Tai O Nature and Cultural Walk
Lantau Island, Hong Kong
This easy walk takes you through the quiet countryside surrounding the village. The diverse habitat includes mangroves, fish ponds, disused salt pans and coastal shrubland. The latter part of the walk is slightly elevated, allowing good views over the village and coastal landscape before taking you through the water village itself. After lunch we explore the various village temples and witness the local streetlife.
The main interest in the harbor and the mangroves are the birds, particularly egrets and herons. Little Egret and Great Egret, Chinese Pond Heron and also Grey Heron may be spotted. Eastern Cattle Egrets also occur on passage. Black Kites fly over the mangroves and adjacent hills. Other smaller but still conspicuous species flying over or resting in the mangroves are the migrant Common Sandpiper and a number of starling species, namely the resident Crested Myna and Black-collared Starling, and the wintering Red-billed Starling. The latter can occur in flocks of up to seventy birds in the Tai O area. This area is tidal and at various points the water ebbs and flows under bridges in the causeway. When the tide is low, fiddler crabs and Common Mudskippers appear on the exposed mud.
Tai O used to be an important fishing village and trading port, exporting salt from its local salt pans to China. The fishing industry is now in decline and the salt pans no longer exist, but the village, with its stilt houses built in the tidal creeks, retains its historical character and attracts a steady stream of tourists.
The walk will include a visit to the Hau Wong Temple, built in 1699, the oldest temple in Hong Kong dedicated to Yang Liangjie, who in his role as general, protected the last emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty during a short stay on Lantau. If you are interested, a tour though the former Police Station can be included. This typical colonial building from the last century has recently been restored and is now a small boutique hotel, called the Heritage Hotel. Another option is to walk uphill through shaded forest to the Dolphin Lookout Point on top of the northern cliffs. Dolphins can sometimes be spotted from here through binoculars.
From the hotel (perhaps after a drink in the coffee shop there) we walk back to the bus-station to get the (4 pm) bus back to Tung Chung. If time allows, it is possible to visit the small folk museum near the bus station.