October 14, 2014
If ever a city matched the description ‘urban jungle’, it’s Hong Kong. Skyscrapers and high rise apartment buildings spring out from the green mountain sides to form one of the world’s most spectacular skylines. The former British colony is today a leading centre for business and finance, not to mention a fascinating city, rich in culture, attractions and natural beauty. The latter makes it a popular destination with outdoor lovers keen to explore the nearby mountain ranges, as well as those with a soft spot for extreme sports both on land and at sea. Here we take a look at some of the great outdoor activities which await visitors to the city, ranging from mountain hikes to the world’s highest bungy jump.
Hong Kong has the South China Sea on its doorstep, which can be explored in a whole manner of ways thanks to the Blue Sky Sports Club. Established by a group of sports professionals in 2001, Blue Sky offers a range of activities including swimming, kayaking, scuba diving, surfing and wakeboarding. It caters to people of all abilities and fitness levels, meaning you can register for both courses and daily excursions complete with fully qualified instructors. Enjoy some of Hong Kong’s best scenery on the kayak tours along the Sai Kung Peninsula, a picturesque stretch of coastline with a wealth of hiking trails and sandy beaches. Large parts of the kayak trip here pass through waters which are off limits to motorboats, enabling you to savour the peace and tranquillity of this popular beauty spot.
Stand-up paddle boarding is another great way of enjoying the views without over exerting yourself. The name says it all with this popular sport; you stand upright on a board and use a paddle to navigate through the water. A guide will lead you on a scenic route from Sai Kung to Yim Tin Tsai, an abandoned island which now serves as a popular hiking destination. It was previously home to salt farms but the decline in the salt industry prompted its residents to abandon the island and their homes, many of which still stand empty to this day.
AJ Hackett Macau Tower may be a one hour ferry trip away from Hong Kong, but that doesn’t stop scores of thrill seekers from hopping aboard a turbo jet ferry in search of the ultimate adrenaline rush. The 338 meter tall Macau Tower offers visitors the chance to experience the world’s highest bungy jump, as well as sky jumps, sky walks and the world’s only urban tower climb.
The bungy jump offers the ultimate free fall experience as you leap off a platform that stands 233 meters above ground. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those brave enough can comfort themselves with the fact that the AJ Hackett company leaves nothing to chance when it comes to your safety. All the equipment is carefully inspected prior to each jump, which has enabled them to successfully carry out over two million jumps since they first started. In fact, the only thing they don’t pay much attention to is the spelling of the name. The company’s founder decided he didn’t care much for the word bungee, and changed it to bungy ahead of the launch of his first ever commercial site.
If you can’t quite bring yourself to jump off into the abyss, the Tower Climb is a slightly less terrifying alternative. Scaling 100m up the mast’s vertical ladders, the world’s highest urban climb guarantees maximum height exposure and incredible 360 degree views.
You may of course just want to enjoy the views without the inconvenience of having to throw yourself off the side of the building. In which case, the Sky Walk lets you walk around the perimeter of the tower while safely secured to wire cables. Just don’t go reaching for the handrail – there isn’t one.
The mountain ranges surrounding Hong Kong are easily accessible by public transport and are home to a variety of walking trails. But which route should you take? To help make your life easier we sought some advice from Hong Kong blogger Paul Chen, who runs The Hong Kong Less Travelled blog.
Chen recommends the 2.8 mile walk to Lantau Peak, which at a height of 3064 feet is the second highest peak in Hong Kong. The two and a half hour hike starts at Pak Kung Au, which can be reached by taking the train to Tung Chung Station and then connecting with Bus 3M. Bear in mind, however, that the stops aren’t announced on board the bus so it’s important to inform he driver of your destination at the start of the journey.
Highlights of the walking route include The Wisdom Path which features several dozen wood-carved pillars, all displaying verses from Heart Sutra, a famous Buddhist prayer. As you continue the climb you’ll be exposed to magnificent panoramic views of the surrounding Lantau Mountains, with Ton Fuk Village in the distance.
For many visitors, however, the definitive highlight can be found at Ngong Ping where the trail ends in spectacular fashion. It is home to the Tian Tan Buddha, a 34 metre tall bronze statue which dominates the lush mountain landscape. The statue, which faces north in order to look over the Chinese people, has attracted visitors from around the globe ever since it was erected in 1993. It was made using gold and bronze pieces which help give it a magical glow when exposed to sunlight.
Wrap your hike up with a visit to Po Lin Monastery, located directly opposite the statue. Take a look inside one of Hong Kong’s most treasured Buddhist temples, or take a stroll through its immaculately presented gardens.
Header photo of Hong Kong’s skyline © Chor Ip
Virgin Atlantic operates a daily, direct flight to Hong Kong from London Heathrow.