Entrance to Tin Hau temple
The green demon, Favourable Wind Ears
Abandoned housing in Pak A W
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Forged by Lava, this UNESCO site is a natural wonder and now Hong Kong’s largest dam

Pristine vertical lines cut through the azure sky. Their tones, coloured in varying shades of brown, glint golden in the sunlight. These hexagonal columns make up the natural wall called the High Island Formation. Volcanic eruptions dating back 140 million years are the cause behind their unique and uniform design. Its distribution characteristics have led archaeologists to believe that High Island was formed inside a huge caldera. As lava quickly flowed into the caldera, the semi-enclosed environment led to a slow-cooling process. This steady cooling created contraction joints that eventually formed High Island’s columns. Up to thirty metres tall, these structures are part of the Early Cretaceous Kau Sai Chau volcanic group (dating back approximately 141 million years).

Meaning “Grain Ship Bay” in Cantonese, during the pioneering days of international trade, High Island was an active participant, serving as a stopover point and small channel of the Maritime Silk Road. During the Ming dynasty era (1368 to 1644), High Island was a small channel and stopover point on this ancient route for international trade. In this romantic era of interconnectivity and prosperity, High Island was also the site of thriving fishing villages. Many of these have since been submerged or abandoned, with over 400 villagers being displaced by rising sea levels. Now only four villages remain. These four former fishing villages (Pa A, Sha Kiu Tau, Pak Lap and Tung A) sit along the west coast of High Island.

Visitors of the geopark walk along the Maclehose Hiking Trail to reach the village entry points and admire the High Island Reservoir.

In the 1970s, Hong Kong was fast approaching a water shortage crisis. High Island Reservoir was the solution. Opened in 1978, the city’s largest reservoir is made up of two dams, each connected to the Sai Kung Peninsula.

As I marvelled over the evolving scenery, I wondered why it took me so long to visit the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark.

Text & Photos Victoria Mae Martyn