A high-speed ferry whisks us from Hong Kong Island to Lantau Island where the hike begins. Lantau has a long and colorful history, visited by the Chinese imperial court during the thirteenth century and by Portuguese, Dutch and British traders during the era of European colonial expansion. Pirates and opium smugglers once used Lantau as a base of operations, and Japanese soldiers brutally occupied the island during World War II. Since the late twentieth century, extensive development has taken place on the north side of Lantau, most notably the international airport and Tung Chung New Town. South Lantau, however, where we are headed, remains rural and largely undeveloped. In fact, half of Lantau Island’s 144 square kilometers have been designated a Country Park for nature conservation. Over hundred kilometers of hiking trails crisscross the island, many in the south.
Our hike begins in Silvermine Bay, at a “hidden” trailhead, just steps from the ferry pier. The path hugs the rocky coastline, offering spectacular views of Hong Kong Island and several other outlying islands. Soon the trail turns away from the ocean and plunges into an upland forest. Here, evergreen trees provide welcome shade on hot sunny days. As we gradually ascend, we pass mountain streams, decaying farmhouses, and the occasional water buffalo. As recently as the 1970s, buffalo and cattle were used to pull farmers’ plows. Today, both animals are a common sight on the hillsides and in the abandoned rice paddies of Lantau.
At a height of 275 meters above sea level, we stop to enjoy some spectacular views: the white sands of Cheung Sha beach, the green humps of the Soko Islands and the dramatic peaks of Lo Yan Shan and Tai Tung Shan. Tai Tung Shan, or Sunset Peak in English, is the third highest mountain in Hong Kong and is a popular destination for hikers.
A flight of stone steps carved into the hillside brings us back to sea level and to a paved road that leads to the village of Pui O. On the way, we stop at a quiet beach to dip our feet in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. We also pass through a wetland area where a herd of water buffalo roam freely. If you have not yet spotted a buffalo on this hike, you will almost certainly do so here!From Pui O, a 10-minute bus ride returns us to Silvermine Bay. There we have the option of eating a traditional Cantonese meal at an outdoor seafood restaurant, relaxing on the beach, or returning directly to Central on the next ferry.
Cost: HK$500 per person, includes transport Total tour time: 4 hours (3 hours of hiking)
Tour starts at 9:00 am, in Central, Hong Kong Island, at the entrance to Ferry Pier 6 (Mui Wo). Walking distance: 9 km
Grade: moderate Facilities: Toilets en route