In February this year, Dr. Margaret Burchett, Dr Peter Saenger and myself were invited by the Australian Development Assistance Bureau to visit China to discuss with Chinese scientists the feasibility of a Sino-Australian research programme on the mangrove ecosystem in China. Our journey commenced in Guangzhou, better known as Canton, where our Chinese hosts briefed us on their plans for us to become acquainted with their mangrove forests. Guangzhou is not noted for mangroves but is famous for its cuisine and we were quickly introduced to some of its more exotic culinary delights.
From Guangzhou we travelled to the far south of China to a tropical island on the edge of the Gulf of Tongking, known as Hainan. In the days of Imperial China, the island was known as the ‘edge of the world’ and it was considered to be the place where civilisation ended. It also served, as such places often do, as a penal colony for dissidents. Today, Hainan is known to the Chinese as the ‘Treasure Isle because of its iron ore, off-shore oil reserves and the scourge of wetland areas, tourist potential.