Saturday, 1 July 2017

Lamma Island - Experience the wild side of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a modern, bustling city with tall skyscrapers. Yet, it is also home to hundreds of smaller islands, some of which are relatively undeveloped and the residents still live a slower paced, more rural lifestyle. In this blog post, I shall cover my experience at Lamma Island, the 3rd largest island in Hong Kong and a popular destination for outdoor and seafood lovers.

Before I begin, I would like to thank Hong Kong Polytechnic University for arranging this tour as part of my summer school program there.

About Lamma Island

Lamma Island is the 3rd largest island in Hong Kong SAR, after Lautau Island and Hong Kong Island. It is about 13.5 square kilometers and has a population of about 10,000. In addition to 2 main villagers called Yung Shue Wan (Banyan Tree Bay) and Sok Kwu Wan (Rainbow Bay), the island also has its own power station and offshore fish farms.

Getting there

As there are no bridges to Lamma Island, the only way to access the island is by boat. Scheduled ferries are available from Central on Hong Kong Island (the same place where you take ferries to Macau) to both Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan. The fare ranges from HKD17.10 (weekdays) to HKD23.70 (weekends, public holidays).

For my trip, HKPU has arranged for a boat to take us directly from Kowloon City Ferry terminal. The journey time is about 45 minutes. It will be faster (about 25 mins) if you take from Hong Kong Island because the distance is shorter and the public ferries are faster.

This is the first time I get to go on the flybridge of a boat!

Ferry to Macau. Notice that the hull is floating above the water? This is not photoshop. It is a hydrofoil!

Lamma Fisherfolk Village

Our first stop is Lamma Fisherfolk Village, located just off the coast at Sok Kwu Wan. It is an offshore fish farm that doubles as an attraction for tourists. Here, we get to see the how the popular fishes like sea bass and groupers are reared. I was really surprised that the groupers are so huge. In fact, the guide told us that groupers can reach 500kg in weight, but due to environmental conditions the groupers in the farm only reach about 60kg. He then added that the market price for groupers is over HKD100 per kg. $6000 for a fish anyone?

Feeding the sea bass and groupers with bite sized fishes. You know the saying 大鱼吃小鱼

This grouper is only considered "mid sized" by the fish farm's standard.
There are also other exhibits at Lamma Fisherfolk Village. One of them is a tank that showcases some of the more exotic seafood that can be turned into Chinese delicacies. Think starfish, horseshoe crab and sea cucumbers. The American students were baffled by how these creatures can be eaten. We were also allowed to touch and hold the various sea creatures. This is unlike... ahem... Ocean... ahem... Park that no longer allows guests to touch the starfishes. However, the guide shared that many of these creatures are endangered and cannot be harvested from the wild.

Will any city dwelling guest actually dare to use a toilet like this?

Okay I am impressed!

In addition, Lamma Fisherfolk Village keeps a traditional fishing junk on display. For those of you who are less...enlightened, a junk is a Chinese sailing boat, NOT the thing you throw into the bin. In fact, many features on the boat, such as watertight storage containers for caught fish, rudders and battens are used by the Chinese hundreds of years before the west!

Modern junks are also fitted with engines in case... you know... there is no wind

The master stateroom. In Chinese ship design, the room for the son is usually larger than the daughter's room. That's gender equality for you!

Finally, for a measly HKD10, or about half the price of an Ocean Park game, you can try angler fishing using a traditional rod and bait. Here's the perk: if you are able to catch the fish, the fish is yours to keep. Not surprisingly, none of us were able to catch the anglers. 

Staff preparing the angler fishing game. The fishing pond is in the background on the right.

Sok Kwu Wan

After the fisherfolk village tour, we made landfall at Sok Kwu Wan village to have lunch. Sok Kwu Wan is the smaller of the 2 villages in Lamma Island. The main street has several seafood restaurants and a convenience stall. We ate at the Pearl Garden Restaurant, and I can assure you, the seafood is among the freshest I ever experienced. I could literally taste the salt of the seawater in the prawn, and the fish is so soft it can almost melt in your mouth. Set menu for 2 people start at HKD298, which is comparable to seafood restaurants in Singapore.

Sok Kwu Wan main street. Note that many of the stalls are actually not open. I guess more will be open on weekends when there are more tourists.

Look at the variety of seafood on offer. 

and more seafood...some of them I never even seen before!

There is also a small temple at Sok Kwu Wan. The temple is dedicated to Tin Hau 天后, the goddess of the sea and is highly revered by fishermen. Fishermen and merchant sailors will pray to Tin Hau for a safe voyage before every journey. Note that the Tin Hau temple on Hong Kong tourist website is referring to a different temple on the same island. Just in case you think i mixed up.


Lamma Island is still relatively undeveloped and hence is a good place for trekking. The easiest trek, and the one we took, is directly between Sok Kwu Wan and Yung Shue Wan. The distance is 4km and the maximum elevation change is about 60m, or half the height of Bukit Timah Hill. So guys, no excuses. The entrance to the route is not very well marked and even our experienced tour guide had difficulty finding the entrance.

Okay, thats not encouraging. And can you find the spelling mistake?

Houses at Lamma Island are typically landed property, unlike mainland Hong Kong. However, the buildings look old as they are subject to high salt environment.

Slope protection certificate. The slope has a layer of shotcrete sprayed on the surface and pipes are inserted to improve drainage.

WW2 Kamikaze tunnel. The Japanese used tunnels like these to hide their Shinyo Boats - boats with explosives that will be driven straight into American ships if they invaded Hong Kong. Similar boats are used in the defense of Okinawa.
After climbing a series of steep slopes, we arrived at the a viewing pavilion. For those who are rejoicing, this is NOT the highest point of Lamma Island. However, it provides a good view of Sok Kwu Wan village and the fish farms in the bay.

Hung Shing Yeh Beach

At the two-third point of the trek, we reach Hung Shing Yeh beach. It is a sand beach between 2 headlands (for those who take Geography, you know what I mean). In case you want to swim, there is a lifeguard, buoys to mark the safe swimming area and even changing rooms with showers. There are also BBQ pits at the Eastern end of the beach. However, I think the place is a bit too ulu for a swimming destination.

The shower facilities are about as good as Sentosa!

The waves at Hung Shing Yeh beach are quite strong so I only recommend going there if you are a good swimmer.

Large rock outcrops are excellent for a photo.

Yung Shue Wan

Yes, we are at the home stretch now! Before Yung Shue Wan, we stopped by at a roadside stall to get some custard beancurd. The beancurd here is similar to beancurd in Singapore but they added some brown sugar sauce so it is more sweet. 1 bowl costs HKD12.

And finally, our epic 4km trek is at an end! Yung Shue Wan is the bigger of the 2 villages and there is more activity on the street. Oh yes, you can get wine for as cheap as HKD25 per bottle. Man! In Singapore entry level wine costs SGD25! Many of us city dwelling students are so tired that we fell asleep on the boat back.

There are also small hotels like this one on Lamma Island.

First time riding on the bow of a boat!


Lamma Island is a good outdoor retreat that contrast well with the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city. There are several activities to do and a visitor can spend about half a day on the island. For me, the biggest highlight is the seafood because it is exceptionally fresh. A trip to Lamma Island, including seafood lunch should cost about HKD 200 per person.

[Gentle reminder] Don't forget to bring insect repellent, sunblock and water bottle if you want to hike along the island! No one in our entire group remembered to bring insect repellent, with all too predictable results.

If you like this post, why not look at some other posts about all things Hong Kong?