Ecology of Hong Kong Trail

Hong Kong Trail is 50 kilometres long and passes through 5 country parks and 7 reservoirs. The trail passes lush green hills, rivers and waterfalls, beautiful views and a wealth of plants and animals. Green Power Hike participants can challenge yourself on the trail while embracing nature and enjoying the amazing landscapes and wildlife.

Start Point to Checkpoint1 (Victoria Peak to Peel Rise)
Golden Camellia

Starting from the Peak, you will reach a picnic site along Harlech Road. You can find High West Camellia Garden here at the High West’s side. Many species of the family Theaceae are cultivated here, including the Grantham’s Camellia (Camellia granthamiana), which is an endangered species protected by Forestry Regulations.

The flower of Grantham’s Camellia is the largest among species of Camellia in Hong Kong. It is very eye catching with its large snow white petals surrounding the golden ball of stamen cluster!

The First Reservoir

There are numerous streams along the forest path on the south of High West - this is the catchment area of Pok Fu Lam Reservoir. Pok Fu Lam Reservoir is Hong Kong's first reservoir. Completed in 1863, it is more than a century old. In the 1970s, the government carried out extensive afforestation in its surroundings. The lush forests nurture many types of amphibians and mammals, such as the Hong Kong Cascade Frog (Amolops hongkongensis), the Green Cascade Frog (Rana chloronota), the Pallas's Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) and the Red Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak).

Green Cascade Frog

Protecting the Catchment Area

The catchment area is the area from which rainfall flows into the reservoir. There are about 36,000 hectares of catchments in Hong Kong, most of them have been set up as country parks to protect the natural environment as well as the water quality. When the environment is protected, natural forests appear and a rich biodiversity emerges. Large areas of forests also reduce soil erosion and help make the water clear of silt. Additionally, citizens can enjoy the wonderful views of lush green hills surrounding the mirror-like surface of the reservoir.

Pok Fu Lam Reservoir

Checkpoint 1 to 2 (Peel Rise to Middle Gap Road)
Little Umbrellas

After Peel Rise, the trail with broad views turns into a shaded forest path. Among the trees, you may find dainty yellow flowers that point downwards. They are the Nodding Wikstroemia (Wikstroemia nutans), a native scrub commonly seen in the Hong Kong countryside. The special tiny flowers are tube-shaped, just like closed umbrellas!

English Stonebridge

Around Lady Clementi’s Ride, there are numerous streams of various sizes and an elegant English bridge crosses the “Golden Duck Stream”, one of the streams with larger flow. How pleasant it is to walk along the bridge surrounded by the greenery and feel the light breezes!

“Golden Duck Stream" originates from Mount Cameron that stands more than 400 metres above sea level, and flows towards Aberdeen Reservoir. If you look carefully, you will see water skaters. They are common aquatic insects that only live in clean water. Their presence means the water quality in the area is good.

Poisonous Fruits

The fruits of the Nodding Wikstroemia are oval in shape, about 7mm long and turn red from green as they ripen. The plants produce fruit from May to September and many native animals consider them a delicacy. But they are poisonous for humans, so please do not eat them!

Checkpoint 2 to 3 (Middle Gap Road to Parkview)
Watch out for the thorns!

Pay attention to the Ratten Palm (Daemonorops jenkinsiana) as you walk among the trees, there are thorns on the stems as well as on the leaf surfaces. Some of these stems are up to 50 metres long.

The Ratten Palm is a climbing plant. They climb up trees to get access to the sunlight. They climb on several trees at the same time, effectively connecting them together, helping them to resist strong winds.

Red and White flowers on the same plant

Black’s Link brings you to the mature forest on the south slopes of Mount Nicholson. You can find the Devil-pepper (Rauvolfia verticillata) here. It is an evergreen shrub that bears distinctive small white flowers with twisted petals. The fruits are green when young and dark and then dark purple as they ripen. The flowering and fruiting periods sometimes overlap in autumn - if you are lucky you may spot both the white flowers and red fruits on the same plant at the same time!


The Devil-pepper is a species in the Apocynaceae family, in which most species are poisonous. With a name like that and it being poisonous, it seems scary! But actually, it is medicinal with a calming effect - not too “devilish” at all!

Checkpoint 3 to 4 (Parkview to Quarry Gap)
Butterfly Dance

Upon Jardines Lookout and Mount Butler, it is not uncommon to spot hill-topping butterflies, such as the Great Orange Tip (Hebomoia glaucippe). They are the largest species of the Pieridae family of Hong Kong. Their forewings are mainly white on the upper side, with an eye-catching orange-red patch on the top. This is why they are easily spotted even if they move quite fast!

Master of Camouflage

If ever you spot any tiny sign of movement while walking on a trail, it might be the Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor). It has a long and slim tail and a prominent crest on the back just like a chicken’s crest. That’s why they are also known as the “chicken crest snake” in Chinese.

Changeable Lizards change their body colour according to humidity and light intensity. They are quick and hide when they see people. But they do like sunbathing so it is not difficult to spot them in an open space on a sunny day!

Rare Butterflies

Many uncommon species of butterflies can be found around Hong Kong Trail. There are the Red-breast Jezebel (Delias acalis), the Plain Hedge Blue (Celastrina lavendularis), the Shan Nawab (Polyura nepenthes) etc. If you are lucky, you might meet the very rare Chinese Windmill (Byasa alcinous).

Chinese Windmill
Checkpoint 4 to 5 (Quarry Gap to Tai Tam Road)
Hills of Blossoms

From the dam of Tai Tam Reservoir, on the right side you can enjoy the views of the reservoir and on the left those of a deep valley from a high point. There are 2 species of Ericaceae plants in Tai Tam Valley: the Red Azalea (Rhododendron simsii) and the Chinese New Year Flower (Enkianthus quinqueflorus). Come springtime, they blossom and cover the hills with their brilliant flowers; what a pleasant sight! However, because people are picking the flowers and some even dig up and take away whole plants, the number of wild Ericaceae plants has sharply declined.

Red Azalea

Water Quality Indicator

Stepping way from Tai Tam Reservoir Road and into the tranquil valley, dragonflies and damselflies are seen hovering over the streams. Both dragonflies and damselflies belong to Odonata Order. They lay eggs in water and their larvae live there, using gills to breathe. For this reason, clean water is imperative to their survival. They are important bioindicators - their presence indicates good river water quality and ecological wellness.

Indigo Dropwing, Trithemis festiva

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies and damselflies are similar in appearances and are often confused. Dragonflies have thick bodies and have their wings open at rest. On the other hand, damselflies have slim bodies and their wings are closed at rest. Both have large compound eyes and superior eyesight. Coupled with their speed in flight, they make exceptional predators.

Black-banded Gossamerwing, Euphaea decorate
Checkpoint 5 to 6 (Tai Tam Road to To Tei Wan)
Hong Kong Island’s one and only

On the 7th section of Hong Kong Trail, you walk around Tai Tam Harbour on the hillside from north to east. Inside Tai Tam Harbour is the only mangrove on Hong Kong Island. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has important ecological value. Here you can find Kandelia (Kandelia obovata), the Milky Mangrove (Excoecaria agallocha) and the Lumnitzera (Lumnitzera racemosa) etc. The mudflat nurtures many animals - crabs such as Perisesarma bidens and Uca splendida are residents here. Don’t forget to visit them at low tide.


Shy Crabs

Uca splendida can be easily identified by its horizontal black stripes and large bright orange pincers. They like waving their big pincers to attract mates or scare off enemies. They are very vigilant and will go to hide in their caves at the smallest move in the nearby environment. If you want to observe them you must get close stealthily!

Site of Special Scientific Interest

A Site of Special Scientific Interest is a place that has special scientific values because of its notable animal life, plant life, geology or geography. Currently, there are 67 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Hong Kong, most of which have been designated because of plant life, birds and geographical landscapes.

Tai Tam Harbour (Inner Bay)
Checkpoint 6 to End Point (To Tei Wan to Big Wave Bay)
Birds in the Forest

Climbing towards Dragon’s Back from To Tei Wan, the woods on both sides are home to many forest birds. Along this section, you are accompanied by intermittent birdsongs along the trail - how enchanting! The lively Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus ruficollis) has snow white eye brows that extend from the back the beak all the way to the back of the neck, making them look so handsome and knightly!

Egret on the Rocky Shore

Big Wave Bay is at the end of Hong Kong Trail but don’t assume that your ecotour has ended! If you are lucky, you will spot the Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) along the rocky shore. The Pacific Reef Egret is not commonly seen in Hong Kong. It has an entirely grey plumage, but with a few of them being completely white. When feeding, they like to stand still at the edge of the water, striking quickly as a prey gets near.

Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets

The Great Egret (Ardea alba), Intermediate Egret (Egretta intermedia) and the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) have white bodies and are three common bird species in Hong Kong. They are three distinct species. So do not assume that they are the large, medium and small versions of the same bird!

Little Egret