Of Rocks and Salt

I didn’t know until researching for a trip to Hong Kong that UNESCO awarded heritage tags not only to sites of historic importance but also to sites of geographic significance and to biosphere reserves. These ‘Geoparks’ need to be studied, catalogued, researched upon, preserved as well as kept open to tourists with the hope of not only educating the public but also bring about an enriching experience that leaves a long-lasting impression on them.
Hong Kong has two UNESCO Global Geoparks – The Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region and Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region. Both regions offer hiking trails, sea adventure trips, beaches and amazing geographic formations.
We chose to visit the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region with a ‘Recommended GeoParks Guide’ (R2G) over the Sedimentary Rock Region because this is a shorter trip that can be covered in a day. The R2G guides operate under the UNESCO Global Geoparks Guide System and therefore are responsible, reliable, knowledgeable and not your run of the mill tour operator. Our R2G was an English Guide, the only one at the time of writing this blog. Other R2Gs offer bilingual or trilingual guided trips (a mix of English and other regional languages). It is possible to simply go down to Sai Kung New Pier and hire a boat, but the tour will be without any commentary as exclusively English speaking guides are really hard to come by.pierOur first stop was Sharp Island (Kiu Tsui Chau). It is a lovely beach with fine sand and rocks that are volcanic in nature. A tombolo (sand levee) connects Sharp Island with the smaller Kiu Tau island. The tombolo is visible only during low tide.
TomboloOn our 4-hour boat tour we were introduced to different types or rocks, we saw sea caves, sea arches, sea stacks and visited an island where traditional salt making is carried out.Pineapple buns.001
Sea cavessea archrock columnssea stackWe visited the small, quiet, serene Yim tin tsai island village. Chan Mang Tak, who belonged to the Hakka clan migrated from Guangdong and settled on this island in the late 1800s. Farming, fishing and salt-making were their main occupation. With the arrival of missionaries, all the residents converted to Catholicism. A chapel and school were erected. Masses were held regularly. With time, people left the island looking for greener pastures. Currently the population stands at ONE!
Village SignThe island has two small restaurants (prior booking is essential), a chapel, an exhibition centre, ruins of the first chapel, abandoned salt pans and a teeny shop where salt products can be bought.ChapelFour hours spent well, getting to know another side of Hong Kong that most tourists do not realise exists or choose to ignore.
Points to note:
1) Getting to Sai Kung is easy but takes up a long time especially if you are staying on Hong Kong Island.
2) Guided tours are easily available on weekends and during holidays. Weekday boat tours make it hard on the pocket as there is no one else to share the boat costs with.
3) Boat tours are weather dependent. Make sure you have days to fall back on in case the trip gets cancelled on your scheduled day.
4) Carry drinking water and small eats as none is available on the tour and of course it is important to stay hydrated 🙂

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