HONG KONG UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK
Hong Kong Geopark officially opened on 3rd November 2009 and is one of China’s 183 national geoparks. Joining the national geopark network has enabled Hong Kong to gain and exchange experience on preservation of valuable geological and topographical resources, promoting public awareness of earth science and foster the development of eco-tourism.
In September 2011 the park achieved global status when it was accepted as a member of The Global Geoparks Network (GGN), which is supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), at the 10th European Geoparks Conference in Langesund, Norway. Subsequent to its inclusion as a member of GGN, Hong Kong Geopark has officially been renamed and the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Global Geopark of China took place on 14th December 2011. As part of efforts to enhance the sustainable development of geotourism, geo-education and geoheritage, Hong Kong National Geopark has established partnership agreements with eight geoparks, Global Geopark Bergstrasse-Odenwald in the southwest of Germany, Kanawinka Geopark in Australia, Yangdanshan Geopark and Wudalianchi Global Geopark, both in China, Itiogawa Geopark in Japan, English Riviera Geopark in the United Kingdom, Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Northern Ireland and Lesvos Global Geopark in Greece. In 2015 the Geopark was renamed "Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark".
A geopark is a unique natural area with special geological significance and natural and cultural landscapes and serves the three objectives of conservation, education and sustained development. Hong Kong is part of the southeastern Pearl River estuary, neighbouring on Mount Nanling in the north and South China Sea in the south. Local topography is hilly with scattered coastal plains. The Hong Kong SAR comprises Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, Lantau Island and more than 200 other outlying islands. The total land area is 1,104 square kilometres.
Hong Kong has a variety of landforms. The long, irregular coastline is a natural geological gallery featuring spectacular landforms and rock formations shaped by waves and weathering. Here, are wave-cut sea cliffs, sea caves, sea arches, geos, sea stacks, notches and blowholes. Lying alongside are beaches, alluvial plains and mudflats which have come about thanks to millions of years of sedimentation. Inland areas showcase a variety of weathering characteristics. Terrain features arising from physical, chemical or biological weathering effects are prominent across peaks and valleys, ravines and escarpments. Hong Kong Geopark covers an area of about 50 square kilometres and is made up of eight geo-areas distributed across the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region and Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region. The park stretches from Tung Ping Chau in the north to the Ninepin Group in the south and includes Double Haven, Tolo Channel, Port Island-Bluff Head, High Island, Sharp Island and Ung Kong Group.
Map showing the two regions of Hong Kong Geopark
SAI KUNG VOLCANIC ROCK REGION
Most hexagonal rock columns in other regions of the world are usually basic basaltic lava. The hexagonal columns in Sai Kung are, by contrast, acidic silica-rich rhyolitic volcanic rock and are unique in the world. The columns cover an area of over 100 sq kms (including sea area) and have an average diameter of 1.2m. The volcanic rock in the area has unusual features of both tuff and lava and their formation has been the topic of much discussion among geologists;
Hexagonal volcanic rock columns, East Dam, High Island Reservoir
The High Island Geo-Area is located in Sai Kung East Country Park, and extends along the coast from east to northeast of the High Island Reservoir. It is about 20 km from Sai Kung Town Centre. Neatly arranged, nearly vertical and towering polygonal (usually hexagonal) volcanic rock columns are exposed along the coast of High Island. On the seaward cliff of Fa Shan, the volcanic rock columns are the highest in Hong Kong, with a height of over 100m, forming what is known as a “Natural Hexagonal Column Mural”. At the East Dam of High Island Reservoir is the High Island Geo Trail, with interpretation signs that introduce the interesting geological features of the area, such as faults, twisted rock columns, dyke and sea stack. In addition, the Tai Long Wan coast showcases a breathtaking coastal landform of volcanic rocks. Detailed information;
UNG KONG GROUP
Together known as the Ung Kong Group, Wang Chau, Basalt Island and Bluff Island consist of hexagonal columns which are well exposed. The southeast-facing coastlines, attacked by the relentless waves and wind showcase some spectacular columnar joints and precipitous cliffs. The 30m high sea arch at Wang Chau, the 45m-high sea arch on Basalt Island, 24m high Sha Tong Hau Cave and the Tiu Chung Arch at Jin Island, are the top four sea arches in Hong Kong. Detailed information;
Wang Chau: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s4f2.htm
Basalt Island: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s4f3.htm
Bluff Island: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s4f1.htm
The Ninepin Group is made up of three larger islands, namely East Ninepin Island, South Ninepin Island and North Ninepin Island together with several small rock islets. The imposing hexagonal columns of North Ninepin Island are particularly impressive. Long term wind and wave erosion of rocks has resulted in many abrasion landforms. The hexagonal rock columns are over 2m in diameter. Detailed information;
Sea caves, Sharp Island
Located on the western edge of the Sai Kung caldera, Sharp Island is covered by volcanic rocks formed earlier than the hexagonal columns, including lava and eutaxite. The western side of the island is connected to a small island, Kiu Tau, by a tombolo made up of cobbles. Detailed information;
GEOTOUR ROUTES – SAI KUNG VOLCANIC ROCK REGION
HIGH ISLAND GEO TRAIL (1.1km, for return route allow about 1 hour)
High Island Reservoir was built in the 1970’s by the Hong Kong Government and during its construction various rock sections near the East Dam were exposed allowing observation of the unique hexagonal volcanic columns at close range. Visitors can also view geological features such as faults, folds, twisted columns and dyke intrusions.
High Island Geo Trail alongside the East Dam of High Island Reservoir
Getting there – Taxi from Sai Kung town to the East Dam Wall of High Island Reservoir takes about 25 minutes and costs HK$100/110.
Bus 94 (destination Wong Shek Pier) from Sai Kung Bus Terminus to Pak Tam Chung (20 mins) and then walk for 9km along Tai Mong Tsai Road and Sai Kung Man Kee Road (following the MacLehose Trail Stage 1 alongside High Island Reservoir) to the East Dam Wall. Taxis, if available, at Pak Tam Chung can be taken as an alternative to walking from Pak Tam Chung to the East Dam Wall. The journey takes about 10 mins and costs about HK$60.
TAI LONG WAN HIKING TRAIL (12km, 4 hours)
The trail starts above the northern shore of High Island Reservoir at the pavilion at the end of Sai Kung Sai Wan Road. The route follows the well-signed path from the pavilion for 2.5km to Sai Wan Village then continues along Stage 2 of the MacLehose Trail to Pak Tam Au, which is regarded as one of Hong Kong’s most scenic hiking trails and takes in a number of scenic bays, including Sai Wan and Chek Keng, and hills, such as Tai Mun Shan and Sharp Peak. Tai Long Wan, with its clear blue water and silvery sands ranks top of “Hong Kong’s Best Ten Scenic Sites” among visitors.
The Tai Long Wan Hiking Trail takes in some of Hong Kong's best scenery including, above, Ham Tin Bay
Getting there – Sai Wan Village bus 29R from Sai Kung town, Chan Man Street (outside McDonald’s). The 29-seat bus terminates at the pavilion at the end of Sai Kung Sai Wan Road above High Island Reservoir and the journey takes about 30 minutes. Fare is HK$17 each way. On Mondays to Fridays departures from Sai Kung are at 8-30am, 9-15am, 11-30am and 3-30pm and from the end of Sai Wan Road at 9am, 9-45am, 12 noon and 4-45pm. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays departures from Sai Kung are at 8-30am, 9-15am, 11-30am, 3-30pm, 4-15pm and 4-45pm and from the end of Sai Wan Road at 9am, 9-45am, 12 noon, 2-15pm, 4-45pm and 5-30pm.
Alternatively, taxi from Sai Kung town to the end of Sai Kung Sai Wan Road costs about HK$90 and takes about 25 minutes.
From the end of the trail at Pak Tam Au bus service 94 operates at 30-minute frequency to Sai Kung Town until 9pm and green minibus 7 also operates to Sai Kung town at 30-minute frequency until about 6-30pm.
SHARP ISLAND GEO TRAIL (1km, allow 50 mins for return route)
The trail is located on Kiu Tau islet (Waglan Island) which is connected to western the coast of Sharp Island by a tombolo (pebble and sand causeway). The route features volcanic rocks from different geological periods, such as agglomerate, eutaxite and rhyolite. From the end of the tombolo the trail rises gently uphill and ends at the highest point of Kiu Tau from where there are panoramic views of Clearwater Bay peninsula and Port Shelter.
The tombolo connecting Sharp Island to Kiu Tau (Waglan Island). At high tide Kiu Tau is inaccessible (see note below)
Note – there is no access to Kiu Tau during high tide (generally when the tidal height is above 1.4 metres. Tidal predictions are posted on a notice board on Sharp Island and can be obtained online from the Hong Kong Observatory website;
Getting there – On weekends, public holidays and some weekday afternoons boat operators provide a shuttle service from Sai Kung New Public Pier, travelling around the coast of Sharp Island past sea caves and rock formations before allowing passengers to disembark at the pier and follow the geotrail. Boats call at Sharp Island about every 40 minutes until about 5-30pm. Sampans can also be hired from lady sampan owners along the waterfront promenade by the piers. For a trip to and from Sharp Island including one-hour stay on the island (the sampan waits offshore), expect to be asked for a fee of HK$150. The sampan journey takes about 25 minutes each way. Boats can also be hired from members of Sai Kung Ferry Traders Association (phone (852) 9082 2057 or (852) 9080 5794) for information.
Sampan passengers disembarking at Sharp Island Pier. Sampans can be rented at Sai Kung Promenade
BOAT TOUR OF SAI KUNG ISLANDS
A recommended 4-hour boat tour of the Sai Kung Islands has been designed by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to enable visitors to tour around the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock region of the Hong Kong Geopark. As most offshore islands in Sai Kung are remote, a boat tour provides the best way to appreciate their scenic beauty. In addition to spectacular hexagonal rock columns visitors can see sea caves, sea arches and sea stacks as well as depositional landforms such as beaches and tombolos. It is not intended that visitors disembark and views can be enjoyed by staying comfortable on board. The route takes in Sharp Island, Kiu Tau, Jin Island, Bluff Island, Basalt Island, Wang Chau, Po Pin Chau, Long Ke Wan, East Dam of High Island Reservoir, High Island and Kau Sai Chau. Ferries can be hired at Sai Kung Pier and several boat operators offer tours at weekends and public holidays.
Traway Travel also offer boat tours of various areas of the Sai Kung volcanic region from time to time. See website for details;
Tours also operate from Sai Kung Geo-Heritage Information Centre (for details see "Information, Education & Visitor Centres").
Sai Kung Islands Boat Tour route
Hong Kong Catamaran Club offers weekday Ninepin Group Cruises in high-speed rigid inflatable boat or catamaran from Central Pier 9 and Golden Bauhinia Pier in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island;
INFORMATION, EDUCATION & VISITOR CENTRES;
LIONS NATURE EDUCATION CENTRE GEO-HUB (SAI KUNG) including Geopark Visitor Centre.
The visitor centre is located in the attractive grounds of the large Lions Nature Education Centre on the outskirts of Sai Kung Town. It details the history of both Hong Kong and the geopark through wall displays and interactive exhibits. The centre also has an outdoor Rock Academy with a display of 28 large rocks representing a comprehensive collection of Hong Kong’s major volcanic, granitic and sedimentary rocks.
The Lions Nature Education Centre, which occupies over 38-hectares of land, has other exhibition areas including Agricultural Hall, Fisheries Hall, Shell House and Insectarium as well as outdoor displays including field crops, orchard, banana grove, Chinese herbal garden, arboretum ponds and arboretum. The centre also has a cafeteria.
Rock Academy, Lions Nature Education Centre Geo-hub
Location– Tsiu Hang, Sai Kung. The centre is located off Hiram’s Highway (the main road into Sai Kung from Kowloon and Clearwater Bay), about 1.5km from Sai Kung town centre.
Admission - Free
Opening Hours – 9-30am to 5pm (Exhibition Halls 9-30am to 4-30pm). Closed on Tuesdays and the first two days of Chinese New Year.
Getting there- Bus 92 from Diamond Hill MTR Station Bus Terminus or 792M from Tseung Kwan O MTR Station Bus Terminus or Tiu Keng Leng MTR Station Bus Terminus. On Sundays and public holidays only, additional service 96R operates from Diamond Hill Station. The bus stop (bus stop names are displayed inside most buses) for the centre is “Pak Kong”. Green minibus 1A from Choi Hung MTR Station (near exit C1) also provides a fast and frequent 24-hour service. Taxi from Sai Kung town centre costs about HK$25.
HONG KONG GLOBAL GEOPARK VOLCANO DISCOVERY CENTRE
The Volcano Discovery Centre opened in July 2014 at the site of the former Sai Kung Geo-Heritage Information Centre. The 1 000-square-foot Centre showcases a 1:1-scale hexagonal exhibit to show the size of the rock formations. A range of rock specimens, with some collected locally and many others from other places around the world, are also on display. Visitors to the Centre can take a look at the huge columns before they depart for a visit to the Geopark. The exhibits enable visitors to better understand the geological background and uniqueness of Hong Kong's hexagonal columns. The hexagonal rock columns, which are a major feature of the Geopark, were produced by a series of violent volcanic eruptions in Sai Kung 140 million years ago.
The Centre offers trilingual counter services in Cantonese, Putonghua and English to assist local and overseas visitors, and offers comprehensive information to advise on the best ways to explore the Geopark. The centre offers a 45-minute guided tour once a day on weekdays and twice a day during weekends and public holidays.
A range of rock specimens, some collected locally and many others from around the world, are on display at the Volcano Discovery Centre
Location – Sai Kung Waterfront Park (adjacent to Sai Kung Bus Terminus)
Opening Hours - 9-30am to 4-30pm throughout the year except on the first and second days of the Chinese New Year.
Getting there– Bus 92 from Diamond Hill Station, 792M from Tiu Keng Leng Public Transport Interchange or 299X from Shatin Central Bus Terminus. On Sundays and public holidays only, additional service 96R operates from Diamond Hill Station to Sai Kung Bus Terminus (then continues to Wong Shek Pier). Green Minibus 1A from Choi Hung MTR Station (near exit C1) also provides a fast and frequent 24-hour service to Sai Kung Pier. Red Minibus from Dundas Street (near its junction with Tung Choi Street) Mong Kok also provides a 24-hour service.
Website – http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s2d.htm
NORTHEAST NEW TERRITORIES SEDIMENTARY ROCK REGION
Covering an area of 3000 hectares in the northeast New Territories, the region represents the most comprehensive stratigraphy of sedimentary rocks in Hong Kong ranging from Devonian sandstone and conglomerate, about 400 million years old, to Paleogene siltstone, about 55 million years old, and is rich in landforms of different earth processes.
DOUBLE HAVEN (YAN CHAU TONG)
Resulting from the rise in sea level 6000 to 8000 years ago, the river valleys in Double Haven were flooded, forming indented shorelines with headlands and bays. Famous landforms include Hung Shek Mun, Camp Cove and Double Island. Detailed information;
NORTH AND SOUTH COASTS OF TOLO CHANNEL
The rocks along the north coast of Tolo Channel and at Bluff Head are the oldest in Hong Kong. Ma Shi Chau in the west represents the sedimentary rocks formed some 280 million years ago and various igneous rocks and sedimentary rocks at Lai Chi Chong on the south coast were formed 140 million years ago. Detailed information;
Ma Shi Chau: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s4f12.htm
Lai Chi Chong: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s4f8.htm
Sedimentary rock formations, Ma Shi Chau
Mudstone, a rock composed mainly of fine-grain clay with a smooth surface and soft texture, Ma Shi Chau
PORT ISLAND – BLUFF HEAD
Bluff Head (Wong Chuk Kok Tsui) has the oldest rocks in Hong Kong, formed by deposits at estuarine deltas about 400 million years ago (Devonian). Port Island (Chek Chau) is best known for its red conglomerate, sandstone and siltstone. The red colour of these sedimentary rocks results from the iron oxidised about 100 million years ago (late Cretaceous). The layers of these sedimentary rocks are clear and dip gently to the east and into the sea. Detailed information
Port Island: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s4f10.htm
Bluff Head: http://www.geopark.gov.hk/en_s4f1.htm
TUNG PING CHAU
In geological history Tung Ping Chau has the youngest rocks in Hong Kong, about 55 million years old. However, its unusual formations are composed of layers of siltstone and form a unique sedimentary rock landscape in Hong Kong with various abrasion landforms. Famous landforms here include Lung Lok Shui, Kang Lau Shek and Cham Keng Chau. Detailed information;
GEOTOUR ROUTES – NORTHEAST NEW TERRITORIES SEDIMENTARY ROCK REGION
PING CHAU COUNTRY TRAIL (6km, 3 hours)
The trail runs along the coast of Tung Ping Chau, starting from Tung Ping Chau ferry pier and circling the entire island. The route features different sedimentary rock formations such as Kang Lau Shek, Lan Kwo Shui, wavecut platforms, sea cliffs, Lung Lok Shui and Cham Kek Chau.
Sedimentary rock formations at Kang Lau Shek on the Ping Chau Country Trail
Getting there – MTR East Rail to University Station then walk for about 10/15 minutes to Ma Liu Shui from where ferry service operates to Tung Ping Chau on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays only. Details;
LAI CHI WO NATURE TRAIL (1.2km, about one hour)
The trail, in Plover Cove Country Park, links the Lai Chi Wo coast and its mudflats and mangroves, Lai Chi Wo Village and its fung shui wood with information boards detailing the local ecology and heritage.
Getting there – Green minibus 20C* from Tai Po Market Station to Wu Kau Tang, then from Wu Kau Tang to Lai Chi Wo is about 90 minutes walk.
*Note green minibus service 20C is a very frequent service from Tai Po Market Station to Tai Mei Tuk but services only extend beyond Tai Mei Tuk to Wu Kau Tang at frequency of one to two hours between 5-45am and 7-45pm daily with the last minibus returning from Wu Kau Tang at 8-15pm. For more information regarding services to Wu Kau Tang phone the minibus operator’s hotline (852) 2873 6808.
On Sundays and public holidays only, KMB bus service 275R operates from Tai Po Market Station to Bride’s Pool, about 15 minutes walk from Wu Kau Tang. From Wu Kau Tang to Lai Chi Wo is about 90 minutes walk.
Green minibus 56K operates daily at 30 minute frequency Monday to Friday, increasing to up to 10 minute on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, from Fanling MTR Station to Luk Keng. From Luk Keng to Lai Chi Wo is about 2 hours walk via Fung Hang.
MA SHI CHAU NATURE TRAIL (3km for return route, about 2 hours)
The trail is reached from Sam Mun Tsai, an old fishing village, mainly inhabited by Tankas who originally lived on boats. The villagers of Sam Mun Tsai have made much effort in preserving their culture and historical relics and the display panels fixed to the stone walls in the village depict its history. Additionally, the Salvation Army North East New Territories Fishermen's Culture Gallery (open Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10-30am to 4-30pm) is a small museum with a number of interesting displays and exhibits depicting the fishing traditions and village culture.
The trail is reached from the old Tanka fishing village, Sam Mun Tsai, which has well preserved traditions and culture.
The Salvation Army North East New Territories Fishermen's Culture Gallery is in interesting small museum with relics depicting the fishing traditions of Sam Mun Tsai
The trail follows the southeastern shore of Ma Shi Chau and features the ancient sedimentary rock formations and landforms of the island. The ancient rocks here were formed in the Permian Period about 280 to 250 million years ago, and later sculpted into various unique compositions and terrains by earth movements. Along the trail there are interesting faults, folds, quartz veins, concretion, Lung Lok Shui, wave-cut platforms and riparian plants.
The tombolo linking Sam Mun Tsai and Yim Tin Tsai with the start of the Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail
Getting there – KMB bus 74K from Tai Po Market Station to Sam Mun Tsai. The service operates at 30-minute frequency in both directions between 6-30am and 10am and 4pm and 7-30pm.
Green minibus 20K from Tai Po Market Station provides a frequent service at 3 to 20 minute intervals to and from Sam Mun Tsai daily until after midnight.
From Sam Mun Tsai there are direction signs through Yim Tin Tsai to the start of the trail which is across the tombolo.
Note – visitors should note tidal levels before crossing the tombolo
AP CHAU GEO TRAIL (1km, allow 1 hour) – trail under construction
Ap Chau and Crooked Island are the only two places in Hong Kong where breccia is found. The island of Ap Chau possesses a diverse range of wavecut landforms (including sea cliff, wave-cut platform, wave-cut notch, sea arch and sea stack), and is served by a pier. The trail is under construction (information boards and direction signs not yet in place).
Getting there – Boats can be hired from Tai Mei Tuk Pier for the long sea journey to Ap Chau and Crooked Island.
LAI CHI CHONG GEO TRAIL (0.5km, allow one hour) – trail under construction
This short trail runs along the shore, west of Lai Chi Chong Pier, and features volcanic rock outcrops with associated sedimentary rocks which display well-defined beddings and complex compositions. The trail is under construction (information boards and direction signs not yet in place).
Getting there – Ferries operated by Traway Travel leave daily at 8-30am and 3pm from Ma Liu Shiu Pier (10 mins walk from University Station) to Tap Mun via Lai Chi Chong, taking 45 minutes to reach Lai Chi Chong. Return journey from Lai Chi Chong at 11-40am and 6pm. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays there is an additional sailing from Ma Liu Shiu Pier at 12-30pm and from Lai Chi Chong at 2-15pm.
Note –seats on this service are limited and visitors can check availability by phoning (852) 2527 2513
BOAT TOUR OF NORTHEAST NEW TERRITORIES
The Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department has developed a recommended boat tour route of the geo-areas of the calm inner sea of northeast New Territories and onshore visits can be undertaken. Lai Chi Chong is served by a geotrail and a nature trail has been set up in Lai Chi Wo, both allowing visitors to closely observe the geosites and other scenic attractions. The tour takes in Yim Tin Tsai, Ma Shi Chau, Tolo Channel, Bluff Head, Hung Shek Mun, Yan Chau Tong Marine Park, Crooked Island (Kat O) and Chik Mun Tau. Boat tours can be undertaken by hiring ferries at Tai Mei Tuk Pier.
R2G (Recommended Geopark Guide System) also offers guided tours of the Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region, on certain dates, for local and foreign visitors, with tours conducted separately in English, Mandarin and Japanese and Cantonese;
Northeast New Territories Boat Tour route
INFORMATION, EDUCATION & VISITOR CENTRES;
TAI PO GEOHERITAGE CENTRE
This is a small geopark education and visitor centre established by voluntary groups, local villagers and the government and is located in Sam Mun Tsai New Village. The centre provides information on the geology, culture, history and ecology off the area and also exhibits rock specimens collected from Ma Shi Chau.
Tai Po Geoheritage Centre at Sam Mun Tsai
Location – Sam Mun Tsai New Village, Tai Po
Opening Hours– 9-30am to 1pm and 2pm to 4-30pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Closed Monday to Friday (except on public holidays).
Getting there – Bus 74K or Green Minibus 20K from Tai Po Market MTR Station to Sam Mun Tsai.
Website – None (for enquiries phone (852) 2667 0992 or (852) 2739 2481 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
KAT O (CROOKED ISLAND) GEOHERITAGE CENTRE
A small village house converted into a geoheritage centre with rock specimens, fossils and local cultural relics
Location - 142 Kat O Main Street (next to Ting Hau Kung)
Opening hours - Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays (except Lunar New Year holiday) 10am to 3pm
Getting there - by hiring boat or joining local tour
Website - None. For enquiries e-mail email@example.com