Located in western Jiangsu province on Huaihe River, Hongze Lake in Huai'an city has attracted an increasing number of visitors in recent years, due to its delicacies and well-protected environment.
As the fourth-largest freshwater lake in China, Hongze Lake, though not as famous as Taihu Lake in Wuxi and Yangcheng Lake in Suzhou, has some advantages that other lakes do not have - primarily, its national wetland reserve.
The wetlands around the lake, covering an area of 20 square kilometers, were listed as a national nature reserve in 2004 and in the Wetlands of International Importance in 2017.
The local government and people have undertaken significant efforts to improve the environment and protect the wetlands, including demolishing illegal constructions and planting more wetland plants.
According to Li Aimin, a senior engineer at the Hongze Lake wetland protection office, the number of birds, animals and plants in the reserve are increasing.
"The number of birds living here has increased, especially in last two years, including oriental white storks, white-fronted geese and tundra swans."
Now the wetland reserve is home to 220 kinds of birds.
"Hongze Lake's water quality has improved due to the restoration and protection of plants, especially aquatic plants," said Li.
Tourists visiting the reserve can explore a wetlands ecology museum, go fishing and play tennis or golf in the reserve, which now provides more than 60 programs for visitors' entertainment.
There are 1,008 kinds of lotus flowers in the reserve in summer, with more than 100,000 lotus flowers greeting tourists and fish swimming among them.
In October, more than 100,000 herons fly to the reed bushes in the reserve. They catch fish and shrimp, and fly into the sky when alarmed by passing boats.
Ma Changming, assistant to the general manager of the reserve, said that the herons appeared in the reserve around 2004, when the local government started to restore the wetlands and reduce the space used to farm crabs.
"I've been working and living in the wetlands for 24 years. It makes the local people happy when more birds and fish appear in our lives. We wake up amid melodious birdsong in the morning and have fresh fish for lunch and dinner."
According to Ma, more than 300,000 birds choose to rest in the reserve before they continue their migration to warm South China.