Take charge of the remaining summer season and head out to Ng Tung Chai waterfalls.
A stone’s throw from the high rises of Tai Po, the Ng Tung Chai waterfalls are one of Hong Kong’s best-kept secrets. Climb into a steep- sided world enveloped in dense rainforest and peppered with flowing cascades. Despite the area’s accessibility, it offers an escape from the crowds at weekends and during the week you’re likely to have this tropical wonderland to yourself.
Allow four to five hours for the moderately strenuous 6km walk to the three main falls, including swimming time, and take light snacks and plenty of water. Catch a taxi (about $50) or bus 64K from Tai Wo MTR Station (Exit A) to Ng Tung Chai village, then follow the sealed road uphill to the trailhead.
The trail begins as a concrete path winding through lush undergrowth to picturesque Man Tak Monastery. From there, the route steps up in calibre and becomes a dirt track. At the first junction, turn right up the northern slopes of Tai Mo Shan, or Big Hat Mountain.
Tai Mo Shan is Hong Kong’s highest peak at 957 metres. It’s so big that the mountain often creates its own weather and the northern slopes, where Ng Tung Chai is situated, are the wettest in Hong Kong. The upside of all that rain is the waterfalls flow year-round: visit during the summer rainy season, however, and you’re guaranteed a roaring reception.
The going is steep, but walkers are rewarded with expansive views over Lam Tsuen Country Park and, on clear days, Shenzhen. After working up a sweat ascending 300 vertical metres, turn left turn at the next junction and walk to Scatter Falls. (The more intrepid have the option of following the track further up to the summit ridge of Tai Mo Shan and a multitude of trekking options.)
From here on in, it’s all fun. Scramble down the “forbidden path”, past banana palms and secluded caves, to emerge at the splendid Main Falls. The highest waterfall in Hong Kong, this 110-foot stunner deserves some time and its shallow pool presents a welcome opportunity to cool off.
Ready to move on? Head downhill through the lush greenery, keeping an eye out for wildlife; the area is a hotspot for lizards and insects. After some time, the Middle Falls can be heard. Although not as impressive as the Main Falls, the Middle Falls are worth a visit, but save that final pit stop for the Bottom Falls.
Not much further down, the Bottom Falls are a wholly appropriate climax to any day on the hill. Delve into an idyllic chasm tangled with vines and ferns all vying for position on the rocks to soak up the moisture. Sunlight squeezes through the thick canopy in ethereal beams. It feels more like a remote corner of Borneo than Hong Kong.
The sure-footed can clamber over the rocks to the upper pool, which is the best spot for a refreshing dip.
Once fully intoxicated by the Bottom Falls, it’s a simple matter of walking 45 minutes to Lam Kam Road and catching a bus back to civilization.