When we are short of time but still want to have a brief getaway from the city of Hong Kong, we often hop on a bus to Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a relatively new residential district at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island for a short hike over Pottinger Peak to the cozy surfing beach of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) and Shek O (石澳). The hike takes a little over an hour, and is relatively simple, involving two sections of stepped path, one going up the Pottinger Peak and one descending down to the beach. No matter how many times we have walked this route, it was always a pleasant surprise to reach the top of the Pottinger Peak and have the first glimpse of the turquoise water south of Hong Kong Island.
The trail begins in Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a residential neighborhood at the eastern tip of Hong Kong Island.
Looking north during the ascend to the Pottinger Peak, the Victoria Harbour outside of Junk Bay (將軍澳) is busy with cruise ships and boats of all sorts.
Looking down from the uphill trail, the residential area of Siu Sai Wan looks quite densely populated.
Watching beautiful butterflies hopping between flowers is a pure delight.
Looking south from Pottinger Peak, the peninsula of Shek O and Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) lie right ahead.
A ruined shelter on Pottinger Peak has been used as a temporary shrine.
It seems that the temporary shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.
Walking ahead, one can clearly see that much of the seaside land between the Big Wave Bay and Big Wave Bay.
On the downhill route, there are several Camellia trees (茶花) by the trail.
The stepped path continues to the hill adjacent to the Big Wave Bay. The noise of the crowds and public announcement from speakers can be heard long before we reach the beach.
Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) is a decent little beach at the southeast of Hong Kong Island.
The natural rock formations around the area of Big Wave Bay are quite interesting.
Though the beach can get a little crowded during summer weekends. For the rest of year, it’s popular for surfers.
Some prefer to stay away from the crowds on a rocky slope near a BBQ site.
For families, small streams out to the sea can be an interesting playground with small fish and seaside creatures.
About half an hour of walk south of Big Wave Bay, there is a Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲), a tied island linked to the mainland of Shek O Village by a tombolo. On the tombolo, a narrow blue bridge is built for pedestrians who wish to visit Tai Tau Chau. The area is popular for couples taking wedding photos.
At one side of the tombolo, a peaceful tidal pool acts like a perfect mirror. The colours of the rocks around the pool reveal the varying water level from time to time.
The coastal granite of Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) are quite interesting after so many years of natural erosion and carving by the waves.
Despite the occasionally scary waves at this part of Hong Kong, many still brave the danger and climb onto the uneven coastal rocks for wedding photos.
The waves at Tai Tau Chau are beautiful but also terrifying sometimes.
Like the Geoparks in Sai Kung and Northeast New Territories, the coastal rocks at Tai Tau Chau are quite unique.
Just a stone throw from Tai Tau Chau lies the bigger beach of Shek O, a really popular outdoor destination for city dwellers of Hong Kong.
Just twenty minutes walk from High Island Reservoir East Dam (萬宜水庫東壩), Long Ke Wan is one of the favorite beaches in Hong Kong for many. Facing east to Mirs Bay (大鵬灣) along with the four beaches of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣), Long Ke Wan’s (浪茄灣) hexagonal stone columns, white and powdery sand and unpolluted sea water make it a popular destination for beachgoers who make the effort to the eastern edge of Sai Kung Peninsula. It is possible to reach Long Ke Wan from two different directions, both involve some degree of hiking. The easiest is to hop on a taxi from Sai Kung town centre to the East Dam of High Island Reservoir, from there it is only a 20 minutes walk to the beach. The other option is to take a village bus from Sai Kung town centre to Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭). From the pavilion, it is a two-hour scenic hike to Long Ke Wan. This walk covers part of the Section 2 of MacLehose Trail (麥理浩徑), from Sai Wan Shan (西灣山) to Long Ke Wan. Atop Sai Wan Shan, the picturesque beaches of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) down below with the mighty Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) as backdrop is truly one of the most iconic panoramas of Hong Kong’s natural beauty.
Much of coastal area from Long Ke Wan and High Island Reservoir East Dam all the way to the outlying islands south of the Sai Kung Peninsula are covered with polygonal stone columns.
These surreal stone formations are evidences from an active volcanic era 140 million years ago. The 20-minute walk from High Island Reservoir East Dam to Long Ke Wan offers great opportunity to see the coastal rock formations.
Flanked both sides by lush green slopes and back against Tuk Ngu Shan (獨孤山), Long Ke Wan (浪茄灣) is a protected bay opened southeastwards to the South China Sea.
The beach of Long Ke Wan is decent in size, with fine sand and crystal clear water.
Adjacent to Long Ke Wan, the coastal scenery of rock formations and sea caves are equally impressive.
Many visitors come to the area by yachts or hired boats.
At the remote Long Ke Wan, there is no cafe or changing rooms. All there is are natural scenery of a beautiful beach.
Many visitors set up tents on the sand. There is also a popular camp site at the back of the beach.
Unlike the beaches of Big Wave Bay where the waves can become quite strong, Long Ke is usually calmer.
During the summer months, the beach is very popular among young people.
Tidal pools can be found at the rocky areas at the side of beach.
A visitor comes to test his luck at the tidal pool.
Walking north from Long Ke Wan to Sai Wan Shan (西灣山) along the MacLehose Trail (麥理浩徑), hikers can have another magnificent overview of Long Ke Wan from above.
On Sai Wan Shan (西灣山), the view of High Island Reservoir and the outlying islands south of Sai Kung Peninsula makes one forget this is Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated city in the world.
Looking north from the top of Sai Wan Shan (西灣山), the scenery of Big Wave Bay beaches (大浪灣) and Sharp Peak (蚺蛇尖) is the icon of Hong Kong’s wilderness.
The trail then goes downhill from Sai Wan Shan to Chui Tung Au (吹筒坳), then winds along the north edge of High Island Reservoir towards Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭).
From the trail, visitors can see the West Dam of High Island Reservoir from distance.
The turquoise and green colours of High Island Reservoir always look refreshing.
From Sai Wan Pavilion (西灣亭), there is infrequent village buses return to the pier of Sai Kung town.
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.
The sleepy village of Check Keng faces the inner gulf of Chek Keng Kau.
A bowl of “shan shui” tofu dessert at Tai Long Village came as the perfect way to cool down my overheat body.
The first glimpse of Tung Wan made me hard to believe that I was in Hong Kong.
Markings from a frequent visitor in a small rock alcove at Tung Wan.
Tai Wan offers the biggest stretch of sandy beach at Tai Long Wan.
Wooden bridge at the entry point of Ham Tin Wan.
Scenery of Ham Tin Wan.
Looming in a distance, Sharp Peak offers one of the most challenging and rewarding uphill hike in Hong Kong.
It was so hot that even a little dog preferred a dip in the water.
Because of its close proximity to the village-bus stop, Sai Wan seemed to receive the most number of visitors.