Out and about

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 November, 2008, 12:00am

Far removed from Hong Kong's dense urban conurbation, yet just beyond Sai Kung's hills, lie some of the New Territories' great delights - the deserted South Pacific-like beaches at Tai Long Wan and the rugged, grassy, spectacularly beautiful mountain ranges that surround Sharp Peak.

Most of Tai Long Wan (Big Wave Bay) and the surrounding village areas at Ham Tin (Salt Fields) were left outside Country Park boundaries created in the 1970s; villages still thrived in remote areas then but almost all are now deserted. In the early 90s, a number of villagers attempted to develop this area for speculative housing developments - and even landed earth-moving equipment and started work despite government prohibitions; alert hikers quickly notified district officials and work was stopped.

Sharp Peak, just beyond Tai Long Wan, is a clearly visible landmark that offers excellent if strenuous hiking opportunities. On a now sadly infrequent clear autumn day, the views from the top out across Mirs Bay are nothing short of spectacular.

During weekends Tai Long Wan is very popular with hikers, who access beaches here and at nearby Sai Wan via tracks around High Island Reservoir. These bays are also popular with Hong Kong's launch owners, who come out to the countryside, anchor their boats almost on top of each other and then spend the entire day below decks playing endless rounds of mahjong.

Opened in 1978, High Island was the last major reservoir built in the New Territories; a massive engineering project that took almost 10 years to complete and involved the closure of two narrow channels between High Island and the Sai Kung Peninsula. Remote and difficult to access, High Island merits a footnote in local history; this was the location of Post Y - a British Army Aid Group advance post that successfully operated behind Japanese lines during the second world war and maintained clandestine contact between Free China and the occupied city.

Tai Long Wan can be reached either by launch or on foot. Catch a bus from Sai Kung town centre to the country park entrance at Pak Tam Chung and then continue on foot around High Island Reservoir. The few small village shops encountered en route are mostly open on weekends only; so take plenty of water. Or take the 94 bus to Wong Shek pier and hire a boat to take you around the Tung Sam Kei Shan peninsula. Then it's about an hour's walk over the hills (the first view of the beaches from the hilltop is superb). If the surf isn't too big you can take a boat from Wong Shek pier all the way to Ham Tin Wan); hikers should allow several hours for either trip.