Reservoir and is famous for its macaque population. Golden Hill Road, or Monkey Hill, is the main path through the park and is one of the best spots to see the monkeys. They can be cheeky and can come quite close, so be careful with food that you have out in the open. It’s important that the monkeys do not eat human food in order to stay wild. Kam Shan Country Park is also home to many birds and squirrels, so it’s a great way to get the family outside and to show them some real wild animals.
Kam Shan Country Park, Golden Hill Road, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong, www.afcd.gov.hk
Did you know that Hong Kong has pink dolphins? These rare and endangered animals have been spotted in Hong Kong over the last 300 years and are under threat due to their polluted and crowded habitats. Hong Kong Dolphin Watch started up in 1995 to provide educational tours to the public and to support further research on these little-known animals. Tours take place on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and are around 3 to 4 hours in length. The trip includes sightings, a talk on the environment and what you can do to help, as well as a visit to its souvenir shop to commemorate your trip.
Admission: Adults – $460; children under 12 – $230; children under 3 – $50
Have a horse-crazy kid? Get them riding at the Clearwater Bay Equestrian Centre. The CEEC is a private member-based club that offers riding options to non-members. It has an amazing view of the sea off Lobster Bay, with highly trained staff and British Horse Society-approved training. Non-members are able to book private lessons, one-hour rides and assessments. It even offers a package for children between the ages of four and five. Click here for a price list for non-members.
If your kids want to get hands-on experience with some fascinating critters than talk to Goatee Toni at Jurassic Garage. Goatee Toni is a herpetologist and conservationist that has been practising hands-on presentations since 1987. Jurassic Garage is a mobile educational and hands-on experience that caters to schools, kids and adults parties, as well as photoshoots with an emphasis on education, not entertainment. It has everything from snakes, hedgehogs, iguanas, giant tortoises and more. For a full list of its animals, click here. Jurassic Garage even offers phobia treatment and snake removal services.
The Tuen Mun Reptile House is a small gem in the New Territories. Located inside Tuen Mun Park, which is conveniently beside the MTR, it holds 52 different live exhibits with 29 different species of reptiles from around the world. The Reptile House has an indoor and an outdoor courtyard exhibit in which you can view a wide variety of reptiles like jungle carpet pythons, veiled chameleons, boa constrictors, Thai-water dragons and more.
Rumour has it, that this cat café is one of the oldest in the world! Cat Island Café, formerly known as Ah Meow and Cat Store, has been open in Hong Kong for 18 years. This small, quaint and warm café has a delightful mix of cats with a variety of personalities. Play with them, or sit beside one, while enjoying a meal. The café attracts locals, expats and visitors from all over the world with its clean, kind and inviting atmosphere. Other than the cats and delicious food, the small venue also has a selection of cat-inspired gifts, some of which support local Hong Kong artists. The cats are well-loved at this café and with a variety of vegetarian options and kid-friendly meals (that are all cat-inspired), this is a great place to take the family if you need a little kitty fix.
Hedgehogs are wonderful little creatures that are full of personality and if you or your family have never seen one before, you are in luck! The Kuri Café in Kowloon Bay is Hong Kong’s first hedgehog café featuring 13 pygmy hedgehogs for your viewing pleasure, along with scrumptious hedgehog-inspired food and drinks. The owners of Kuri Café aim to educate potential pet owners about how wonderful hedgehogs are as pets and how to look after them.
The café has a strict no-touching policy when it comes to its coveted creatures as the hedgehogs are quite spiny and need to be handled with proper care. It’s also to ensure and maintain proper hygiene within the café, which has a canteen on one side and a viewing area for the hedgehogs on the other. Bring the family for lunch to see these adorable balls of spikes!
As the oldest park on the island, the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens were built in 1860. The gardens cover a 5.6-hectare area and include a fountain and play area, as well as a few memorials. The park offers a nice walk for the family and a fun way to spend the afternoon. The zoo compromises a variety of birds and mammals, including two orangutans, but it has come under scrutiny in recent years from international animal welfare organisations for the unnatural habitation and lack of psychological stimulation for its larger mammals.
Ocean Park is one of Hong Kong’s biggest amusement venues with plenty of animals and rides to partake in and enjoy. You could easily spend an entire weekend here taking in the aquariums and amusements. Pandas, sharks, stingrays, dolphins, penguins, sea lions, walruses and large manta rays are some of the headline animals available at Ocean Park. The venue has come under scrutiny in recent years from some animal welfare groups for its dolphin breeding programme and shows.
Admission: Adult – $480; child – $280
Read more: Where To Adopt Or Buy A Pet In Hong Kong
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2018 and was updated in March 2020.
Featured image courtesy of Getty, image 1 courtesy of Kadoorie Farm via Facebook, image 2 courtesy of Wikimedia, image 3 courtesy of Auberge Discovery Bay, image 4 courtesy of HK Dolphin Watch via Facebook, image 5 courtesy of Jurassic Garage, image 6 courtesy of Cat Island Cafe, image 7 courtesy of Kuri Hedgehog Cafe, image 8 courtesy of Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.