There are three types of camper: the backyarders, the serious backpackers, and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink brigade. Sai Kung has plenty of each.
Backyarders are usually still in primary school, get super-excited about sleeping in a tent, but prefer to stay within cooee of home in case it gets scary in the middle of the night.
Some of them get the bug for sleeping out and grow up to become serious backpackers. They camp regularly and have all the specialist gear: lightweight tents, pro sleeping bags, headlamps, trousers with zip-off legs, sporks. They know where all the good campsites are, can pitch a tent in minutes, and whip up gourmet meals on the tiniest camp stove. Serious backpackers never get lost – they have maps, compasses and, usually, local knowledge. Like all campers, they’re a kind-hearted bunch, always happy to lend a hand or a tent peg.
The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink brigade also enjoys nothing more than a night in the great outdoors. But, unlike the serious backpackers, brigaders choose not to forgo the luxuries. Elsewhere, this means loading up the car with the biggest tent they can find, pillows, duvets, blow-up mattresses, tables, chairs, the sugar bowl and the contents of the fridge. This doesn’t really work in Sai Kung, where there are few drive-up campsites. Here you need another form of transportation: a boat.
According to the government, you are not allowed to camp in a country park or special area (including most beaches), except in designated campsites.
Fortunately for boat-owning brigaders, these include two of Sai Kung’s loveliest beaches: Sai Wan and Long Ke. Serious backpackers hike their gear in: brigaders load a boat to the gunwhales with gear, children and dogs, and simply sail around the coast and unload at the other end.There are few things finer than a Sai Kung beach after the junk-trippers have gone home: bobbing about in the sea with a sundowner in one hand, the barbecue sizzling, and nothing to worry about except how to keep the sand out of your flysheet.
One word of warning: check the forecast before heading out to this exposed coast, and don’t go if there is any likelihood of an incoming monsoon and the accompanying swells. Should you get caught out, you’ll need a good tent, or expect to spend the night with a face full of canvas, followed by a face full of sand, as the wind picks up the top layer of the beach and flings it through the air vents that seemed like such a good idea in the shop. We’ve been there.
This is why serious backpackers tend to avoid beach campsites and head for the hills.