When we talk about Hong Kong being, or striving to be, world-class, we almost always do so with respect to its man-made features. Much less attention is paid to the world-class status of some of its natural formations. Hong Kong’s coastline boasts a wide range of fantastically shaped rock structures produced by erosion and weathering, including sea arches, sea stacks, geos, notches, blowholes and many more features that you probably haven’t heard of. The oldest rocks are as old as 400 million years. To conserve and promote awareness of our unique landforms, the government opened the Hong Kong Geopark at the beginning of this month. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines geoparks as territories that include one or more sites of scientific importance—not just in terms of their geological but also their archeological, ecological and cultural value. Such officially recognized areas are an increasingly popular phenomenon around the world. Hong Kong’s geopark, which has been recognized by UNESCO but is not an official UNESCO site, covers 50 square kilometers and consists of eight different areas, spread across the northeast New Territories sedimentary rock region and the Sai Kung volcanic rock region. Beijing’s Ministry of Land and Resources has classified it as one of China’s 182 national geoparks. Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about Hong Kong’s most impressive rock formations is their unique accessibility. As Jim Chi Yung, chair professor of the Department of Geography and chairman of Hong Kong Friends of the Country Parks, points out, the impressive landforms “are so near to the urban district that you can finish a round trip in a single day. By contrast, many famous geosites in the world are far away from the urban district, so that a trip may take at least two days." Chi’s favorite rock formations are those at Ma Shi Chau and Tung Ping Chau, whose impressive shapes were formed by erosion about 100 years ago. He says such sedimentary rocks, as opposed to the volcanic variety extensively found here, are rare and precious in Hong Kong. To find out which is your favorite, visit each of the eight areas below. For more detailed information bout each and how to get there, visit the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department’s geopark website, www.geopark.gov.hk . High Island Located in the southeast of Sai Kung Peninsula, High Island’s hexagonal rock column is perhaps the most visually impressive land formation in Hong Kong—particularly the twisted column at High Island Reservoir East Dam, which is well worth getting close up to. Tai Long Wan coast nearby also features some eye-catching volcanic rocks, and has come first among the official “Top Ten Hong Kong Natural Attractions” many times. Ninepin Group The Ninepin Group consists of 29 islands in the easternmost waters of Hong Kong. They were so named because they reminded the first British seamen who saw them of an early bowling game. Most worth visiting among them is South Ninepin Island, where you’ll find the famous “Tiger Mouth Cave.” Featuring fairly formidable terrain, the island is only accessible during the summer. Ung Kong Group These three islands—Wang Chua, Basalt Island and Bluff Island—feature hexagonal columns with some striking columnar joints and steep cliffs on display. The high sea arches at each of the islands are three of the best you’ll see in Hong Kong. Sharp Island 2,000 meters off Sai Kung Pier, Sharp Island consists of volcanic rock older than that of the hexagonal columns. There is a range of bays and headlands created by erosion, with fine beaches including the popular Kiu Tsui. There’s also a hiking trail on the main island. Double Haven Located on the northeastern shore of Plover Cove Country Park, Double Haven, with its indented shoreline, has been designated a marine park. Many of its notable features were formed when it was flooded due to a rise in sea level 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. North and South Coasts of the Tolo Channel Ma Shi Chau along the north coast of the Tolo Channel features some 280 million-year-old sedimentary rock. The region was designated a “special area” in 1999. Meanwhile, Lai Chi Chong on the other side boasts igneous and sedimentary rocks formed 140 million years ago. Port Island and Wong Chuk Kok Tsui On the northern shore of the Tolo Channel, Wong Chuk Kok Tsui boasts Hong Kong’s oldest stratum of rock, a fossil-rich Devonian sedimentary rock deposited about 400 million years ago. Meanwhile Port Island, at the mouth of Tolo Harbor, contains red conglomerate, sandstone and siltstone. Tung Ping Chau Located in Mirs Bay, Tung Ping Chau is the easternmost outlying island of Hong Kong. Popular among visitors, it contains the region’s youngest sedimentary rock. The Tung Ping Chau shale is rated as Hong Kong’s number one rock for a range of distinct features, from its clearly defined bedding to its striking colors. Rock Out For Free! Running through March 28, a free tour of the Hong Kong Geopark will be on offer every Sunday and public holiday, excluding Lunar New Year Holidays. The Hong Kong National Geographic Hiking Festival will also take place in Sai Kung and Double haven on December 5 and 6.