I needed to get out of the city and into the water, but wanted a little more adventure than my usual 20 minute bus to Repulse Bay – run to Deep Water Bay – collapse in the water for a couple of hours. I’d seen signs for snorkelling at Sharp Island when I first went Scuba Diving in Sai Kung, and had heard pretty mixed reviews. But after seeing some friends Instagram pictures it shot up to the top of my list.
I got a last minute cover teaching lesson Saturday morning and initially thought I’d have to postpone my trip to the next day… then remembered I was in tiny Hong Kong. I left North Point MTR at 11:45am, jumped on the Purple line to Hang Hau, took the 101/M minibus to Sai Kung, and finally a 5 minute ferry over to Sharp Island. It sounds more effort than it was. It’s HK, I never had to wait for more than a few minutes for the next mode of transport to come along.
On my return I found out I’d paid an extra HK$30 for a fast boat rather than the HK$10 ferry. It was worth it. Speeding along; hitting & then flying over the waves; the wind & a little water smashing my face. I’m a fan of plane turbulence, and even more so the boat equivalent. I stepped on to Hap Mun Bay Beach pier looking forward to a little walk and a swim. But with the stomach rumbling I headed just over to the other side of (past the campsite, two minutes walk away) to a quiet little pebble beach and sat on the rocks, eating, writing & just being for a while.
The walk over to Kiu Tsui beach is appropriately 2km and pretty easy. There are a couple of steep bits but given its shortness take your time & you’ll be more than fine.
It was HOT. Really hot. Dripping with sweat within the first minute. That sweat that comes off your shins, not just your forehead. But I love the heat, and the views were stunning. Knowing I had a swim at the end? Perfect. With only a couple of exceptions I laughed with everyone I crossed about how insanely hot & sweaty it was. Collective laughter about how we all chose this as the perfect activity that day.
The views from Hak Shan Teng (the hill) were incredible.
The flora, fauna and butterflies along the way just as gorgeous.
When I reached the other side (Kiu Tsui beach) I realised I forgot my water shoes that a colleague advised me to bring to walk across the tombolo. Still, I had trainers to clamber over the dry rocks and feet to take me through the water and headed slowly over to Kiu Tau, the small islet.
After a short climb to the other side (5 mins there & back) I headed to what looked like the snorkel area and left my stuff on the rocks next to another couple who were snorkelling. I always check back every once in a while and leave a bit of money & spare key somewhere out of my main bag, but I truly appreciate how safe HK beaches & swimming areas generally are.
I put on my mask on and excitedly jumped in the sea. Or more truthfully, ungracefully slipped off the rocks into the water… I was expecting very little in regards to marine life. I take my mask whenever I go to the beach; 1. Just in case there’s something to watch for a while, I don’t need big marine life to make me happy, and 2. I like to see underwater, blow bubbles underwater, & like to see the bubbles I’m blowing. One day I will master bubble rings!
But there were a lot of fish. The coral was all dead, but gosh, many, many, fish! And some really interesting black crabs feeding away. Even a little shrimp kept popping out of his cubby hole. The water was warm, but not too hot and the visibility was about 4m. Viability changes a lot in HK though Sai Kung is known for having the clearest water. After a little more writing & eating (packed lunch – I haven’t had this many packed lunches since I finished primary school) I headed to the ferry pier, jumped on a boat, and 10 minutes later I was back on Sai Kung Pier, 5 minutes later (and after walking past all the dogs in prams (strollers, for my American friends) I was back on the 101/M to Hang Hau MTR, feeling blissed out & blessed.
(At each side of the island there are beaches with toilets, changing facilities & snack shops! Map of the island here )
Tap Mun/Grass Island
I wanted more of the same for Sunday, and again, after seeing a friends Instagram pictures ‘Tap Mun/Grass Island’ made my list. For Islanders (in the Hong Kong context) it’s far away. But, sometimes (often) like this weekend, that far away is what I wanted and needed. Listening to some music, staring out the window, contemplating life & dancing in my seat enjoying the journey too. The feeling of actually going somewhere far away being a main part of it.
The first leg of the trip was the same, but from Sai Kung I then took the 94 bus to Wong Shek Pier. These buses only go every 30 minutes, and take around the same time. (On Sundays and Public Holidays you can take the 96R from Diamond Hill MTR as well) The ride to the pier is mainly through lush green countryside, slowing down occasionally for a few sleeping or crossing cows. We passed, and stopped at many campsites, some of which I’m sure I went to for my school camps. They all looked generically familiar, but no idea where I’ve actually been.
I knew that the scheduled ferry was only every two hours, but was correctly told that their would be smaller kaito (ferries) leaving whenever there were a few people and cost $20 per person.
It was only a 10 minute trip over to Tap Mun. A small fishing community with only 100 Hakka and Tanka inhabitants it is only 2km2 in size. I had been told there was a circuit around the island, taking 30 minutes, and the boat driver had told me to go left, so off left I went.
After walking past Tap Mun New Fishermen’s Village and Yung Shu village and their seafood restaurants and few shops selling cold drinks and dried fish, I headed up to the Tin Hau Temple.
My friend had been a few days before, unable to find one of the top ‘attractions’ ‘balanced rock’ (exactly as described) and she challenged me to find it and with receipt of a selfie there she’d buy me vegan HK bubble waffles. The quest was on. The quest also looked like it was going to prove pretty easy considering every few minutes I saw a sign pointing to balance rock..
Reaching the hilltop I was suddenly hit with what I can honestly describe as the most beautiful view I’ve seen in Hong Kong. Ever. The sea was bright blue & turquoise, the hills and islands around me showed almost no sign of habitation (only a few small houses.)
I was awestruck. I took photos. I sat for a while. I just smiled inside. And so this continued.
I sweated my way up to the Dragon Pavilion viewpoint. Worth it for the exercise and the beautiful butterflies.. but the view was only of overgrown bushes (bottom right pic).
After some food & writing overlooking the sea I headed on down to the pebble beach, chucked on my water shoes (remembered them today) and my mask and got in the water. Less fish than at Sharp island, but still fish…
Floating around in the warm sea whilst taking in my surroundings I couldn’t quite believe only a few hours ago I’d been in my little studio in Tin Hau. Despite being an incredibly gorgeous Sunday the island felt pretty empty of tourists.
Drying off in the sunshine I then headed off to complete the circuit and find ‘balance rock’. Which I did, by following the signs. Just before taking my selfie I realised if I wasn’t careful I might end up being one of those selfie death people.
The rest of the walk was just as gorgeous. Past the grazing cows, the green terraces, the hillside graves (more beautiful than they sound,) alongside the tranquil blue water.
I arrived back at the pier, waited a minute or two, then jumped on another $20 boat back to Wong Shek to catch the 94 to Sai Kung. I smiled blissfully all the way home; on the bus, the mini bus, the MTR. Hong Kong had done it again, twice in one weekend, utterly amazed me, blowing my mind with her beauty. 🇭🇰❤️🇭🇰