Adventures at Crooked Island

islands-kato-slideKat O IslandWith its old cannons, temples and lovely beaches, Crooked is an island time warp. By Nigel Griffiths.

There are 40-50 people on Crooked island otherwise known as Kat O, which is now part of Plover Cove Country Park, and it feels a little like a time warp. It is a stunning place.

Kat O Main Street is a one-minute walk from the main pier. Ada’s Convenience Store, which sells drinks and snacks and, upstairs, houses the island’s main seafood restaurant (open daily). Stop for a chat: Ada speaks good English and has lived on Kat O her whole life. At the end of the street – over a bridge and under an arch – is the village’s main square, with a lovers’ tree and some ancient cannons pointing out to sea. At weekends, the Geopark Heritage Centre opens with resources on the local geology and a Tin Hau palanquin.

Kat O Temple

Tin Hau Temple, built in 1763 and rebuilt in 1879 and 1968. With hills behind it and the sea in front, it offers a splendid view for the deity. It is rich with cultural relics, including an 1882 incense burner, some fine Shiwan pottery and a 100kg bell cast in 1763 that bears two inscriptions in Chinese: “The country flourishes and the people live in peace” and “Pray for favourable weather”. A footpath behind the temple leads eventually to Tung O Wan and its wide sand beaches on the east coast. I didn’t hang around, however, following a close encounter with a snake near a tombstone at the back of the temple. It was small and dark and I did not stop to identify it – pythons are also known to be washed down the hills after downpours. Further around the coast is the Water Moon Temple behind small gates that are kept closed against the cows, but visitors are welcome.

The east coast, though not easily accessible, is dotted with sea caves and beautiful, pristine sandy beaches. The best way to explore is to hire a speedboat and swim ashore. At Mun Tsai Wan, a former British military adventure training camp traverses the mountain to Camp Cove – it is not clear what it is used for now, however, and notices warn visitors to keep out.

How to explore the east coast
Boats can be hired from Wong Shek Pier:
– Mrs So (tel: 9177 2521) can carry up to 15 people aboard her boat and will wait for you or pick up at an arranged time.
– Mr Ho (tel: 9257 2706) has a smaller boat
– Ada at the convenience store will also arrange boats for groups that eat at her restaurant (tel: 2697 9259).

There are two piers on Crooked Island. One at Kat O Chau, shaded by a large banyan, and a government-restricted pier at Mun Tsai Wan. There is a regular ferry from Sha Tau Kok for those with permits to the restricted area, but most people travel by private boat.