Nam Sang Wai


Steep and undulating peaks is a signature landform of Hong Kong. In our mountainous terrain, a broad horizon seems unlikely, but there is actually a wide area of rural country and wetlands in the northwest New Territories. Nam Sang Wai in eastern Yuen Long is one such picturesque wetland.

Mangroves Along River Channel

Mangroves Along River Channel Make a start at the top of the road leading to Nam Sang Wai. Follow the long embankment road by the Kam Tin River to the enchanting wetland. Growing on both sides of the river are an associate mangrove species, Spiny Bears Breeches (Acanthus ilicifolius). The leaves look rather like those of hollies, only with thorny edges. You will see salt crystals on the leaves, clues of a unique survival trick to adapt to the brackish water environment. A true mangrove species, Kandelia obovata, has an alternative solution to adapt to the harsh environment. In March and April, the plant will come out with hanging slender droppers. With this unusual viviparous reproductive method, the mangrove adapts to the challenging estuarine habitat and cyclical tides. These long droppers are actually developed seeds. They would drop away from the mother tree and take root in the soft soil. Boasting a rich inherent reserve of nutrients, they can grow roots and secure a firm footing rapidly.

Lively Riverside Habitat

Lively Riverside Habitat Don't overlook the riverbed where scattered mangroves grow. At low ebb, it really comes alive. This habitat supports a surprisingly diverse ecological system. On the exposed river bed, you will find the mudskipper Boleophthalmus pectinirostris. Largely mud-coloured, this species has subtle light blue spots. Often seen bouncing agilely, they look quite comical when they pump up their gills with water. On the river bank you may find the elegant egrets. Disturbed by your presence, these birds might just take flight. The smooth and effortless ascent is a delightful display of aerodynamic flair.

Birds of Estuary

Birds of Estuary Visit Nam Sang Wai between late autumn and early spring, and you will not be disappointed. It is a vivacious scene both on the banks and further ahead where Kam Tin River meets Shan Pui River. At this time of year, wintering or migrating waterbirds gather in large groups to feed. You will be amazed by the bubbling energy, and the varied forms of habits. The most entrancing of all are the seagulls. Most species of gulls are largely white with grey upperparts and back. Often found hovering gracefully by the coast, these masters of flight are a pleasure to watch. Following their smooth sailing movements as they circle just above the water, one cannot help being dazzled. Then there is Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) with its graceful pointed tail, Yellow-nib Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha) with its yellow-tipped black bill, and other male ducks which flaunt their colourful breeding plumage in the mating season. These water birds generally feed or swim at a mellow pace, as if to let the observer adore their graceful postures. Keep an eye out while you observe the ducks, though, for a Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) might just happen to land on the bank. The appearance of this rare white bird with its spoon-shaped black bill will surely excite you.

Relic of Gei Wai

Relic of Gei Wai Continue along the fields and take a stroll on the path lined by Lemon-scented Gums (Eucalyptus citriodora). As the sun slowly sets behind the reeds, your thought will drift far. Up ahead in the abandoned Gei Wais, your mind will drift even further. Not too long ago, on the few days of high tidal range around the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month during the summer, shrimp farmers would make use of the sluice gates to trap Gei Wai shrimps. The operation would start at dusk and go on till the early hours. The catch is never small.

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