RATING 2 out of 5
Summary: Kau Ling Chung is a site with huge potential ruined by a virtual landfill on it's beach. The campground approach, tent sites, and potable water are all top notch for a maintained campground in Hong Kong, and though the evening at the tent and around the fire was refreshing the poor trash management on the beach tanked the rating from a potential 4 or 5 out of 5 down to a 2. If you don't care about beaches by all means have a go and enjoy your site, but if that's your preference there are other inland sites that may serve you better.
What I liked:
- Site Approach: The walk down to the site from the main trail was refreshing with natural stone paths, lots of greenery, and and enough incline/decline to make me break a sweat without feeling burnt out.
- Campsite Environment: Water sources and multiple well laid out sites made for nice campsite living.
- Quiet but Accessible: Far enough out to trim down the number of visitors, easy enough access to get in an out for an overnighter if you plan well.
- Fire Making: Enough deadfall and drift wood to make small evening fires.
What I didn't:
- Trash: The beach is unusable and depressing ruining the entire experience.
- Try Other Sites First: Can't ignore the low rating here, but if you're compelled by the pictures or for other reasons then...
- Take the Bus: Like most Lantau sites grabbing a bus just outside the Tung Chung MTR or Mui Wo Ferry Terminal is the best way to get to the trail head.
- Gamble on the Water: The potable water source is worth a try if you want to reduce your pack weight for the 5km hike. Either boil or purify to be safe but this is some of the best natural campsite water I've encountered in Hong Kong.
- Entertainment: Plan on a day hike after you've set up camp or bring things to entertain yourself at your site as the beach is completely unusable.
THE GOOD - In Photos
The walk/hike leading to Kau Ling Chung is mostly paved which robs a bit of the charm from the approach, but the walkways are virtually free of trash, people are at a minimum during the week, and the views along the way are very pleasant. Hiking down to the site from the main walkway is a pleasure with stone laid steps, great views, and lots of greenery. Entrance to the site is just as appealing with jungle, fresh water sources, small bridges and virtually no trailside trash visible. Campsites are numerous and many are well positioned for comfortable evening and morning hangouts.
THE BAD - In Photos
Trash, trash and more trash. The Achilles Heel of Kau Ling Chung is the poor trash management on its beaches. Trail side trash can be observed very sparsely on your approach (you actually have to be looking for it to find it), with more being visible at the entrance to the campground, but not so much that it compromises your experience. The amount of trash on the beach however can only be described as equivalent to and actual landfill. It was one of the worst examples of seaside pollution I have seen at a campsite yet and rendered the beach completely unusable, which is a shame as the small cove where it is located would be the perfect place to end your evening before tucking in or start your morning with a cup of coffee. The 2 out of 5 rating changes to a 4 or 5 if the beach get's a full and rigorous clean up.
Kau Ling Chung Campsite is located on the south western coast of Lan Tau Island. It is a beachside campsite accessible from a long flat paved section of the Lantau Trail leading up to a small access path down to the site. The campground itself is a well designed, minimal resource site with portable bathroom and potable water sources available. The location is charming with thick jungle and freshwater features covering the grounds. The government maintains the campground well and it's relatively free of trash (at least at the tent sites...). The hike in is a bit long if you plan to bring lots of gear or have kids in tow, but with a little bit of effort it's doable under both those circumstances if you're in reasonable shape. The only tricky bit with heavy gear and or kids would be the access trail down to and up from the site. With its uneven exposed natural stone paths and occasional steep inclines you could be in for a twisted ankle or a tumbling tot if you're not careful. That said there is nothing about this section of trail that presents any serious risk if you are careful and take your time.
There are a number of well laid out campsites to choose from ranging from small cozy jungle enclosed sites to flat open sites boarding the beach. One of the most appealing to me was an elevated jungle site towards the back end which was occupied when I got there so I chose a small site right in the middle nestled behind a grove of Screw Pines. This was ultimately a very peaceful location and a great place to spend an evening by the fire.
Despite the nice campsites the beach was a massive disappointment as a result of the incredible amount of trash. If you read the captions in the "THE BAD - In Photos" section you'll get a complete picture of the scale of the problem. To summarize, the entire beach was covered in trash ranging from shopping carts to plastic bottles. A fresh water pond between the sites boarding the beach and the ocean was blackened with pollution and full of trash. All of this rendered the beach and many of the campsites that bordered it completely useless, and borderline dangerous (think broken glass or sharp metal on bare feet), certainly nowhere for children to play and lacking the ambiance to satisfy a sunset watch on the beach.
Not to end on a negative it should be noted that unlike many other sites in Hong Kong there was virtually no impact from ferrel cows or wild dogs, which was another added bonus to life at the camp site.
The rating of 2 out of 5 is hard to ignore, and despite its many redeeming qualities of this site I can't recommend it considering one of the main features (the beach) is completely unusable. There are other sites in Hong Kong that are worth a visit before I would consider going to Kau Ling Chung, but if the government or an organized group were to perform a massive clean up of the beach, this site would rank much higher relative to other campsites in Hong Kong. Heres hoping that happens soon, and in the meantime, if you still want to give it a go, have a look below at the family friendliness, site features, gear recommendations and access tips before you head out.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR SMALL CHILDREN: It is feasible to bring small children (4yr and up depending on abilities) to Kau Ling Chung as the hike is not strenuous. However, the site is 5.3km from transportation and mobile phone signal is spotty until you get back up to the main path. If your young children are not used to a hike of this length or have a tendency to get home sick this trip could be problematic. Combined with the poor conditions on the beach I don't recommend bringing small children to this site. If the beach ever gets cleaned up I would recommend this one for the more adventurous families.
- Number of Tent Sites: 16
- Site Facilities: BBQ Pits/Fire Pits, Stone Benches, Trash Bins, Cloths Drying Lines
- Campground Facilities: Portable Toilets, Potable Water Source
- Fire: Lots of deadfall to use for small camp fires in cooler months
- Beach: Completely unusable due to trash
- Fresh Water Pond: Full of fish and peaceful to sit beside
- Nearby Resources: No shops or transportation, plenty of nearby trails and landmarks for short hikes
Kau Ling Chung is a well maintained site but provides minimal resources and is approximately 5.3km on foot from the nearest public transportation/supplies so you'll need to bring everything you need for the duration of your stay on your back. With that in mind I would recommend taking only whats required. The best reference of this is the STANDARD SOLO CAMPER GEAR LIST which can be found on the Gear Advice page or by clicking the button below:
I did this camp with a 55 pound 75L pack to assess feasibility of a bigger load out and had no major issues, though the hike up and down to the site was a workout and it would have been slow going with kids (but feasible). As reference I am a 178cm, 165lb male in good shape with no major injuries, plan accordingly given your personal situation.
NOTE ON TENTS: Hong Kong is tropical which means there are lots of creepy crawlies at night and a constant possibility of heavy down pour which is why I recommend the full tent with rain fly and inner mesh. You can get away with a tarp alone but spray for mozzys before bed and don't be surprised to wake up several times a night to brush off bugs, mice and or rats even in the winter months (hammocks might be a little better but not fool proof for bugs or some snakes if not fully enclosed). Last point, Hong Kong is also home to many species of venomous insects and snakes and though I think it would be a very unlucky scenario were you to encounter one in your sleep, a fully enclosed tent removes the risk almost entirely if you keep entrances zipped. Again, I highly recommend a fully enclosed tent regardless of your level of experience outdoors.
The best way to get to the site is by picking up a bus at either Tung Chung or Mui Wo Ferry and getting off at the She Tsui stop just over the Shek Pik Reservoir. Tung Chung is very easy to access as you can get there from just about anywhere in Hong Kong via MTR. Mui Wo is a Ferry Station that I have only accessed from Hong Kong Island Ferry Terminal but is also a convenient option if you prefer a different mode of transport. You can take taxis from either Tung Chung or Mui Wo instead of the bus but they can be in short supply with long lines of people waiting, and if you do catch one you have to make sure it is the local blue taxis as they are the only ones allowed to drive to the drop off point (the drop off point is the same in the taxi as the bus, She Tsui bus stop). To make things more simple, lets assume a bus ride from either Tung Chung or Mui Wo:
- From Tung Chung, leave the MTR station and find the Taxi stand outside the main exit.
- Directly across the main road (Tat Tung Rd) from the taxi stand is a series of bus stops outside Fu Tung Shopping Centre, find the line for bus 11 (not 11A) and board when it arrives. You can pay cash but best to get an Octopus Card before you leave the MTR station.
- From Mui Wo get off the ferry and look for the bus stop (should be to the left as you exit, easy to find).
- Board Bus number 1.
- For both Tung Chung and Mui Wo embarkation, stay on the bus for quite a while until you reach the Shek Pik Reservoir, the bus will drive over the dam and the following stop is She Tsui, your exit.
- After getting off the bus head back a few steps from the bus stop to the start of Wang Pui Rd (you should see a public bathroom on your left walking in).
- Wang Pui Rd becomes Lantau Trail Section 8 very quickly and you should see signs.
- Follow Lantau Trail Section 8 for a little over 5km until you reach the trail head which is marked by a map and prominent wood sign for Kau Ling Chung Campsite (see "THE GOOD - In Photos" for pictures of the sign and map)
- Take the access trail down to the campsite (there is a small fork towards the bottom, stay to the right), and you have arrived.
- Exit the same way you came in picking up a bus on the opposite side of the street (number 11 for Tung Chung, number 1 for Mui Wo). You may also be able to find a taxi here if you are so inclined so be sure to keep several hundred HKD on you if this is your preferred option (should be a little over a hundred each way).