(Wildlife) The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Hong Kong
The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Hong Kong
Backpacking is one of the best ways to travel eco-friendly in any part of the world. Backpacking or trekking is a way of travel without any transportation but your own foot. It is often associated with the natural environment and outdoor activities. Hong Kong offers you a unique backpacking experience, a "city in nature" characteristics that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world.
Hong Kong, a city in nature, hiking trails are just within walking distances, and most of the hiking trails are interconnected, which you can almost walk your way through Hong Kong. One of the best things about backpacking in Hong Kong is all the campsites within the country park areas are free!! You just have to pay for your food and transportation to and from your starting point.
Yet, there is still a number of questions and issues to answer when planning your backpacking trip in Hong Kong. Good preparation is never wasted. The better you prepare yourself for the trip, the greater the experience. This is an Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Travel in Hong Kong.
NOTE: This article is just a part of The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Hong Kong.
Understanding the wildlife around helps you a lot when planning your backpacking trip. Just like you will be equipped with bear spray when backpacking in bear country. Knowing the dangerous or nasty creatures will certainly help your preparation, and something to bear in mind or tell yourself to be careful of.
For quite a lot of people, insects are some creepy-crawlies creatures which will sneak around. Especially when they are in numbers, the situation will escalate. I’ve encountered people who are afraid of anything that flies, including birds. That might sound like a joke to you (even to me), but it actually happens.
Insects are a large group of animals, and they are all around you. Most of them are beautiful to see, but a nightmare when they are within your comfort zone. Some of them are dangerous, like wasps or hornets; some of them are nasty as Green Tree Ants.
I, myself, do not bring any insect precautions with me, even though I get allergic reactions from stings or bites sometimes. I’m not encouraging you to do the same, I’m just trying to avoid them by understanding them. Since I enter their comfort zone right before they do. Avoiding them is different from killing them. Insect repellent comes in different chemical substances and components, make sure there is no residual within the areas or use eco-friendly insect repellent.
The largest group of insects on the planet. Commonly known as beetles. Beetles are beautiful and harmless insects in most of the cases. Do not try to get them on your hands, as beetles are mostly armed with “human spray”, a defensive secretion.
Some will just stink your hands, but one in particular to mention is Blister Beetles. The secretion contains Cantharidin, which is a chemical agent forming blisters on human skin. Blister Beetles is seen most frequently during spring and early summer.
Another species of beetles worth mentioning is Longhorn Beetle. It is my favourite kind of beetle, an ultra-long antenna with an elongated body and super strong mandible. Do not get any part of your body close to their mandibles, their bite is no joke.
The most fascinated and loved the group of insects, including over 250 butterflies and 1500 months in Hong Kong. Butterflies are commonly seen during the day and moths are mostly found after sunset. Generally speaking, butterflies are harmless and delightful to see. Some of the butterflies are poisonous, but you aren’t going to eat them, right?
Moths are far more diverse than butterflies, and quite a lot of them we don't even have information about. Most of them are harmless, as far as I know, and by the encounters. But some moths are known for its needle-like hair on its body, the contact of its needle-like hair will give you an itchy sensation and sometimes burning sensation in the affected area. The caterpillars of some moths are also equipped with needle-like hair on its body.
A group of insects famous for its stings, ants, bees, wasps, hornets, you name it. Their presents are extremely common in summer, and you will see some of them throughout the year. Most of the insects in Hymenoptera exhibit different levels of social behaviours and structures. In other words, they will defend their home and hunt for food in numbers. They love the food you love, and there are no boundaries or property rights. The largest hornets/wasps can be the size of your palm, the mighty ants can bite through thin fabrics.
To avoid them, three things you should bear in mind:
They don’t hurt you unless you hurt them.
They don’t come after you, but your food.
They don’t ruin your shelter unless you ruin theirs
Ants are a huge problem in campsites. You don’t really see them if you don’t pay attention to the ground where you put up your tent. Most ants construct their nest underground, with numbers of exits and ventilation holes. If someone was blocking the exits and ventilation holes, what would you do if you are empowered by soldiers with mighty jaws? The major reason for their existence is human food waste. So, first, check the ground for any holes or trace of ants before you put up your tent. Second, do not leave any food waste behind, so that the area is not attracted to any hungry crowds.
This is a group of insects that are hated by people the most, flies and mosquitoes, the most annoying flying creatures in the world. They carry diseases and bacterias, a very active medium transmitting from one to another.
Mosquitoes are common in the countryside. Mosquito bites cause temporary itching. Dengue fever is an acute mosquito-borne infection caused by dengue viruses. It is transmitted to humans through the bites of infective female Aedine mosquitoes.
It is very little you can do when it comes to mosquitoes. There is still no solid research about why and how mosquitoes pick on us. Some mosquito repellents work for some people, whereas others do not. I would not blame any of you if you are trying to kill them, but just be careful the substances that you use are not doing any damage to the environment.
HEMIPTERA / HOMOPTERA
Some insects from Hemiptera are well-known as invasive species. They are commonly called Stink Bugs. Similar to those beetles with defensive secretions, Stink Bugs rather have stronger odours and it will cause permanent stains on your garments or backpacks. They are mostly harmless unless you want them to dance on your hand.
Cicadas are also part of the families too. They are absolutely harmless yet amazing to see them. Check out one of the Instagram posts about cicadas from Outdoor_Holiday_HK.
Mammals, our closest relatives, most of them are adorable and amazed to see. They used to be either very friendly as our agricultural partner, or mountain creatures which live undisturbed. Unfortunately, increasing human activities incurs disturbance and conflicts with the animals. The line between human and wildlife seems to be ambiguous, both of us are crossing the line, and the animals are confused. Much of it is caused by humans, and yet, the consequences are unpleasant.
I have shared a story about the Wild Boar that ruined the tent, a true and reflective story. A full-grown adult of a Wild Boar can weigh up to 350kg, twice heavier than an average motorcycle. Male’s tusks are much more pronounced. Try to imagine two motorbikes with long and strong tusks running over your tent.
Wild Boars are omnivorous, their menu is ranging from the root and leaves to insects and worms. They also love our menu too, bread, steak, cracker, cheese… etc. They are very aggressive in terms of finding food. They exhibit vigorous behaviour when finding food. They were not in love with human food before, not until we fed them. Sadly, people have an intention to use food as a bait to drag them close for a selfie.
When you see a Wild Boar with cubs, you should pay extra attention to the walking directions that you and the Wild Boar do not intercept. Mother with cubs is extremely sensitive and aggressive, she might attack you before she runs away.
They were originally imported as agricultural tools. Since the agricultural industry diminished, the “living tools” are left behind. They are now widely spread all over Hong Kong. They are mild and harmless to most of us. Again, the only issue is people feeding them for selfies.
The food that they feed them which you can hardly imagine. I’ve seen people feeding bread, sausages, steak, pork chop, fish ball, rice, fruits… etc. Those are absolutely not on their menu and it shouldn’t be. They are herbivores, and every now and then they will roll over the trash bin looking for human food. It causes a lot of hygiene issues in campsites.
They are extremely clever animals that exhibit complex social hierarchies and learning behaviour. They learn VERY well I’d say. They always show up in numbers, from 20 to 200. Yes, you heard me right! Your adrenaline level to the max when hundreds of monkeys surround you and try to steal food from you.
Fortunately, they are not common in campsites, most of the campsites are far from their presents. You will see them in the forests around Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong. They are another wild animal learning that humans are one of the food sources, and people are still feeding them for selfies today. The problems and injuries caused by monkeys are far more than other animals.
They are generally calm and harmless to people. They may belong to other villagers as guard dogs, so they might be pretty fierce when you appear in their territories. They wouldn't come after you if you are leaving their territories.
Some wild dogs ever had fed by some campers and they constantly coming back for more. And sometimes, they will steal your food or food waste. But they are smart animals, they will eventually run off if you guard your food well. Don't try to pet them, as they are not real pets, you never know how they react, and the result can be unpleasant.
Photo was taken at Lantau Trail Section 7, on the way to Nga Ying Kok Campsite
Who doesn’t like Mickey? Well, they are really adorable but super fast and agile. I never get a chance to take a photo of them. Their disturbance is minimal. Their presents are caused by food waste left in campsites. They haven’t done anything very serious so far.
A story of mine to share, I was having a steak over a charcoal grill, sipping my favourite tea. The little guy showed up and suddenly disappeared. It came probably because of my steak and went off because of the presents of me. I finished my meal and had the utensils cleaned then went to bed. The next morning I found a bite mark on the side of my flip flops. I might have dropped some steak juice on my flip flops.
Snakes are incredible creatures which I will be amazed by their presents every time. It would be another ultimate guide to talk about snakes rather than just a few lines to conclude them. There are over 50 species of snakes in Hong Kong, and less than half are venomous. And there are less than 10 venomous snakes that are deadly, and only a few of them you might see them during the day or in the campsites.
Precautions as to any snakes in the world. Do not try to hold them or kill them, as you may not be able to identify the snakes. Which means you do not know how the snakes will be reacting. Leave them alone, they will be off once they sense the presence of humans. For more snakes information, check out HK Snake ID. They have so much awesome information regarding the snakes in Hong Kong.
There are no such venomous spiders causing death in Hong Kong, and most of them are harmless, as their venom is only used to kill their prey which has little or no effects on humans. But getting bitten is still painful, just like any other nasty animals introduced upfront.
There are over 3,000 species of plants in Hong Kong, covering a lot of wild edibles or bush tuckers. Some of them are deadly poisonous to humans. Even if you are 100% sure about the species, there is no way you should try eating them. The Hospital Authority of Hong Kong has put together some poisonous plants database online. For more information, please check out: https://www3.ha.org.hk/toxicplant/en/index.html
NOTE: This article is just a part of The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Hong Kong.