Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lions Nature Education Center

For some reason, I have always wanted to get the kids out to the Lions Nature Education Center in Sai Kung. Perhaps it reminded me of our fun nature center visits when we lived in the states. And I remember people telling me about it when we first moved here as a good outing with kids. Well, four years later, we can finally check it off our list of things to do. Recently, we all drove out to Sai Kung, a lovely area in the New Territories with a country park and more remote beaches and spent a morning at the nature center there.

The nature center was founded in 1991 as a joint venture between Lions International and Hong Kong’s agricultural and fisheries departments with the aim to promote environmental education. Today many local school groups visit the site and explore its grounds and exhibits. The site of the nature center is a former government demonstration farm which includes 34 hectares, many ponds and a few short hiking trails. We walked around a bit among some fruit trees, including mangos, lychees and bananas. Being summer in Hong Kong, it is pretty hot and humid here and we really lagged while looking at all the outdoor exhibits.

But we did much better on the indoor ones. We all enjoyed the so-called Insectarium and its various displays. Tori, the owner of both a live stag beetle and a collection of dead insects, enjoyed the Insectarium more than most. Oddly, the exhibit featured something on the parasitic wasp which happens to be an insect Tori talks about a lot. Those of us who were a little queasy quickly moved on to the Shell House, where we learned the ins and outs of shell classification in Hong Kong.

All in all, the nature center was a good outing but not at all reminiscent of our nature center visits in the states. Here the nature center had an older feel, an almost Soviet feel. The kids noticed the signs throughout the center warmed the public of avian flu not swine flu that they still have to fill out daily temperature logs for at school.  The Fisheries Hall at nature center was indicative of this dated design with a welcome sign that featured a fish that moved powered by electricity, sort of like those joke fish that people put up in garages that flap and sing.

Inside the Fisheries Hall, there was an electronic game that our kids gravitated to. Basically, you had to identify fish from about fifty different options. We recognized only one fish and our scores were dismal. A group of elderly Chinese ladies played the game after us. Buzzing sounds and lights celebrated their high score. I explained to the kids that these ladies probably shopped for and cooked many of these fishes. No one liked the idea of eating so many fish very much but the kids seriously pondered this in hopes of improving their scores. So far, no giant grouper or mangrove snapper for dinner yet.


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