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Escape Hong Kong to Sharp Island

AAP logoAAP 6/11/2016 Alison Godfrey

I'm standing at the edge of the ocean in my underpants, water lapping around my ankles, and preparing to dive into the cool water. This is the last thing I expected to be doing in Hong Kong.

It's a city known for bustling streets, high-rise buildings, high rents and high population numbers. On Hong Kong Island that's certainly true. But take an Uber ride away from the city and you'll find lush countryside, uncrowded beaches and geological treasures.

I've come to Sai Kung in the New Territories to hike through Sharp Island. It's humid. Sweat sticks under the collar of my shirt and, like a true Aussie, I'm hankering for a cool dip in the ocean. But since I forgot my swimmers, I'm in my undies.

Also known as Kiu Tsui Chau, Sharp Island is the largest island in the Kui Tsui Country Park and is part of the UNESCO Global Geopark. The lush green Island is covered in rocks formed from volcanic fragments and magma. Locals call them pineapple rocks because their cracked surface resembles the fruit's bumpy skin.

The hike from Kiu Tsui Beach to Hap Mun Bay takes just over an hour. It's advisable to do it in the winter months of November to March as the summer heat will make it tough. Guides for the walk can be hired at the Volcano Discover Centre in Sui Kung.

The trail begins at Kiu Tsui Beach where Sharp Island connects to nearby Kiu Tau (island) by a natural stone bridge, called a tombolo. A tombolo is formed when the motion of sea currents pushes coastal sand or gravel towards the shore. The Sharp Island tombolo is exposed at low tide, when it's possible to walk from one island to the other.

But instead, we're heading up the hill, ascending a steep set of stairs away from the ocean and towards the top of the island. Butterflies flutter constantly across the trail, grabbing onto leaves and resting their wings. Above us, dozens of kites circle like a cyclone, communicating with each other as they ride the wind.

As I follow the ridgeline I enjoy stunning views of secluded beaches, outlying islands and the towering mountains of the country park.

Without the high-rise buildings in the distance, it would be hard to believe I am in Hong Kong. It's stunning.

After a 1.4km hike along a trail littered with gardenia flowers, we're rewarded with a view of Hup Mun Bay. The bay takes it name from the broken English form of "half moon" and follows the shape of the beach. After a sweaty hike, it's a rewarding sight.

Flinging off our sneakers, we delight in the feel of sand between our toes. But it's not enough; the water is beckoning.

Diving into the water is an instant relief from the humidity and I wash the sweat and grime off my skin. The water is pleasantly cool, the kind of temperature that makes you want to stay in the ocean forever.

Hup Mun Bay is enclosed by a shark net and there are two floating pontoons a short swim away from the sand where you can rest and lap up the sunshine before diving back into the ocean.

When you've finished swimming, you can either walk back along the trail or have the boat pick you up at Hap Mun. Whatever you do, just make sure you pack your swimmers.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Qantas flies direct to Hong Kong daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

STAYING THERE: Lanson Place Hotel in Causeway Bay provides apartment-style hotel rooms with all the facilities of a hotel. Visit hongkong.lansonplace.com

PLAYING THERE: Sharp Island guided tours run between November and March. Access is easy by Uber or catch the MTR to Diamon Hill Exit C2 then take bus 92 to Sai Kung town. Kaito boats to Sharp Island can be hired at the public pier.

* The writer travelled as a guest of Hong Kong Tourism Board and Qantas.

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