All photography by Vivian Vassos.

The Dragon's Back trail winds, as dragons' spines must, along the top of a ridge on the southeast arm of Hong Kong Island. Off in the distance, isolated dots glow in the sunshine; the wind ruffles the grass, shakes the green shrubbery. In Big Wave Bay below, a floating boom marks the underwater fence that keeps the occasional shark from swimmers. In the other direction, past the hillside where brilliantly-coloured hang gliders are launching themselves into the updraft from the ocean, lies the village of Shek-O. Click here for a first-person account of hiking the Dragon's Back.

This is Hong Kong? Yes, it is. The green spaces allow travellers and locals to head out and get the best of nature, and it's all very close to the city's core.

Click through for our trip to a nature-lover and birder's paradise, the wetlands of Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve.

Next: Parks, marine lands

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Jayne MacAulay