Island Excursions: Speedboat edition
In this article, we cover some of the lesser travelled, uninhabited islands of Hong Kong. A majority of these islands are not easy to get to, and will require chartering a private speedboat to help get you back and forth (hence the title). Many of these spots will not have piers or facilities, and so extra precaution will need to be taken when visiting. Be sure to go well-equipped - we recommend water shoes, life vests for both you and the pup and a dry bag. - Oh, and watch out the barnacles!
1. Basalt Island
The mysterious Basalt Island, named Fo Shek Chau in Chinese (火石洲) - literally translating to "Lava rock island" - forms the Ung Kong Group, along with Wang Chau and Bluff Island. It is part of the Hong Kong GeoPark, and is home to a magnificent arch (pictured), and is also the site of Hong Kong's first ever commercial airline crash, back in December 1948. The airliner, carrying 28 passengers - including Quentin Roosevelt II (American president Theodore Roosevelt's grandson) crashed on the island due to poor visibility, and all killed. A plinth and memorial plaque have since been resurrected to remember the victims. To get here, you will need to charter a private speedboat. If you would like to see the memorial plinth, we advise getting off on the North of the island, and making your way down south. Head to the end of the rocky beach, where you will then need to swim and coasteer your way to see the arch. Although, a little tricky and suggested for experienced explorers, the views are well worth it.
2. Bluff Island
Right next door to Basalt Island, lies Bluff Island, where you will find some of the softest, powdery white sands on Ung Kong Chau beach. It is a popular destination for junk boats, but you can also charter a speedboat to get you to the island. We recommend our friends over at LIK Speedboat Service to help you get to and from. Plus, dog-friendly Junk Boat services are also available - Win! Although Bluff island is also home to a beautiful arch (Sha Tong Hau) and popular amongst experienced coasteerers, it is also known for its unique "Clasped Hands Rock" which is a short 20-30 minute bush-whacking hike to the left of the beach.
3. Jin Island
Also known as Tiu Chung Chau, which translates into "Hanging Bell Island", Jin Island is known for having a little islet which looks like a goldfish from birdseye view. The seacave or arch, known as Kam Chung Ngam (金鐘岩) is commonly referred to as Goldfish Wagging Tail (金魚擺尾) which sits in the "tail" of the goldfish. Although some people decide to hire kayaks from Lobster Bay Sandbank Kayak, its quite the journey and we advise chartering a speedboat from Clearwater Bay or Sai Kung, which will take under 30 minutes. We advise alighting at the beach, as shown in this map, and following the trail to the right of the beach, marked by ribbons, to the vantage point, and back. Particularly for intermediate hikers. Although the trail can lead you to a closer vantage point of the arch, we do not recommend you do so with dogs as this is a near vertical climb and can prove treacherous for inexperienced explorers. If you must come by this way to see the arch, we advise climbing up to join the trail vs. climbing down.
4. Kau Sai Chau
Not many people would think to visit this island due to the Golf Course taking up a majority of the island, but there are a number of ways for you to enjoy and explore the island - one of which involves a nice gentle hike from Yim Tin Tsai via the "Jade Bridge", and back. If you're after a day of splish-splashing fun on the beach, we advise chartering a speedboat to Kau Sai Wan from Sai Kung, and visiting the rock pools to the right of the beach. Some daredevils do scale the waterfalls and there is a way to do a bit of stream-trekking here, but this is not advised for those visiting with dogs. Instead, we advise bringing a picnic basket of snacks and refreshments, a pop-up tent to set up camp for the day and enjoying the fresh water of the lower pools. Speedboat contact number: LIK Speedboat Service (+852) 62108776 - English available
5. Ninepin Islands
Ninepin Islands, also known as Kwo Chau, is actually a group of 29 islands in the eastern waters of Hong Kong, and got its name from British sailors for its unique rock formations resembling bowling pins. East, North and South Ninepin Islands are the most popular of the group, and although there is less to explore with the dogs on North Ninepin Island - it is still doable! Once you alight on North Ninepin Island, there is one path to the left of the pier, which leads to the lighthouse and a unique rock platform, known as the "Sunken Ship Crack" (pictured left), and Big Stove Arch, and to the right of the pier, you'll find the Cannon Rock (pictured centre). South Ninepin Island has a lot more to explore in terms of hiking with the pup, with plenty of the iconic hexagonal columns, a sea arch tucked away behind the beach and a rock chamber in the form of a slit (pictured right) to the right of the island from the beach. However, it is very exposed so if you plan to spend sometime here, do bring a pop-up tent to provide you and the pups some shelter. The most important thing to note when planning your visit to the Ninepin Islands, is that they can only be visited between May to September due to the rough wind and sea conditions, so be sure to plan ahead! To get to any of these islands, we recommend chartering a speedboat from Sai Wan Ho or Sam Ka Tsuen for a 20-30 minute journey. Speedboat contact numbers: (+852) 9528 3501 or (+852) 9166 1382 - Chinese only, departing from Sai Wan Ho - or (+852) 9383 2432 departing from Sam Ka Tsuen
6. Port Island
Charter a speedboat from Wong Shek Pier in Sai Kung to get to this red island dubbed the “Danxia Wonder at Sea” for its resemblance to the Danxia landform in China. The Island, also known as Chek Chau (赤洲) literally translating to "red island", is located in the Tolo Channel and is known for its crystal clear waters. Although there can be some coasteering involved to see certain rock formations, explorers can also hike the mountain, Chek Chau Teng, which stands at a seemingly modest 131m - but don't be fooled, the climb is quite steep and has minimal coverage, so only attempt this in cooler months! To do this, and visit the beach pictured above , you will need to be dropped off on the North-East. However, it's also possible to be dropped off around the Tin Hau Temple on the West, or on the South of the island as well. It all just depends on what you're after! Speedboat contact number: (+852) 9444 2038 - Chinese only
7. Wang Chau
Not a lot of information is written on Wang Chau, and with good reason - this island is not for the faint-hearted, and we only recommend experienced explorers visit, as it requires some extensive coasteering and swimming between arches to explore. The island is mostly known for its hexagonal rock columns, rock pools and abundant sea caves. A gravelly tombolo connects the little islets as the North of the island, but a little coasteering is required to get here, unless you ask that the speedboat drops you off here. If you wish to have a nice leisurely explore of the island, we would advise that you get dropped off here. Here you can explore the islets, a miniature sea cave and the crystal clear waters between the channels. If you plan to see the main sea arch, beautifully name Moon Tooth Cave, we would advise viewing this from the safety of your speedboat - or kayak. To get to the stunning and surreal setting of the rock pool (pictured right), you will need to find yourself a brave speedboat captain to drop you off around the mid-south of the island, and be sure to do so when the waters are calmer so you don't run into any trouble when alighting. From here, you will then need to coaster your way back towards the tombolo, clockwise, which requires( you guessed it) lots of rock climbing and swimming! Speedboat contact number: (+852) 9802 0011 2038 - Chinese only, departing from Clearwater Bay, or Lobster Bay Sandbank Kayak (+852) 9098 2759
7. Wong Mau Chau
And last but definitely not least, if you're looking for a nice relaxing day on a remote island, Wong Mau Chau is it! You can cover the whole island in under 45 minutes, and get a vantage point of the neighbouring islands from the charming lighthouse on the peak, and enjoy a full day of snorkelling the crystal clear waters. Although there are no facilities on the island, there is a pier making it easy to hop on and off via speedboat. Just be sure to bring everything you need, and to wear some water shoes to protect you from the rocks, barnacles and sea urchins!
Speedboat contact number: LIK Speedboat Service (+852) 62108776 - English available
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