The High Island Reservoir is probably the furthest location that I’ve traveled to in Hong Kong. But it is also easily the most interesting.
High Island Reservoir History
The High Island Reservoir, Sai Kung, was opened in 1978 to help alleviate water shortage problems in Hong Kong. The reservoir was created by constructing two main dams. The first (West Dam) was built at the west of High Island connecting it with the Sai Kung Peninsula at Yuen Ng Fan. The other (East Dam) was built in the southeast of High Island, connecting it with the Sai Kung Peninsula near Po Pin Chau.
Two roads were also built over the dams to allow visitors to access a very remote and unspoilt area. The drive along the dam on the road gives you a good idea about the size and scale of the High Island Reservoir. Coming from Sai Kung, we approached the reservoir from the West Dam, and made our way down to the East Dam where the real attraction lies.
High Island Reservoir East Dam
What makes the High Island Reservoir East Dam so interesting?
The High Island Reservoir East Dam is the only part of Hong Kong Global Geopark that’s reachable on foot, and the only place where you can touch the hexagonal rock columns. During the construction of the East Dam, the volcanic rock columns in the surrounding hills got exposed. Today, they draws thousands of visitors to the area who are curious to observe the area’s 140 million year old volcanic history.
How To Get To The High Island Reservoir East Dam?
Reaching the High Island Reservoir East Dam can be a challenging mission. There are numerous modes of transport to pick from:
Green taxis regularly ply between Sai Kung and High Island Reservoir. A single way journey costs around HK$ 130 and takes about 30-35 mins. It’s fairly easy to hail a taxi to take you to the reservoir, but coming back can be a nightmare (especially on weekends).
During the evening when everyone wants to return, a line quickly forms at the East Dam. Unfortunately, the area is too remote for taxis to come to without passengers. And there are no passengers being dropped off in the evening.
So, your only hope is to call for a cab well in advance. Try either +85227296600 or +85267678181.
Remember to book your taxi a couple of hours in advance!
Bus and Walk
Take bus number 94 from Sai Kung town centre or number 96R from Diamond Hill MTR station (weekends and public holidays only). Alight just after Pak Tam Chung. Walk along Tai Mong Tsai Road, and then turn right on Sai Kung Man Yee Road. From here, the walk is 9 kms to the East Dam (approximately 2 hours).
Book a Tour
You can book a half-day guided tour of the High Island Reservoir East Dam from the good folks at Volcanic Discovery Centre. The tour is available every Saturday, Sunday and public holiday (except Lunar New Year’s Day and the Second Day of Lunar New Year). More details about the tour are available here.
Whatever your mode of transport, once you arrive at the High Island Reservoir East Dam, head down to the Geo Trail.
The High Island Geo Trail
The High Island Geo Trail, located at the base of the East Dam, is the best place to observe the hexagonal rock columns at close range.
Around 140 million years ago, whenever there was an eruption, lava and ash flowed out of the crust. This spread across the surface, forming layers. As the lava and the ash cooled, they contracted uniformly to give rise to these hexagonal columnar joints seen today.
At the Geo Trail you can also see S-shaped hexagonal columns. These columns were distorted by earthquakes when they were still solidifying.
And finally, at the end of the trail lies a sea cave. A boardwalk let’s you get close to the cave, and admire its timeless beauty.
The entire trail, including the road on the East Dam, is 2.8 kms. It’s a fairly easy walk except for the incline that gets you into the base of the dam. The volcanic columns, the S-shaped joints, the sea cave, and the dolosse make the High Island Geo Trail not only interesting, but also extremely photogenic!
East Dam Hikes
There are two short hikes that you can embark upon from the East Dam. The Po Pin Chau Trail, and the hike to Long Ke Wan.
Po Pin Chau Trail
The Po Pin Chau (literally, Broken-Sided Island) let’s you get a closer look at the island that was once connected to the main land. What started as a sea cave, over time got worn down by the sea and became an arch. Later, the arch collapsed leaving behind Po Pin Chau.
The volcanic hexagonal columns are visible on the side of Po Pin Chau from the trail.
Long Ke Wan
One of Hong Kong’s prettiest beaches, Long Ke Wan is just a short hike away from the East Dam. Follow the Maclehose Trail north and you’ll soon see a gorgeous beach below. Make your way down to Long Ke Wan beach, and enjoy a well earned break on its sandy beach!
Long Ke Wan is also a popular destination for campers. It’s broad beach allows for ample space to pitch a tent.
The High Island Reservoir East Dam is one of the most interesting places that I’ve been to in Hong Kong. Hong Kong may not be a volcanic wonderland like Hawaii, but learning about its volcanic past is fascinating. The only drawback is finding your way back to the city!
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