Times changing for old man and the sea

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2006, 12:00am

Every weekend, To Yick-wei rises before dawn to prepare his boat for urban dwellers seeking peace in his unspoiled fishing village.

Like many retired fishermen in the area, the 70-year-old resident of Tap Mun, or Grass Island, makes a living in the boat rental business, running trips between Sai Kung, Tap Mun and other nearby villages.

'I take people to catch fish in the southeast and then show them the corals in the northwestern end. They can also dive in Pui O Wan in the south,' Mr To said.

Visitors who want to explore the secluded islands in Hong Kong's north-east have few choices - only infrequent ferry services and rent-a-boat packages.

But a half-day island-hopping ferry tour starting next Saturday promises more travel options, as well as competition to local skippers. The cruise organised by the Tourism Board, will stop at Yan Chau Tong (Double Haven) marine park, a traditional Hakka village, Tin Hau temple at Kat O, or Crooked Island, and also the 'balance rock' on Tap Mun every weekend.

But Mr To said he was not worried about losing business.

'At least the cruise will bring more people to the island and make it livelier,' he grinned.

In a busy month, Mr To has one or two customers a week.

He feels the island has lost some of its attractiveness over the years. 'The air is not as good as it was and the fish do not taste as fresh.'

He blamed this on air pollutants and waste water from across the border. Rising temperatures were another concern.