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Hong Kong’s Global Geopark: Sai Kung’s little known treasure

01 February 2019

Cave cuts through to the other side of the island.

By Daisy CL Mandap

Hundreds of millions of years ago, a number of underwater volcanoes erupted so fiercely it totally changed the landscape in this sleepy seaside part of Hong Kong. The cataclysmic event left priceless reminders that sadly, have been left unnoticed by many, including those who have practically spent their whole life in this busy, noisy city.

Pineapple bun island, so named because of rocks that resemble pineapple buns.

These relics from that distant past when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, are now known as Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, most of which are scattered across Sai Kung, with just a small, eerie patch located on Tai Po’s shores.

The gigantic outcrops that form a 150-km swathe on Sai Kung’s shores are said to have been the result of the violent eruptions that occurred some 140 million years ago. First time visitors will surely be awed by the eerie ridges that formed naturally on the rock deposits, many of which resemble Hong Kong’s skyline today. It’s as if the city’s transformation into a world-class city with towering skyscrapers was foretold eons ago.

Even more impressive is the vastness of the geopark. On a sailboat, it takes all of three hours to tour all the islands with the impressive hexagonal columns that form this unique cultural heritage.

An alternative way is to take one of the tour boats that regularly ply the area and carry up to 20 people, for which each passenger is charged about $250. However, there are sites that cannot be reached by these bigger boats because of rough waters.

There are also one-hour trips offered by touts at Sai Kung pier for just $50, but as can be imagined, the tour covers only a fraction of the wondrous site.

Part of that short tour should include the famous Pineapple Bun island, where tourists can disembark to check out the gigantic sponge-like rocks that are strewn about. The shape and indentations on most of these rocks account for the island’s name.

According to Hong Kong Geopark’s website, there are 140 UNESCO global geoparks spread across 38 countries, and 37 of them are located in China. These wonders of nature include the famous Ha Long Bay in Vietnam and the Karst Mountains in Yangshuo, Guangdong Province, both of which predate Sai Kung’s rock ridges.

Hong Kong’s Geopark was first listed with UNESCO as part of China’s National Geoparks in 2009, but was renamed in 2015 as Hong Kong’s own.

According to its own website, the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark comprises two geological regions within a unified boundary: the hexagonal rock columns in Sai Kung and the sedimentary rocks formed over different geologic periods in northeast New Territories. To reach this site where the ancient volcanic rocks are found, however, one still has to set off from Sai Kung and walk for about an hour to reach the seashore which is technically already part of Tai Po, New Territories.

What sets Hong Kong’s Geopark apart from most of the UNESCO heritage sites is the relative ease with which visitors can behold them. Sai Kung is an easy 30-minute trip from North Point MTR station. Just hop on the Tseung Kwan O line and get off at Hanghau station. From there, take the green 101M minibus which will take you all the way to Sai Kung pier.

There, you can either book your own private boat for the tour, or reserve seats in one of the Geopark tour boats for a glorious three-hour trip.

During the busy months or weekends, it might be best to book your boat beforehand. If you do, best to contact Angus Yacht International, as they have several boats to choose from, including pleasure crafts. As longtime Sai Kung residents, the couple who owns the fleet of boats is also one of the best providers for this service. Send a message to their Facebook page or contact telephone number 93694017.

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