ultramarinus – beyond the sea

TAI LONG WAN (大浪灣), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong’s Last Environmental Frontiers

Facing the Pacific to the east, Tai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay) of Sai Kung has been voted by many as the number one outdoor destination in Hong Kong.  At the eastern tip of Hong Kong’s territory and the east coast of Sai Kung Peninsula, Tai Long Wan consists of four gorgeous beaches, including Tung Wan (East Bay), Tai Wan (Big Bay), Ham Tin Wan (Salty Field Bay), and Sai Wan (West Bay).

In 2010, an unauthorized land excavation at Tai Long Sai Wan (Big Wave West Bay) sparked public outcry urging for proper environmental protection and land-use parameters of country park enclaves, the 70+ pieces of private or government land adjacent to or surrounded by country parks.  Despite not designated as country parks, many enclaves are environmental sensitive areas with great value to the conservation of natural heritage of Hong Kong.  In 2013, after great effort from environmental groups, Tai Long Sai Wan was finally incorporated into the boundary of protected country park.  However, under great pressure from profit orientated private developers and anxious government for finding easy solution to tackle housing shortage, many country park enclaves are in grave danger in the near future, including Sai Kung’s Hoi Ha Wan (Jone’s Cove), the priceless marine park famous for its marine biodiversity and mangrove forest.

In 34 °C heat, hiking under the sun is not the most comfortable way to spend a Sunday.  However, in exchange for the crystal clear water of Tai Long Wan, a cold beer at sandy beach, and a bowl of fresh “shan shui” tofu dessert at a village eatery, all the sweat and exhaustion really didn’t matter much.  Besides, seeing the great scenery and breathing in the fresh air of Sai Kung is far healthier than spending the weekend sardining in Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui.  I started the hike from Pak Tam Au bus stop, walked past the half-desert village of Chek Keng and the hill pass of Tai Long Au, and stopped by Tai Long village for a bowl of noodle and tofu dessert.  I spent much of the afternoon hopping between the four beaches of Tai Long Wan.  At the end of day, I walked up the steep MacLehose Trail outside Sai Wan Village for the pass of Chui Tung Au.  From there, it was another 30-minute walk above the magnificent Highland Reservoir to Sai Wan Pavilion for the village-bus back to Sai Kung Town.

In many ways, hiking in the countryside of Sai Kung made me realized that every square inch of mangrove forest and coral reef left in Hong Kong is so preciously beautiful and yet so vulnerable at the same time.  Not only do they are challenged by the rising sea temperature caused by global warming, but also seriously threatened by the pathetic vision and monetary greed of certain developers and governmental officials.
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The sleepy village of Check Keng faces the inner gulf of Chek Keng Kau.
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A bowl of “shan shui” tofu dessert at Tai Long Village came as the perfect way to cool down my overheat body.
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The first glimpse of Tung Wan made me hard to believe that I was in Hong Kong.
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Markings from a frequent visitor in a small rock alcove at Tung Wan.
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Tai Wan offers the biggest stretch of sandy beach at Tai Long Wan.
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Wooden bridge at the entry point of Ham Tin Wan.
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Scenery of Ham Tin Wan.
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Looming in a distance, Sharp Peak offers one of the most challenging and rewarding uphill hike in Hong Kong.
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It was so hot that even a little dog preferred a dip in the water.
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Because of its close proximity to the village-bus stop, Sai Wan seemed to receive the most number of visitors.

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