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Flights of fancy at a weekend wetlands getaway

by D J Clark

BEIJING, July 15 (Xinhaunet) -- The wetlands of southern Hangzhou Bay are now within easy reach of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo, since the opening of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge two years ago, making the area an ideal weekend getaway for walkers and bird watchers.

In May a new park, funded by the World Bank Global Environment Facility, opened to the public following a $5 million investment. The 43.5-square-kilometer park is now home to more than 100 species of birds including five of the rarest in China. Its mission is to raise public awareness of environmental protection and make the wetlands more accessible to the public.

Walking the wooden pathways that cut through the park and listening to the continuous chorus of birds makes an excellent escape from the city.

The Hangzhou Bay Wetlands are one of the eight largest in the country. Flocks of migrating birds pass through the wetlands throughout the year making it a great place to watch, listen and learn about different species of Chinese birdlife.

For those interested to know more about the function of the wetlands and the birds that live there, the Wetlands Center has a spacious education center and an exhibition zone.

I spent a day walking around the park, loosing myself in the matrix of paths and stopping at the numerous bird hides to watch and listen to the wildlife. I followed one wooden path for an hour, as it wound deeper and deeper into the heart of the wetlands, never reaching the end.

It's a peaceful place to walk and I would recommend skipping the golf cart guides in favor of striking off by yourself. There is no need for a map as the area is flat so you are always in sight of the large main pavilion however deep you wander.

Bring a lunch and water with you, as I found no place to buy refreshments. Once you enter the main gate, you can easily spend a full day there if you are a keen walker.