Header image courtesy of @johnchanmk (via Instagram)
From chasing down waterfalls to exploring scenic mountainous routes, Hong Kong has an infinite list of summer activities to do. Admittedly, as the city begins to sizzle, we’re all attempting to dodge the scorching heat. Why not add a unique twilight activity to your summer bucket list? Unplug your gadgets, turn off your phone, and head to the best locations in the city for an evening outside, where you will be enchanted by the magic of fireflies.
While you might be daydreaming about catching fireflies down a canal in Southeast Asia, you can be treated to this remarkable light show locally in Hong Kong. Despite being a tiny city, there are 29 species found across various wetlands and riverbeds in Hong Kong. Although they appear throughout the year—including the coldest months of December and January—the best months to spot them are from May to June and September to October.
Famed for its landscape of yellow cauliflower blossoms across abandoned farmlands, Sha Lo Tung (沙螺洞)—within the Pat Sin Leng country park—is one of the best locations in Hong Kong to locate fireflies. The area is home to two Hakka villages, Cheung Uk (張屋) and Lee Uk (李屋), both of which are now partially abandoned.
Its unique geography gives the villages ample water flows year-round since it is sheltered by mountains and hills in every direction. Villagers took full advantage of the valley, where they cultivated crops to sell at the Tai Po market. Sha Lo Tung’s basin not only sustained the lives of its former human residents, but also provided freshwater fish, insects, and wetland creatures with unspoilt nesting habitats.
Fireflies, known to thrive in dusky and grassy environments near fresh streams and rivers, are often spotted across the village at dusk. Hundreds of photographers flock to Sha Lo Tung every year to capture that moment where dozens of beetles sparkle and glow in the sky. The best time to head to Sha Lo Tung for fireflies is from May to June and in October. To reach Sha Lo Tung, hop onto minibus 20P to Fung Yuen Tsuen from the Tai Po minibus terminus. Get off at the last stop and follow the main trail for about one hour. If you visit during the weekends, remember to head into the village for handmade tofu pudding.
Once known as the Tai Po Kau plantation, Tai Po Kau Reserve has a majestic fauna and flora profile and is frequented by bird-watchers and ecologists alike. What’s more, the area is actually home to 10 firefly species! The Red Trail at Tai Po Kau weaves through a series of streams, ponds, and waterfalls, making it a popular route for sightings due to its humid yet tranquil surroundings. The best time to visit Tai Po Kau is from May to June and in November. Here is a complete guide to navigating the Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve.
Tai Mo Shan is the highest peak in Hong Kong, featuring an all-embracing view of the city. It is also home to the elephant firefly, endemic to Hong Kong and only found in lush, grassy habitats above 600 metres. Although male elephant fireflies can only produce a dim light, females display extremely bright twinkles. To find them, head to the trail towards the Youth Hostels Association. A small waterfall nearby is the best location to spot elephant fireflies in the dark. If you are lucky, you will also chance upon three other species that inhabit the area!
It almost goes without saying, but fireflies are nocturnal creatures and spend their days primarily out of view. As sunset arrives, these tiny beetles crawl on top of grass blades and display flickering florescent lights to signal for mates. Such light shows orchestrated by fireflies usually lasts for about one hour. Therefore, the best time to visit is from around 6.30 pm to 8 pm, during which they emerge from the fields to take flight.
Beetle populations are highly vulnerable to habitat loss, pesticides, and light pollution. As you embark on a short journey to observe these spectacular creatures, it’s essential to avoid shining flashlights at them. Try not to use spray-on mosquito repellent and use rub-on repellents instead, as sprays can discharge toxic chemicals. Avoid flash photography and opt for long exposure settings on the camera to capture the moment!