Most visitors to Hong Kong are taken aback to learn that 40% of the territory has been set aside as country park. That's not necessarily because development-mad Hong Kong has much of an environmental conscience; rather, a great deal of the hilly, landslide-prone terrain is unsuitable for building and so is left unmolested. Local hikers have long taken advantage of these extensive green swaths to enjoy forested uplands, hidden waterfalls and stony ridges that plunge down to rugged, wild coastlines.
Visitors, unsure of how to hack their way out of the shopping and hotel districts, have typically found it more difficult to discover what the authorities like to refer to as "Green Hong Kong." In recent years, however, a number of organizations have made it easier for tourists to discover the city's lesser-known side. One of these is Ark Eden, an NGO-run environmental center on Hong Kong's largest island, Lantau. Although Lantau is home to a number of major developments Hong Kong International Airport and Hong Kong Disneyland among them its 147 sq km of land is largely undeveloped and home to just 45,000 people, a trifle by the standards of densely packed Hong Kong.
Ark Eden's six guided walks enable both locals and visitors to see some of Lantau's natural beauty. Tours are either half-day or full-day treks and reveal everything from water-buffalo habitats (the island is home to a free-roaming herd of around 60 animals) to fishing villages, marshes and mountain trails. Especially popular are waterfall treks, taking in areas like Pui O on Lantau's southeast, and offering a day of swimming in rock pools, splashing under churning waterfalls, picnicking in the woods and relaxing on one of Lantau's deserted beaches. As green destinations go, Hong Kong will never be a Borneo or a Belize, but it does have the capacity to surprise you.
Tours start from just under $60. See arkedenonlantau.com for more.