Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Hong Kong Scuba Diving - Tung Ping Chau

I haven't been diving in HK that regularly over the past couple of years for various reasons (one of which involved a snapped toe and an inability to wear my fins for most of the diving season) although I did do some surprisingly excellent stuff last year with Emilie, as well as some N.A.S training, so I haven't been too idle. However, you may recall that a few years ago I did pen a small and humble article for Time Out on the best places to go diving in Hong Kong.

Whilst researching that particular piece I was put in contact with a local Marine Conservationist, Apple Chui, who is one of the foremost diving authorities of the area around Tung Ping Chau in the far north of HK's territorial waters. She also provided some nice pictures and some great information that formed a worthy post on its own. So here it is, rescued from the largely submerged wreck of my former blog. All photos were taken by Apple and reproduced with her permission.

Actually, I did try and dive Tung Ping Chau once but sadly it was soon after a typhoon had skipped by and the water was so stirred up the visibility had dropped to almost nothing leading us to abort. It was a big shame because the journey takes about 1.5 hours from Wong Shek pier. Luckily, we came back via Port Island where the visibility was, strangely, rather good and so the day was not a complete waste of money and time. However, it still remains on my to-do list for a later date.

As such, I can't comment personally on the site so all the information below is courtesy of Apple - she goes there pretty much every weekend courtesy of a research program being conducted by CUHK and has conducted hundreds there. For those who are a bit unsure about where it is you can see Tung Ping Chau on the GoogleEarth picture below. 

Not to be confused with Peng Chau near Lantau Island, Tung Ping Chau is actually one of Hong Kong's most isolated islands despite only being 1km from the Chinese mainland. It was once one of the first stops made by the so-called 'swimmers' - those trying to flee the mainland by swimming across what used to be a fairly shark-infested strip of water. The various authorities (e.g Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force - now the Govt Flying Service - and Marine Police) were often called out this way to pick up the bodies (some partial) of the unsuccessful ones.

Since 2001, the waters surrounding the island have been designated as a marine park (Tung Ping Chau Marine Park or TPCMP) - the fourth in HK - and is regarded as an important resource for marine conservation. Although it is worth bearing in mind that a Marine Park in Hong Kong is not afforded the same protection  that would be found elsewhere. A marine park just means various activities are controlled rather than banned outright.

Due to the nice habitat surrounding the island, it supports high biodiversity with many different reef fish, (e.g. butterfly fishes, damsel fishes, wrasses, gobies, file fishes, puffers, small groupers, eels, Cornet fish), star fishes, crabs, shrimps and nudibranchs (during winter) and a wide variety of hard and soft coral. Although not common in HK waters, Apple has also been fortunate enough to spot flying gurnards, frog fish, lion fish, lobster, pipe fish and even sea horses.

There are two main coral core areas on the island called “A Ye Wan” and “A Ma Wan”:

– eastern (more sheltered) side of TPCMP
– One of the sites with richest hard coral diversity in HK.
– High coral coverage of over 60%
– with 45 of the 84 hard coral species recorded from Hong Kong
– ~1 to 4m depth.

Another site is called Lan Kwo Shui:

– South eastern side of TPCMP
– Nice coverage of soft corals and black corals
– ~8-10m depth.

Reference map:

For tank rental:
There is a one store named as “Tung Ping Chau Diving Paradise”
Contact person: May Ng 61705552

BCD+ Reg (daily rental): $150
Full gear (including 1 air tank)= $320
One air tank =$80
Weight belt (daily rental): $20

There are lots of stores, so plenty of food and drinks are available, some provide noodles, and some even work like outdoor restaurant that serve high variety of dishes.

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