Ma Shi Chau, located in the Tolo Harbour of Hong Kong between Tai Mei Tuk and Ma On Shan, is a geological wonder. The island is a designated special area within the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark as the rocks here are over 280 million years old from the Permian period, the second oldest in all of Hong Kong.
Before we discuss the history of the area and what makes it unique, let’s talk about how to get here.
How to get to Ma Shi Chau
To get to Ma Shi Chau, you need to start from Tai Po Market Station on the East Rail Line. At the MTR station, take Exit A3 to the minibus terminus and follow the signs for the Green Minibus 20K to Sam Mun Tsai.
Take the bus to the final stop, which is Sam Mun Tsai New Village. The moment you get off at the bus stop, you’ll see a pavilion. Next to the pavilion is the sign pointing you towards Ma Shi Chau Special Area.
This is your starting point for the hike.
Hike from Sam Mun Tsai Village to the Tombolo
From the bus stop to the start of Ma Shi Chau Special Area is a short and easy 1.5 km hike that should take you around 30 mins. For the initial part of the hike, make your way through Sam Mun Tsai Village. Simply follow the signs (with the red arrows) for Ma Shi Chau so that you don’ take the wrong turn or get lost.
From behind the village, take the steps that go uphill towards the cemetery. The hike is shaded pretty much all the way till the end. However, around the half-way point, there are fewer trees and the views clear up. From here you begin to see Tai Mei Tuk, on your left and Ma On Shan on your right. On a clear day, the views are quite beautiful!
From here, walk down till you reach the tombolo, the thin strip of land that connects the village to the island.
Admire the views on either side as you walk across the tombolo.
Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail
The Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail starts at the end of the tombolo. The 1.5 km nature trail runs along the south-east shore of Ma Shi Chau and passes through multiple geological attractions.
The nature trail is extremely easy to cover as it is completely flat. There is a map of the trail at the rest area with points of interest clearly marked. So, budget a couple of hours to admire the rock formations all along the way.
We found the Shell Beach and the area with the colourful mudstones to be unique sights. But we were equally fascinated by all the incredible rock formations along the way.
Although there is a shaded path under the trees, it makes sense to walk along the shoreline. This way you can continue to admire the rock formations and not feel like you’re lost on some island.
We urge you to enjoy this geologically unique trail at a leisurely pace. At the end of the 1.5 km Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail, you’ll come within touching distance of the Plover Cove Reservoir.
What makes Ma Shi Chau unique?
Now that we’ve got the logistics of the trail out of the way, let’s talk about what makes it so special.
Ma Shi Chau is the main location of Hong Kong’s Permian Tolo Harbour formation. The area is made up of sedimentary rocks formed in the Permian period, some 280 million years. Most rocks on the island are sandstone, mudstone or siltstone which were formed by sediment cemented near estuaries.
Ma Shi Chau’s history makes it a perfect location to study strata, rock properties, sedimentation and different geological compositions. The most interesting features of these rocks include layers and folds, faults, and displaced rock mass.
This simply scratches the surface (pun intended) when it comes to the history of Ma Shi Chau. If you’re interested to learn more, there’s an extensive write-up on the geological past of Ma Shi Chau on Hong Kong Geopark’s website.
Ma Shi Chau Special Area
I understand that the history of rocks might not interest everyone. But that aside, it’s possible to treat Ma Shi Chau as a fun, exploratory walk. It’s a perfect trail to complete on a hot summer day because it’s shaded, flat, and devoid of crowds. And not to mention has an interesting origin story.
To finish the trail, make your way back to Sam Mun Tsai village. A complete round-trip (back to the bus stop) would be around 6 km. However, if for some reason you don’t feel like hiking all the way back, you can always hire a sampan, from the tombolo, on the weekends to Tai Mei Tuk. The trip cost us HK$ 90 per person.
We hope you enjoyed learning about this geologically unique island of Ma Shi Chau and enjoy your visit to the “Permian rock garden of Hong Kong”.
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