Coasteering is the sport where you find a rocky coastline and stay as close to it as possible, either on the rock, or swimming in the water! This is part 4 of my Hiking in Hong Kong series. Read part 1 on the best-known hikes, part 2 on another bunch of good hikes and part 3 on stream hiking.
Coasteering takes the fun and the risk up another level from stream hiking. In addition to hiking and climbing skills, the ability to swim is now essential. Coasteering allows people to explore the rocky coastal landscape, along with the flora and fauna of the coast. Hong Kong has a fantastic coastline to experience this awesome sport. It also helps that a good part of eastern Hong Kong is identified as a UNESCO global geopark, known for its unique geology.
My first attempt at coasteering was a hike from Yau Tong to Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories. It was the easiest coasteering listed on a website that I often used. However we did not plan it entirely well and ended up with a group of about twenty people of varying skill levels. The scenery was stunning, but there were moments when we were high above the sea and some people had their fear of heights acting up. A few turned around at the start of the slightly challenging section and that was for the best.
A key mistake we made was in attempting to do the route dry. This meant that we went higher up the rock than we would have if we had been prepared to get wet, and consequently increased our risk if someone did slip and also triggered peoples’ fear of heights. In any case, we managed to do the entire route dry and got some fantastic pictures.
After that attempt, I was a lot more circumspect about coasteering. I decided to try again, but with more experienced friends who were less likely to need help and would also be able to help others if a situation arose. This worked well.
My best day in Hong Kong (Middle Island)
My next attempt happened on the very best day I had in Hong Kong. One morning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the world was in lockdown, a few friends and I went to Deep Water Bay Beach on Hong Kong Island. We had heard that a dolphin named Dave was consistently showing up to play with the early morning swimmers. I arrived at the beach and saw that many swimmers were congregating in one area and declared to my friends that the dolphin was there (I had already swum with him once before at that point). We swam out more than half a kilometre to see Dave swim with a woman. She was swimming farther and farther out and Dave was swimming with her.
Eventually we caught up and Dave swum with us also. He was very friendly and brushed against me. I observed his thin little penis sticking out. At a later point, I did an internet search to understand whether this was a lonely dolphin looking for romantic companionship. I was relieved to find that their penises got a lot bigger when they were aroused. Dave was just a kid who wanted someone to play with.
After this experience, the bunch of us returned to the beach and then ran a kilometre along the coast to end up at the ferry pick up point to Middle Island. The ferry is a small motorboat that takes people the 50 metres to the yacht clubs at Middle Island for free. We got off the boat and started our hike clockwise around Middle Island.
I was uncomfortable climbing at the start, so I waded in the water until I felt sure enough about getting on the rock. The rocks were not smooth or slippery, so grip was not a problem. I loved the patterns and colours on the rocks and even found the various growths on the rock to be very interesting. There were sections where the rock looked just too vertical for us to pass through. My friends Georg and Clemens had more rock climbing experience than me; they went for it, in some cases I managed to follow. This was really fun.
Not all places were climbable, so we just jumped into the water and swam those parts. It really helps to have goggles before you jump in. Climbing back onto the rock can be tricky. There are plenty of barnacles on the rock and the waves may push you onto them. The barnacles can be really sharp and an accidental scrape can leave you bleeding. Gloves and full-length clothing really helps in these circumstances. In any case, I was thrilled to see goose barnacles extending their cirri out to filter feed as the waves came in. We also saw a variety of crabs as we passed by.
We took a bit longer to go around the island than we had planned. Eventually we turned a corner and arrived at the other side of the yacht clubs. We took the little boat back to Hong Kong Island. Our decision to go with experienced people who were willing and able to swim was validated. This had been my best day in Hong Kong and it was only lunchtime. We had all been ‘stuck’ in Hong Kong for months unable to travel due to the pandemic. Yet we experienced two fantastic things for which I would have gladly travelled to another country, just a 10 minute busride away from where I lived.
Tai Ngam Hau Peninsula
I was told this was a good coasteering site and decided to check it out. The peninsula is not far from Sai Kung town.
My friends and I were unable to find our way to the coast. We made an attempt to cut through the forest toward the coast. This turned out to be a painful decision: we cleared a path through the bushes and trees through untrodden land without the benefit of a machete. I led part of the way because I had full-length clothing. The best that could be said about this part was that it was not as bad as the Tung Ma To Stream hike that I attempted with Clemens a month prior. After about half an hour of crashing through the bushes, we arrived at a cliff edge – and decided that it was too risky to attempt to go down that way. We went back.
Back on the forest trail, we eventually continued through the peninsula and found a way to the coast, skipping a part of the coasteering. We got started proper, 1 ½ hours after our original start and things were finally fun. The coasteering was great.
At one point, we came across the clearest waters that I had ever seen in Hong Kong and I was able to record a school of fish. It is unremarkable when compared to the awesome regional waters in nearby Philippines and Indonesia, but brilliant when compared with waters in Hong Kong.
We came across a new-looking volleyball along with a lot of other garbage on the way. We carried it all the way back. At the very end was a 300 metre swim to Trio Beach. I was the last to arrive, and clambered onto the steps at the beach, just as a ferry was about to dock there.
The Hong Kong Island coastline to the south of Repulse Bay offers coasteering similar to the aforementioned Middle Island. In particular, the route from South Bay Beach to Chung Hom Kok Beach is scenic and a fair amount of fun. There are a number of spots where the crashing waves make for great atmosphere and good photos.
It was just strange that we came across a nude man a couple of hundred metres before one of the beaches along the route. He seemed to be in some sort of yoga pose, with his knees and elbows touching the ground. He was wearing only a hat over his head and a thick black string around his penis, at the end of which something appeared to be tied. I was later told that he was well-known in the area, and spotted with a pink string another time.
Hong Kong has plenty more to offer with regards to coasteering and hiking, but I have explored very few of them. Go out and explore!