Multimedia journalist Laurel Chor travelled the world as a National Geographic Young Explorer, but found the greatest adventure was right on her doorstep.
I grew up in Hong Kong’s most crowded neighbourhoods, longing for adventure and wildlife encounters outside of what seemed like an endless tangle of concrete. It has been an immense privilege to have since been able to travel the world. But when I moved back to Hong Kong a few years ago, I realised I had directed my curiosity everywhere but the place I thought I knew best: home. As a child in Hong Kong, I didn’t spend much time outside – not unlike my parents in their youth. But now I’ve learned that the city has a surprising and unsung wild side.
The following trivia titbits about Hong Kong are some of the reasons why I was inspired to apply for a National Geographic Young Explorer grant to launch the Hong Kong Explorers Initiative, which encourages people to get outside and appreciate the city’s natural spaces.
Hong Kong’s landmass is three-quarters undeveloped and 40 per cent of it is protected. Look past the famous skyline: Hong Kong is more green than any other colour and we are lucky that a big chunk has been set aside to be preserved and enjoyed.
Hong Kong has more species of coral than there are in the Caribbean Sea and more species of reef fish than in the waters around Hawaii. Many assume Hong Kong’s waters to be devoid of life. But they’re home to marine ecosystems that are remarkably diverse and the city has its own resident populations of porpoises and pink dolphins.
Hong Kong has dozens of endemic species, meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world. One such species is the tiny Romer’s Tree Frog. The city is also a haven for animals such as the Golden Coin Turtle, which has been hunted to extinction elsewhere.
You can see one-third of mainland China’s bird species in Hong Kong, even though the city is just one-9,000th of the size of the mainland. Talk to avid birdwatchers anywhere in the world and there’s a good chance they will tell you they’ve always wanted to visit Hong Kong – to see the birds. Hong Kong is situated such that it serves as a resting place for dozens of migratory species.
Hong Kong has 263 islands. Hop on a ferry and discover a vast array of inhabited or uninhabited island outposts, each with its own charm and history. Hong Kong’s natural environment is vast and beautiful, but it is threatened by development and pollution. By encouraging people to explore the outdoors, we can foster a new generation of citizens who appreciate, love and strive to protect nature and wildlife. So grab a friend and get outside.