Header images courtesy of @shoyo_da and @andyng_ig (via Instagram)
Escape the streets chock-a-block with people and spend a weekend at Pak Nai, an area famous for its magnificent sunsets. Boasting a cornucopia of marine species, the sweeping shoreline offers a plethora of attractions, including historic buildings, mudflats, and a thriving ecosystem. Follow our guide to Pak Nai for the best hidden gems.
Spread along the coastline of northern Yuen Long, the picturesque Pak Nai is all nature-made, separated into two distinct areas: Ha Pak Nai and Sheung Pak Nai.
Fine silt and clay from low-level regions line the intertidal coastline, and the sediment thickens to form beautiful mudflats. Embraced by soft, brackish waves, the shoreline stretches back at low tide to expose an unseen underwater realm, home to various crab species, sea snails, mangrove trees, and a colourful range of shellfish.
Embodied within the Ridge-to-Reef concept, a holistic framework emphasising the intricate interdependence between land and water, the rich biodiversity of Pak Nai is arduously preserved. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the coastal area of Pak Nai is protected in respect to its ecological importance. Urban developments have either been banned or are heavily regulated within a monitored scale, ensuring that human activity will not adversely impact the delicate fauna and flora that resides within the area.
You can either take a minibus, taxi, or ride a bike to Pak Nai. If you’re up for walking, you may also hike the Pineapple Mountain trail, which offers an option to end in Pak Nai.
From Yuen Long (minibus):
From Tin Shui Wai (bike):
Please note that some drivers ply their businesses around Pak Nai, asking visitors to hop on a ride and charging way more than the minibus fare. For your return, simply walk to Ha Tsuen Ha Pak Nai Village Village Office and take minibus 33 back to the city.
Although Pak Nai is well worth a visit for many compelling reasons, it is not without challenges. Include these items as you pack up for the trip.
Mosquito repellent: You can already anticipate how wet Pak Nai will be. Fly nuisance has ravaged visitors for years. Keep your skin protected from these red, itchy bumps.
Sunscreen: If you’re out all day, use sunscreen to protect your skin from UV rays.
Sturdy sandals: Preferably clog sandals, which cover your toes as well. Oyster reefs have sharp, serrated edges which can cut the skin when accidentally stepped on. Rough stones can lurk underneath the mud. It is not recommended to visit the mudflats barefooted.
Romantic views await as the sun dips down to kiss the the ocean’s horizon. Pak Nai offers a panoramic vista like no other when the day ends and the westwards-looking seashore becomes a rosy picture, tracing a central axis from which the skyline of Shenzhen sprawls out above the rippling, ombre reflection. Many locals enjoy the glorious sea views from their beach chairs between the wandering crabs and the squawking seagulls.
As another day in Pak Nai creeps towards dusk, the receding tide leaves behind a glistening, watery mirror, transforming the mudflats into a photographer’s dream.
For those hoping to snack, head to App Store Café & Barbecue for the iced pineapple popsicle ($8) and fish balls ($10). It also provides mosquito sprays as well.
Aside from the mangrove-lined sandpit, head to the fortified structure in Ha Pak Nai for a look into the area’s storied history. Declared as a Grade I historic building in 2010, this timeworn stonework was completed around 1910 by Tang Yam-nam.
Don’t judge this ramshackle building by its looks—this two-storey rectangular homestead is the only building still standing in Hong Kong with a direct connection to the revolutionary movement under Dr Sun Yat-sen, having served as a secret operational base to bring about the fall of the two-thousand-year-old imperial administration in the late Qing dynasty.
Its advantageous location was well chosen, allowing for revolutionaries to track suspicious activities over Deep Bay, and the military structure has become a showpiece of the courageous rebel forces. Its outer wall is peppered with openings through which firearms could be directly discharged, and the first floor windows were, in fact, doors to a demolished adjacent building, the foundation of which remains visible to this day.
Cycling to Pak Nai embraces all the sightseeing opportunities along the way! Running between Tin Shui Wai and Tin Wah Road, the bike track passes through Tin Shui Estate and Tin Wah Estate, alongside the scenic river views. From Lau Fau Shan Road onwards, riders have to leave the bike path and go on the roads. While pedaling alongside cars might sound daunting, it is legally allowed. Plus, the through-ride offers ample chances to get the taste of the seaside scenery and the spectacular skyline across Deep Bay.
Please note that cyclists may have to give way to vehicles on Deep Bay Road and Nim Wan Road. Always stay alert and watch out for speedy vehicles lurking around corners. You can also rent a bike from Tin Shui Wai Cycling Entry and Exit Hub at Tin Shui Wai.
Its brackish water and loose soil has lent Pak Nai a robust ecosystem where species have prospered. Regular inhabitants, like shell-ensconced hermit crabs and sideways-trotting small crabs (Nanosesarma pontianacense sp.) dominate the shoreline. Mangrove trees, seagrass, and egrets added to the charms of this biodiversity.
Horseshoe crabs, like Tachypleus tridentatus sp. and Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda sp., cosy up to the intertidal area where they hatch their eggs and steadily mature. Haminoea sp., a rarely-seen sea snail, is exclusively found in Sheung Pak Nai, slowly crawling around on the seabed. Bay-crossing egrets also occasionally swing by to rest in the thick mangrove trees, forage for available food in the shallow waters, and enjoy the sunset views.
Although the scenic mudflat is teeming with wildlife, these delicate, little species are highly vulnerable to human activities, so tread carefully as small crabs and seagrass will not survive if you step on them. Keep your noise levels down as egrets are sensitive to human disturbances. Finally, the beached shells can be beautiful ornaments to curious visitors, but essential shelters to hermit crabs, so please do not remove them! Remember, these little creatures are the rightful residents of the mudflats and should be treated with care.
Recognised as a keystone species, the oyster community is a critical component of the ecosystem at Pak Nai. Sloped rock columns, when exposed at low tide, are filled with clusters of hard-edged oysters, attenuating the energy of waves as they slam against the shore, and creating a stable environment for aquatic species to settle.
Feeding on light-blocking phytoplankton, nitrogenous compounds, and other sediments, a single Hong Kong oyster can filter up to 30 litres of water per hour, and increased water transparency leads to an even higher photosynthetic rate and oxygen content. Additionally, oysters latch onto objects and form clusters, constructing a complex architecture that many species can use to find shelter and seek refuge from predators.
Also, these humble oysters are an invaluable part of Hong Kong’s heritage. For several generations, oyster farms have been anchored to Deep Bay, and the cultural methodology stretches back to the Song dynasty. Two traditional practices—bottom cultivation and oyster sauce production—are preserved under the art of traditional craftsmanship under Hong Kong’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, spreading prosperity to local bay keepers who laboriously ply these time-honoured occupations in modern days.
Harvesting the benefits of the versatile oyster, the Nature Conservancy Team has put together an ongoing project to restore the abandoned oyster farms and reefs, protecting the beautiful coastline of Pak Nai. For more information, please click here.