Talk to the animals at the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is a breath of fresh air. Rambling down a steep slope in the middle of Central, this peaceful historic park is a green lung in the heart of the city, where kids can run and play in the shade of the trees. It’s one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, established in 1864 and containing more than 1,000 species of plants on 5.6 hectares of valuable real estate. When the Fountain Terrace opened, it had views over Government House and the harbour, but today the outlook is restricted by huge, mature trees and skyscrapers.
An array of colourful flowers wave hello at the entrance, beckoning visitors up past a statue of King George VI and onto the park’s well-maintained paths. Follow the signposts to the main attractions, including about 70 reptiles, 70 mammals and 400 birds. The Reptile House is home to a few gracious old tortoises and a collection of snakes, while the mammal area has habitats for two-toed sloths, orangutans (two babies were born here in 2011), ring-tailed lemurs and a host of tiny monkeys, including lion-headed tamarins and pygmy marmosets. In the aviaries, the blue crane, wood duck and macaw seem more curious than intimidated by the people peering at them.
Flamingos stalk the pond and there’s a greenhouse with frequent displays (look for the orchids). The park is split into various gardens focusing on certain varieties, including azaleas, bamboo, bauhinia, camellias, agnolias and palms. With different flowers blooming at different times of the year – camellias in winter, azaleas and magnolias in spring, bauhinia in autumn – there’s always something beautiful to see.
An education centre contains learning resources included mounted butterflies, animal skeletons and moulted reptile skins, and there’s a children’s playground for little ones. A pavilion outlines how the garden has grown over the years. Seeing everything can take hours, but when you’ve had enough head downhill to the Fountain Terrace where there’s a kiosk selling drinks and snacks and several seats where you can rest your weary feet.
Garden open daily 6am-7pm, FountainTerrace 5am-10pm and exhibitions 9am-4.30pm. Albany Road, Central, 2530 0154.