Remote, picturesque and obscure, Sham Chung possesses a little bit of something for everyone. With its traditional hamlets and old woodlands, set in a basin ringed by rolling hills, the Sham Chung region is one of the jewels in the crown of rural Hong Kong. From family friendly outings and historical rekeys, to day hikes and mountain biking, this idyllic enclave has plenty of enticing options to keep you more than entertained for the day. Easily reached, it makes for a convenient full or half day trip away from the city. Nestled within the northern coastline of West Sai Kung Country Park, Sham Chung was once synonymous with being one of Hong Kong’s largest wetland areas. Despite these not existing anymore, it is still a lovely place to visit full of ponds and open grassland, a very rare sight in Hong Kong.
By far the simplest way to reach the area is via Yung Shue O. Getting there can be done from either the Sai Kung or Sha Tin side of the surrounding mountain ranges. The 99 and 299x KMB bus routes run between Sai Kung and Heng On MTR/Sha Tin MTR respectively and will deposit you at the head of the access road to Yung Shue O. From this junction it is a 45-minute walk down the single-track road to reach Yung Shue O, so if short on time it is advisable to take a taxi instead ($60 from Sai Kung Town). Once one has reached the village of Yung Shue O, the road stops and the hiking trail begins. Make sure to follow the painted banners in Yung Shue O that indicate the way to Sham Chung and not the wooden signposts. The concrete footpath then winds its way through the village and onto a stunning coastline with views across Tolo Harbour and Ma On Shan. From there, it is a 45-minute stroll along the coastline to Sham Chung ferry pier and then inland to the village grasslands.
If you had been tackling this route back at the turn of the 20th century, the footpath would have swept into a shallow lagoon, but then in the 1920s it was drained to create a sizable area of arable land. The fertility of this land subsequently led to the founding of Sham Chung village and the remains of this are still there to see today (occupied by a dai pai dong). However along with many similar villages all across Hong Kong, Sham Chung village met its demise as the territory became more developed and many folk left these small communities in the New Territories for the opportunity to make more money elsewhere.
Since then, controversy has surrounded plans by Sun Hung Kai Properties for a golf course and recreation centre in Sham Chung. It appears that the developers went ahead and begun the initial construction of a course without planning consent. Then never followed through after they were unable to rubber stamp the project. In spite of this chequered history, the region is still teaming with some very unique wildlife to keep an eye out for. Extremely rare elsewhere in HK, the Paradise Fish and Brown Fish Owl do well in Sham Chung. There is then the abundance of other birds, reptiles, insects and wild cattle that one would expect to find across the Sai Kung Peninsula.
For most folk, it is advisable to simply return from Sham Chung the same way you entered. Taxis can often be hard to come by at Yung Shue O, so make sure to factor in extra time on the return leg in order to walk back to Sai Sha Raod. Once back on the main road, there a plenty of taxis and different buses one can take back to Sai Kung or Sha Tin. Then for those who fancy doing that little bit more, follow the trail inland to reach the far northern extremities of the country park at Pak Sha O and Hoi Ha. This route is suitable for hikers and cyclists alike. All in all, there is a lot to check out in Sham Chung and fun for all involved!
If you fancy a memorable speed boat adventure in HK, we suggest you look no further than Zoom HK! Nigel (Top left of image) is now up and running taking folk out on trips around the waters of Hong Kong. We had a fab time yesterday seeing what all the fuss was about :)
Find out more at http://www.zoomribs.hk/
If you fancy exploring a natural world that most folk don’t know about within Hong Kong, then a day trip out to Plover Cove Reservoir could be in order. The area is easily assessable via public transport and totally worth the effort to reach. Nestled amongst rolling hills and the gateway to the eastern expanses of Tolo Harbour and Double Heaven. Begin the trail at Tai Mei Tuk and venture out into the wilds of northeastern Hong Kong and discover hidden gems that lie within. Once there, you certainly won’t be in a rush to leave.
Getting to the start point can take a little time from HK Island and Kowloon, but it is a relatively hassle free trip. Having reached Tai Po Market via MTR, you can either catch the 20C minibus, 75K KMB bus or alternatively grab a cab for around $70 to reach Tai Mei Tuk. Before you shoot off, a quick stop for a bite to eat and stocking up on refreshments in Tai Mei Tuk could be a good idea as there are no facilities out on the trail.
Once refreshed and all set to go, make your way towards the water sports center and continue up the small road until you reach the lake. Greeted by the sight of the dramatic 2-kilometer long dam wall, Plover Cove Reservoir is a very impressive structure. The world’s first ‘at sea level’ fresh water reservoir, construction on Plover Cove Reservoir began back in 1960 amid disputes with China over Hong Kong’s water supply.
Walking the dam wall is often a relaxing experience; one of solitude and tranquillity as you emerge into the open spaces and dazzling waters of Tolo Harbour. On a weekday or public holiday, the promenade is abuzz with folk enjoying the outdoors in many fun ways; whether it is windsurfing and kite surfing out on the water, or casting a line from sure in the hope of landing fish. Watch out for manic cyclists and kite flyers too! Once at the far end of the dam wall you will meet a small island in the middle of the harbour, turn left and continue through the gate.
Once on the other side of this obstacle, you leave the cyclists and most others behind and start to venture into the heart of the route. Keeping the calm turquoise waters of the reservoir on your left and the darker more rugged seas on your right, the road twists and turns its way around scenic nooks before traversing a few smaller concrete dams. After this the hiking trail begins in earnest, rising and dropping many a time of small hills, every one more dramatic than the last. From here on in, it is really left to your discretion how far you wish to venture before turning back.
For the more intrepid types who wish to do the entire circuit around Plover Cove Reservoir or venture towards Double Heaven, the trail over the hills to Wu Kau Tang or Double Heaven, will take a long full day of hiking to achieve this. However, it is a very fulfilling one for those who are up for the challenge. The approaching winter months do lend themselves more to undertaking such distances, but make sure you are thoroughly prepared! I would recommend beginning at Wu Kau Tang instead of Tai Mei Tuk. There is an infrequent, but reliable minibus service (20R) running there from Tai Po Market MTR. This way, if you are circumnavigating the lake, it is nice to finish at Tai Mei Tuk where there are plenty of amenities and transport options. From Tai Mei Tuk, one can return to Tai Po and the rest of HK more or less the same way they entered.
Overall, this is an adventure for all. A safe and pleasant excursion catering to the needs of families, yet one that is engaging and flexible enough to challenge the most intrepid outdoor adventurers in HK. These approaching winter months are ideal for such activities, so there is no better time get out and explore the open spaces in this stunning part of the territory.
The western New Territories is not necessarily synonymous with natural wonders, however there are some hidden gems out there that are worth uncovering.
If you fancy exploring a natural world that most folk don’t know about within Hong Kong, then a day trip out to Tai Lam Chung Reservoir could be in order. Located in the hills between Tsuen Wan and Tsuen Mun, it is a region that is as much unknown as it is remote. However, the area is easily assessable via public transport and totally worth the effort to reach. Life moves at a different pace here, the locals are as relaxed as they come in HK. It rubs off quickly and once there, you certainly won’t be in a rush to leave. The area has abundant family friendly walks and for the more intrepid, one can venture into higher peaks of Tai Lam and Tai Mo Shan Country Parks.
The simplest way in (other than driving) is to head into the western New Territories on the MTR West Rail Line, disembarking at Tuen Mun Station. From there, one can ride the number 43 minibus that departs roughly every 20 minutes or catch a taxi to ‘So Kwun Wat Tseun’. Hop off the bus at the end of its route and continue along the sealed road in a northerly direction. Walking in is easy going on a sealed access road.
Passing through tranquil surroundings and a few small farms, you soon climb up to Tai Lam Chung Reservoir. Built in 1957, the Reservoir is often referred to as ‘the lake of a thousand islands’. Once an open valley with many small hills, now flooded it has created a stunning freshwater archipelago that sets it apart from all other reservoirs in Hong Kong. This lake became the focal point of Tai Lam Country Park upon the parks creation in 1979 and her shores serve as a good starting point for many different walking routes. The easiest of these circumnavigates the reservoir and provides a scenic stroll, suitable for families. Simply follow the Maclehose Trail Stage 10 and walk a return route to So Kwun Wat, or finish in the nearby village of Tai Lam Chung Tsuen. For those who fancy more of a challenge, then there are various trails up and over the surrounding hillsides offering superb vistas over Tai Lam Country Park and across the sea to Lantau in the south. Additionally there are a few watercourses flowing into the reservoir that feature a few small waterfalls to check out.
Walking around the lake can take anywhere from one hour to an entire day depending on your route, so it’s a fairly flexible place to visit making it suitable for the warmer months of late summer and early autumn. If visiting later in autumn, keep an eye out for the lovely red and orange shades of the many maple trees in the area. Once a part of Hong Kong that suffered from a lot of erosion, the last five decades have seen the area transformed amid mass afforestation.
Return travel is fairly simple, more or less the same way as when you came in from So Kwun Wat. Unless you complete the route all the way around the lake, then you can find transport at Tai Lam Chung village to Teun Mun or the HK Gold Coast.
This far-flung corner of HK has an incredible amount on offer for those who enjoy venturing into the wild; a day trip here serves up an insight into Hong Kong’s past and the full scope of her landscape. Escaping to Tai Lam Chung provides a peaceful retreat for those wishing to find space for reflection or satisfy a burning urge of wanderlust.
Don’t let the towering skyscrapers fool you, Hong Kong has mountains, sandy beaches, trekking trails, waterfalls and practically everything you expect to find in any other Southeast asian country that is known for its wild, unspoilt landscape. With 40% of Hong Kong reserved as parkland and 80% of its total area green, it is one of the greenest places on our planet, and home to a diverse ecosystem that offers nature lovers endless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. If you are a family with kids, Hong Kong is an ideal destination to have fun in nature in one of its large and perfectly preserved country parks, or spend your day soaking up the sun at the beach, while at night you can still return to the top notch food, shopping and entertainment opportunities that the city offers. It is a city that has it all, so why not enjoy it all during your holidays?
Read on (on the link below) to discover the top outdoor activities in Hong Kong for families and for those who are looking for easy, enjoyable hikes through the countryside’s most scenic parts.
The beauty and diversity of Hong Kong’s landscapes is simply stunning, we are immensely fortunate to have such places in our ‘back yard’ to explore at will. During the hot summer months, kayaking is an ideal way to do this. Although paddling opportunities in Hong Kong are well documented for the most part, there are a few other options out there that fly under the radar a little bit. Below I share with you two different locations in the wilds of Sai Kung Country Park that will take your breath away.
Despite feeling like a complete wilderness, there are parts of the outermost Sai Kung peninsula that are very accessible. The village of Hoi Ha provides an ideal spot for beginners and families that almost anyone could have a crack at; whilst our other featured location at Pak Lap Wan is a much more intrepid paddling experience at the best of times.
Nestled on the southern end of a stunning coastal inlet, Hoi Ha is a sanctuary for many types of marine life and is among the most pristine places to be found in Hong Kong. Never mind the kayaking, for many the beautiful journey just to get there is worth the effort. However, once you dip your paddle into her clear calm waters, Hoi Ha takes on an entirely new aura.
Getting to Hoi Ha is pretty simple despite its far-flung location. Simply make your way to Sai Kung ferry pier, then embark on either a 20-minute minibus or taxi ride to Hoi Ha village. The minibus runs every half hour and a taxi will set you back around $120. Try to make this trip on weekdays, as there is a lot of pressure on transportation during weekends and public holidays! Don’t leave it too late in the day to head home either. From the bus stop, walk through the village directly down to the waterfront where there are a couple of different vendors of kayaks. One can rent a single kayak, life vest and paddle for $100 per day or double kayak at $200 (locker expenses included on weekdays).
Once on the water, Hoi Ha inlet is a joy to explore. With abundant sea life, scattered coral beds and beaches aplenty, there is more than enough to fill a day. If you’re eager to venture out further, navigate around the headland towards Wong Shek or Tap Mun Island and capture fantastic vistas of Sharp Peak.
PAK LAP WAN
Tucked away in the secluded eastern reaches of Sai Kung Country Park, Pak Lap Wan is a great location for a number of activities and serves as an ideal launch pad into the Hong Kong Geopark. Pass the dramatic High Island reservoir and through grassy fields home to numerous wild cattle, before reaching the white sands of Pak Lap Beach. Embark on an adventure in search of rocky islands and untouched beaches. But unlike peaceful Hoi Ha, once you escape the confines of Pak Lap Wan, you’re out in pretty exposed territory.
Between April and September, the easterly trade winds tend to deviate elsewhere and this is the prime time to paddle the Geopark. You may get lucky during the other half of the year, but be prepared to paddle through swell and stay clear of the rocks. If the conditions do indeed turn out to be a little choppy on the day, then one can hug the coastline and head for the sheltered waters of Sai Kung harbour to the west. Although the rock formations there are not as pronounced, they are still impressive. But when winds and swell come from the east, make sure you are fully prepared! Pay close attention to forecasts and sea conditions prior to departure on the day; if you are not sure, then it is better to paddle somewhere safer like Hoi Ha or Sai Kung Town.
The best way to reach Pak Lap Wan is by taxi from Sai Kung Town ($110) and walk down the hill from the road to the beach, the walk should take no more than 10 minutes. Once at the beach, there is a small building that rents out kayaks, camping equipment and prepares basic meals. A single sit down board will put you back $100 for the day; this includes a paddle and life vest. On busier days, there is sometimes the option to return to Sai Kung by speedboat. Out on the water one can either; follow the coastline northwards past rugged cliffs and around to the white sands of Long Ke for a picnic lunch, or paddle southeast to explore the dramatic sea arches of Wang Chau and Basalt Island.
I will reiterate that heading out on the open waters around the Geopark is not recommended for beginners and would recommend joining a tour group. Two operators provide tours here; ‘Kayak and Hike Ltd’ run by Paul Etherington who specializes in Geopark paddles and my company ‘Wild Hong Kong’ operates tours to both the locations mentioned above.
When you conjure up an image of Hong Kong, chances are your first thoughts will turn to that of skyscrapers, street vendors and busy markets, bright lights and the general hustle and bustle that comes with city living. You would be forgiven then for not realising that just a hiking boots throw away from the skyscrapers lie mountainous forests, picturesque landscapes shrouded in thick jungle, remote golden beaches, secret waterfalls and azure lakes. There is quite simply a bounty of nature’s wonders waiting to be explored.
Should you fancy leaving city life behind and exploring what is arguably the most beautiful, and less discovered side of Hong Kong, then a tour with Wild Hong Kong is the perfect place to start. Their tours focus on exploring Hong Kong’s wild areas, in the sense that the tours are, for the most part, going to places as far removed from human development as possible.
Hikes to be explored are those such as the Dragon’s Back trail which will reward you with stunning views over the southern Hong Kong island. It combines many of the areas finest attributes from mountain ridges and sheltered forest trails to the white sands of Tai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay).
Or there is the Tai Mo Shan (Ng Tung Chai) waterfalls, found nestled within dense jungle on the breathtaking slopes of Tai Mo Shan mountain. The tour takes you on climbs past rural villages and temples from other worlds to find a series of cascades spreading over several kilometres, each waterfall being more dramatic than the last. Then there’s the Sai Kung beaches. Described as the ‘crown jewel’ of rural Hong Kong, the Sai Kung peninsula is idillic and remote with no roads within the region’s outer reaches. In fact the only way there is to either hike or travel by boat.
Founder Rory Mackay says the aim of Wild Hong Kong is to share the territories beautiful backyard which is full of hidden gems. Growing up between Hong Kong and Scotland, Rory has never been a stranger to adventure. Whether it was scaling Munros in the Scottish Highlands or finding new waterfalls in the New Territories of Hong Kong, he has always been keen to utilise any opportunity to explore. Rory got his first taste of a big adventure sailing an 80ft yacht from Scotland to the Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole. Since then he has spent time working and skiing in New Zealand and has travelled around Southeast Asia. He cycled solo across Vietnam and China, from Saigon to Hong Kong, before proceeding to tackle the bigger challenge of cycling across Africa on a solo ride from Cape Town to Cairo which he completed within 5 months.
It makes perfect sense then that adventures aside Rory is now in the enviable position of having turned his passion into a business. We asked him if he felt his job satisfaction was higher than most peoples. His response? ‘Yes! There’s a lot of handwork going on behind the scenes but it’s always worth it.’
IN THE JULY ARTICLE OF OUR MONTHLY COLUMN IN SAI KUNG/SOUTHSIDE/EXPAT PARENTS MAGAZINES; WE CHECK KAM SHAN 'MONKEY MOUNTAIN'
Tucked away in the hills behind Kowloon lies a hidden wealth. Amongst picturesque landscapes shrouded in thick jungle, interspersed with azure lakes lies the domain of Hong Kong’s wild chiefs. This is Kam Shan, realm of the monkey.
Shek Lei Pui Reservoir stop. For those that have a private vehicle at their disposal, this is a really neat spot to visit as one can venture into the heart of the park with their car. Drive up Tai Po Road and turn off at Kowloon Reservoir, you can then drive across the reservoir dam wall and into the heart of the country park. Make sure to wind up your windows though, or else you may incur a few extra passengers, especially if you have food!
Arriving at the bus stop, you will soon be confronted by many monkeys, invariably a troop of Rhesus Macaques. Although the Rhesus species is native to Hong Kong, the macaques found today are believed to be re-introduced. In the 1910’s during the construction of Kowloon Reservoir, the apes were deployed to the surrounding areas in order to combat the spread of a fruit that tainted the water supply. They can roam in large numbers and enjoy the area around Tai Po Road, as the rubbish bins and increased human presence provides the chance of finding a meal. There are signs at the park entrance spelling out the dos and don’ts in regards to the monkeys. From experience, simply be relaxed. Don’t approach the monkeys with food and they will mind their own monkey business. Direct eye contact and sudden movements won’t endear you to them either. With those unpleasantries out of the way, the monkeys are great fun to watch and can be extremely photogenic!
Heading into Kam Shan Country Park, simply follow the concrete access road into the woods, then across the Kowloon reservoir dam wall. From here there are several cool options to choose from, the most enjoyable one being a walk up to the monkey mountain. Follow the road up the hillside for twenty minutes or so and one will reach a picnic area, usually full of macaques. The monkeys here are a little less feisty than those on Tai Po road and seeing them in their natural treetop habitat is a delight.
Heading back from the country park is equally simple as finding your way in. In addition to taking the bus or driving, there are plenty of taxis on Tai Po Road to flag down.
You’ll very quickly descend back into the city and that monkey mountain will seem a million miles away. A world of dense rainforests guarded by troops of charismatic macaques. Yes, in Hong Kong!
Wild Hong Kong: Plover Cove Ride and HikeFor the fathers who want a little bit of both, how about taking them cycling and hiking around the beautiful Plover Cove region? Cycle by the sea before venturing up the highlands on foot in search of lush forest landscapes and secret waterfalls. The best news? This tour is completely customisable. Feel free to add more cycling or more hiking to your personal tour and discover a whole new side of Hong Kong.
Where: Meet at the Tai Po Market MTR Station
How much: $800 person for a group of 1-3 people, $650 person for a group of 4-7 people.
Check our article with Localiiz HK, where we reveal some of HK's wildest places to explore with us!
We are one of Hong Kong's premier adventure & eco tour operators. This is our blog, documenting many of the wild places we explore and show guests.