Nicola Newbery takes us on a journey to north of Sai Kung Peninsula, Hoi Ha Wan, ‘the bay beneath the sea’.
With an AFCD-estimated 45,000 visitors in 2015, Hoi Ha Wan is Hong Kong’s most accessible Marine Park and is a popular destination for day trippers. Watch out for monkeys in the trees, cows on the road, and a stunning view over Long Harbour as the road drops down from Pak Tam Au. Take the no.7 minibus from Sai Kung Pier and alight at Hoi Ha Village and make your way down the village towards the restaurants and the beaches. With a wealth of corals, including 64 of the 84 species of stony corals found in Hong Kong, Hoi Ha Wan has been a site of special scientific interest since 1986 and was gazetted as a Marine Park in 1996. If the tide is in, hire a kayak and paddle out to the closest corals by the pier or walk there along the coastal footpath. Marked as a popular snorkelling spot, you will notice that corals are much further out in the bay around Moon Island (it is unlawful for tourists to take any marine life away from the Marine Park. Please be a responsible tourist and only take photographs). There are other sightseeing spots or activities if you want to venture by foot so if the tide is out, walk over the exposed sands to explore the myriad of marine life, and if you’re lucky you may encounter charismatic animals such as Amphioctopus fangsiao, an octopus species which can survive out of water for short periods.
Alternatively, book yourself in for a free, guided eco-tour to learn about Hoi Ha’s biodiversity with the AFCD Warden Post or stop off at one of Hoi Ha’s Antiquities Monuments, the lime kilns, where villagers used to burn oyster shells and coral skeletons to produce lime. Cut through the woodland beside the concreted kayak hire business to a boulder trackway which will bring you out by a banyan tree. Skirt the mouth of the estuary until you reach Hoi Ha stream, listed as an ecologically sensitive stream. Cross the stream, picking your way over boulders, and drop down into the western part of the Marine Park where there is a large stand of mangroves. Take care on the last part of the trail, as it is in a bad state of repair and is hazardous where sections have collapsed into the sea.
Hoi Ha Wan is in the caldera of an extinct volcano; wherever you look, the entire coastline and hillsides are strewn with massive boulders, some of which have been incorporated into the Nature Trail footpath. Once paddy fields, but abandoned in the 1970s, the agricultural land in the river valley was reclaimed by nature as marshland and forest. However, the land has been sold to developers who want to develop the area and the Outline Zoning Plan has released a large area for building houses which can only be approved by a misuse of the discredited Small House Policy. There has been much opposition from 30 Environmental groups who have united under one banner – Save Our Country Parks – and from expert ecologists. The AFCD and the Town Planning Board will both be subject to judicial reviews this year as a result of their decisions. How much longer will you be able to enjoy this site of outstanding natural beauty? You might like to reflect on this over lunch at one of the two village restaurants, or over a barbecue at the wooded and highly scenic Hoi Ha barbecue site situated on Hoi Ha Road.
How to get to Hoi Ha Wan
• Take the no. 7 green minibus from Sai Kung Pier and alight at Hoi Ha Village. A return journey by taxi will cost you around $110.
• No wheelchair access anywhere in the Marine Park, including the Hoi Ha barbecue site.
• Boat owners are allowed to moor in the Marine Park without a permit at three demarcated anchoring areas.
• Dogs are not allowed on the beach during weekends or on public holidays between 10am and 5pm.
Want to be village correspondent? Email firstname.lastname@example.org