China: Nature Reserve Offers Eco-tourism in the Shadow of Skyscapers

Shenzhen Mini Guide

Once thought of as an industrial wasteland, Shenzhen is shedding its gritty past, and nowhere is that more evident than at the Futian Mangrove Nature Reserve, a green oasis on the shores of Shenzhen Bay.

The Mangrove Nature Reserve is a green oasis along the waterfront on the outskirts of Shenzhen’s bustling Central Business District.

Situated across Shenzhen Bay, a.k.a. Deep Bay, from Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve, the Futian Mangrove Nature Reserve measures nearly 4 million square metres.

It is an important stop in the migration of egrets, fishers, and many other species of bird.

About 300 of the 2,500 or so black-faced spoonbills remaining in the wild reside in the park. A similar number reside on the Hong Kong side of Shenzhen Bay in the Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Before Shenzhen’s long march to urbanization began in the early 1980s, the city’s waterfront was home to 530 hectares of mangrove.

With industrialization came deforestation on a massive scale. Less than one-quarter of the original mangroves remains.

Public Park

A massive public park was created in the reserve. Opening in 2014, it offers cycling, strolling, bird-watching, and – perhaps most important – if offers shade.

There a leafy paths, grassy open spaces,  and a wide concrete promenade along the waterfront.

Needless to say, mangrove can only grow in the shallow waters along the shore. So a vast array of flora has been planted within the park. And that’s where many of the birds roost on their migratory trips through the region.

There are several telescopes, offering locals a chance to view Hong Kong from afar.

Former sentry posts along the waterfront have been turned into bird-watching pavillions. Other facilities include souvenir stands and toilets. Several venders rent bicycles – including 2 seaters – at the entrance.

Food + Beverage

There are no restaurants or cafes in the park, but there are kiosks selling snacks and soft drinks.

For the more adventuresome, there are also several venders selling soft drinks and snacks along the way to and from the park.

And this is what’s cool: Most of the venders are from other parts of China. So you can sample yummy treats – both savory and sweet – from different parts of the country.

But we cannot vouch for sanitation. As always, when you eat street food, you do so at your own risk. But, hey! The same goes for many of the restaurants and cafes I have eaten at!

Mangroves 101

Mangrove is a catch-all term that applies to various types of trees and shrubs that grow in the saline coastal habitats of the tropics and subtropics.

More than 100 species of mangrove have been identified along the coasts of Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America.

Mangroves are found in forests, swamps, and wetlands. They are in decline throughout the world.

So why to mangroves matter?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, mangroves are an important bridge that transfers organic matter and energy from the land to the sea. They form the basis of many marine food webs.

Mangroves also help to trap sediments, which serves to stabilize coastlines, protect coral reefs, and preserve sea grass meadows, the WWF says.

How to Get There

The closest metro station is Zhuzilin on the Luobao (or No. 1) line. You can hoof it from the station to the reserve in about 20 minutes – unless you get lost (as I did). If you do, it might take you a bit longer.

Better yet, rent a bicycle from one of the many bicycle venders along the way. When you get to the reserve, you can pedal your way along the well-maintained paths. Just make sure you can find your way back!

Or you can play it safe and go by taxi, but only if you speak Mandarin (WARNING: many taxi drivers in Shenzhen do NOT speak Cantonese, let alone English).

Make It Happen!

Shenzhen is a modern city with all manner of accommodation, from luxurious 5 star resorts to modest dormitories to a capsule hotel with capsules renting for just over US$10 a night.

s a city of migrants, Shenzhen has thousands of restaurants, cafes, and food stalls serving regional Chinese dishes from all over the country as well as the national cuisines of countries all over the world.


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