"Wherever you watch the sunset, the sun goes down the same way. But many find it beautiful at their location perhaps of the people they were with or nice things that happened on that day. It’s a feeling of great joy. I believe if I capture a sunset shot of South Ninepin Island, I am telling you a story. It would be as if I watched the sunset with you and that's enough for me to savor for an entire year!”
South Ninepin Island or Tung Kwo Chau is in the southeast of Hong Kong. One of the islands located in the Kwo Chau Archipelago, consisting of Tai Chau, Tai Chau Mei and Shan Ling Kok, with North Kwo Chau and East Kwo Chau nearby. As the saying goes, "Admire rocks at North Kwo Chau and marvel at caves at South Kwo Chau". In fact, there are plenty of sea caves, dens, and hollows to see on South Kow Chau, but much depends on the timing, location, and travel companions when you get here. We were blessed with great weather when we visited the island for two days and one night.
I checked with the observatory one day before our trip. It forecasted there would be an easterly wind of force 2-3. Conditions perfect to explore caves on South Ninepin Island! It just so happened that SplitdyBoat, the boat hiring and visitor pairing platform we founded in Hong Kong, had a boat going the next day. This time for me and Heng! We packed up and off we went but because we were in such a hurry, a mishap occurred. Read this article to the end to find out what happened! Now when I look back, I am surprised how we survived those two days!
We decided to start from Po Toi O in Clearwater Bay, which is the closest to North and South Kwo Chau and hence the boat fare is the cheapest. We rented a canoe from the local store and the boatman helped to put the canoe onto his speedboat and we were on the island in 15 minutes! The boatman docked at a rocky beach named Ma Wan and let us get off the speedboat. There is in fact a clear path that leads right to the beach. However, as we had a canoe with us, we had to travel by water. We saw some elderly friends who had way too much stuff and so we acted as a water UBER to pick them up! The water quality was good with crystal clear visibility up to 5-8 meters. Facing the beach is the famous Tiger's Mouth Cave, which runs through the center of South Ninepin Island. I wonder how strong do the waves have to be and how long does it take for the cave to erode like this?
It was probably because the weather was so hot at 34°C that we were losing our bearings. The small grassy area where we would have camped was just a few steps away from the beach. However, we took a wrong turn toward the left side of the rock formation and went in full circle! The hardest part was we had to carry drinking water in our left hand and shower water in our right hand with camping bags on our backs. We were already drenched in sweat just from dragging the canoe onto the beach! All we wanted was to plunge into the water to cool ourselves off. On arrival, the camping site had about 4 or 5 tents backed by Tung Tsui Shan. There is also a Tin Hau Temple at the top of the mountain with some statues for fishermen to worship.
After setting up our tent, we took time to go out and explore on the canoe! We started out on the north side of South Ninepin Island. We passed by a stone chamber along Shek Mei Tau, which could accommodate around 10 people. It seems there is nothing special from a distance, but upon entering, you feel cool inside and could see the door of the Temple from afar. We even joked that this was the only shady spot on the island. We considered spending the night here but believed we would be bitten by mosquitoes all night! If you are not good at water activities, the above route can also be reached on foot.
Rowing ahead from the stone chamber, you start to notice many large and small sea caves eroded by nature. On the canoe, you can feel huge currents which could push you away for a few meters and watch waves crash against the rocks at a height of 3-4 meters. It is easy to analyze these caves with modern geography but hundreds of years ago, these strange landforms on the island were depicted in ancient books including the "Ji Yuan Lu" and "Guangdong Fang Zhi" with a story passed down generations about three dragons. According to legend, these three evil dragons caused havoc and disrupted the livelihoods of people in the local community. Later, the Goddess of Tin Hau worshipped by the residents tamed the three dragons. The dragons were scattered around the mouth of the Pearl River, with part of their heads sealed on South Ninepin Island and their bodies in a sea cave. As a modern person, I smiled with respect after hearing this, but after seeing the power of the sea erosion, I began to believe that the forces of nature were scarier than the dragons.
The first thing we saw in front of us was a wind tunnel which looked like a shark's mouth, with long red and greenish rocks on the left and right sides. Imagine its tongue with drops of water dripping down from the top. We were like bait inside a shark's mouth about to be swallowed up! I thought this was the end. It turned out to be a cave of dozens of meters, straight to the other side of the island. If not for the light coming through, I would not have believed it! We entered inside from the far left. Wow, it felt like rafting in a water park, as if we were on a deep adventure. However, this time there was no track underneath, only chaotic rocks against unstructured waves. If we were not careful, we would capsize the canoe! We may enter and never exit! We carefully entered an intersection of the cave and saw the light behind us. To avoid waves from pushing against us, we rushed to the exit on the right which was absolutely thrilling!
After exploring the cave, we continued to paddle around the island back to the beach, passing the back of the Tiger's Mouth Cave, which was more intimating than the front! Finally, we reached two sides of rows of rock that were tens of meters high and felt like we were in a Jurassic movie. Wow! If this was a huge bird flying in the sky, I would have thought it was a flying dinosaur! Imagine the theme music playing… haha!
Just as we were lying on the canoe waiting for the sunset, I remembered with shock that we didn't bring any gas stove! How are we to cook? On a whim, Heng decided to paddle ahead and ask for help from people on board a nearby yacht but unfortunately, no one had one. They gave us some dried food instead. Luckily, the food we brought this time could be eaten raw. These include tomatoes, corn in a carton etc. We must make do with a vegan meal this time which is going to be healthy for our guts!
After a long day of paddling, we were tired, took a shower and walked to the bottom of Tin Hau Temple to wait for the sunset. I once heard a YouTuber say that he didn't understand why someone compared Hong Kong's scenery to foreign countries. I would have argued with him after hearing this. I would say out loud that Hong Kong is in no way inferior to foreign countries, but I did not. On the contrary, I carefully thought that…
Is it even fair to compare landscapes? Some people say the sunset in Greece is the most beautiful, some say Bolivia, but I say this one on South Ninepin Island in Hong Kong is the most gorgeous!
"Wherever you watch the sunset, the sun goes down the same way. But many find it beautiful at their location perhaps of the people they were with or nice things that happened on that day. It’s a feeling of great joy. I believe if I capture a sunset shot of South Ninepin Island, I am telling you a story. It would be as if I watched the sunset with you and that's enough for me to savor for an entire year!” said Heng.
As the warm sunlight dimmed and replaced by the haze of a red sky, we hugged and gazed at the ever-changing colors of the sky, hoping that this moment would freeze in time.
At night, we were the only ones on South Ninepin Island. After dinner, we chatted and heard sounds of the Marine Department patrolling on the sea. Just as we were about to climb into our tent for a rest, Heng stopped me and gestured that the moon behind our backs had secretly risen from sea level right next to Tung Tsui Shan, a sight I had never seen before.
The next morning, we walked up to the top of Tai Chau Shan to watch the sunrise. Fishing boats sailed by in the reflection of the rising sun's rays. The next day in South Ninepin Island was leisurely. We went snorkeling and laid on the grass looking at Tseung Kwan O, which is dozens of kilometers away. I remember that it was only a few years ago this day, I was dressed in a suit, handing out flyers and chatting with neighbors on the street. Today I am on a deserted island with messy and oily hair and bare feet. The only thing that hasn't changed is that I haven't left here. This place – Hong Kong is my home.