Summary: Pak Lap is a readily accessible small campsite just off the main access road of the High Island Reservoir. The site has its pluses and minuses but overall makes a decent option for long-distance through hikers or groups looking to try a new spot to use as a base camp while trekking to nearby natural attractions.
The biggest downfalls for Pak Lap are the ferrel animal impact and the average environment. In specific, the location is a regular stomping ground for cows which leave cow pies all over the main site area severely compromising the camp atmosphere. There were fresh dog and ferrel pig tracks around the site as well though I didn't encounter either during my stay. There are also some visible power lines running along the South Eastern slope of the hill where Pak Lap is situated which would be a bit of an eyesore if you had to locate in one of the sites facing that direction. Finally, the site is only 50 meters off the main access road which makes it easy to get to but a little too close for some of the sites at the front of the campground where you can hear cars drive by from time to time.
Notwithstanding these issues there are two sites on the campground toward the back that are very spacious with views down to the sea that would make a nice place to set up your camp if you choose to give Pak Lap a try. All sites have stone seating and BBQ pits and there is ample scrub and deadfall to use in small fires. There is no potable water source or other amenities other than toilets so you need to bring all your supplies, and you can choose to walk in from the gate at the West end of the reservoir or hop a green taxi right to the site. If you've got plans to see some of the geological sites around the reservoir area this is not a bad option, but maybe not a top priority if your main goal is to find a new premium location for camp life.
What I liked:
- Convenient Location: Pak Lap is located right in the middle of a geological park that is home to numerous stunning natural land features. If you want to plan a weekend exploring some of Hong Kong's unique geology this makes a great base camp.
- One Good Site: The site furthest to the back of Pak Lap Campground is actually quite nice and separated from the main camp area by a long narrow path. It won't necessarily keep the cows out, but there are less of them and it definitely makes for a more peaceful location than the main camp area. Its also large and well laid out with some decent views so if you go you should definitely make a beeline for the back.
What I didn't:
- Ferrel Animals: Sai Kung Man Yee Road is the main road running along that south side of High Island reservoir. Its the main road used by taxis and other permit holding vehicles to get people and supplies in and out. However, the road is also a highway for the substantial ferrel cow population in the area, and since Pak Lap is so close to the road there is a regular stream of cows entering the campsite. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of the site. I also saw dog and pig tracks though I didn't see any first hand.
- Power Lines: Its not as big a deal as you might think but there are some low running power lines running along the southeast section of the campground that are visible from some of the sites. Definitely not a huge issue but not helping either.
- Go Early Get the Best Spot: If you've decided to make Pak Lap your site go early and try to get the back spot. Its got the best views and most secluded location.
- Taxi In: I am a big fan of getting a workout, but the 8.3km walk from the main gate is basically a stroll down a road, many sections of which have fast driving cabs and lots of cows and their waste. You can spice it up a bit by taking the Sheung Yiu Country Trail at the start increasing your walk to 9.6km, but in my opinion best to get to camp, set up your nature home and plan day trips from base camp.
- Bring Water: There's no potable water sources as far as I can tell so bring your water with you.
PHOTOS & VIDEO
CAMPSITE VIDEO TOUR
THE GOOD - In Photos
Pak Lap is a decent campground with some redeeming qualities. First, there is a lot to be seen on short walks away from camp including some interesting species of plant life. The Sundew Plants you can find on some of the shaded wets cliff faces are a great example of things worth going for. There is also a great little campsite right at the back of the campground that makes for a nice place to set up shop. Make this your base camp for a few days of sight seeing around the reservoir and coast to maximize the convenient location.
THE BAD - In Photos
3 out of 5 is a good rating for this site. Without the ferrel animal impact it could possibly make a 4 but in general there is nothing remarkable about Pak Lap. Add on the power lines and proximity to the main road and Pak Lap will always fall comfortably down the middle of the road ratings wise.
Pak Lap is a nice little site conveniently accessed 50 meters off the main road around High Island Reservoir. It's location makes it a great place to set up a based camp for a few days of trekking and exploring around the area which has a number of visit worthy spots. The big down side is that due to ferrel cows and a relatively cramped layout there are only one or two sites that would make for a nice stay, those being the two furthest to the back. Specifically the farthest site back is really your best bet as its far enough away from the main area to reduce cow traffic and keep you secluded from large groups of campers on busier days. Combine that with a great view and nice BBQ pit and it makes up for a lot of Pak Lap's other draw backs. Getting to the site is either an 8-10km walk depending on your route choice or a quick taxi ride from the main gate of the High Island Reservoir access road. You can actually drive right to the gate and park for free if you have your own car which is a big bonus, otherwise you'll need to taxi/Uber or take various modes of public transport to get to the gate. Whether you choose to drive or walk once you get there it is a pretty flat walk with minor inclines, but much of it is exposed so on very hot or very cold/rainy/windy days you'll want to make sure you pack and dress appropriately. There is no potable water onsite so make sure to bring in or get at the gate before making your way to the campground.
As mentioned once you get to Pak Lap make your way straight to the back and see if you can get the furthest site in. It will definitely change your experience if you choose to give this one a shot. Also an important note for Pak Lap and any campsite in general, make sure to properly stow your food items. Either take them with you when not at the site or hang them from one of the trees, otherwise you may come back to a ravaged site.
In terms of weather and bugs, Pak Lap isn't as breezy as some other mountain side campgrounds. I am sure there are days where the winds flow through but during my stay it was relatively calm and warm. There are shaded spots to get out of the sun when its hot, but the humidity will still be very high. There are mosquitos at Pak Lap like most locations in Hong Kong so bring your bug spray. With that said there is also quite a bit of deadfall and dry scrub to use for small fires in the BBQ pits, so you do have an option to smoke out the bugs at sun down.
There are trashcans on site, two toilets and basic site amenities like BBQ pits, but as mentioned no potable water source. Despite the damage done by the cows Pak Lap is relatively trash free and well maintained. Even after two recent typhoons there is only minimal cleanup that needs to take place which leads me to believe that regular maintenance takes place.
Overall Pak Lap is an easy to get to reasonably comfortable campsite with the major draw back of the ferrel cow traffic. It will work well as a base camp and is ok for families but not the best option given the animals.
Pak Lap is an ok option for through hikers or people looking to spend a day or two exploring the reservoir and geopark scenic areas. If you manage to get the site at the back of the campground you'll have a markedly different experience than if you have to setup at the main site. This location is ok for families but if thats your angle try checking out other nearby campsites like Long Ke Wan first.
OK FOR SMALL CHILDREN: Pak Lap is easily accessed and with taxis as an option to get from the main gate to the site you're never too far from safety, just make sure to keep a charged phone in the event you need to call a cab (Sai Kung Taxi Hotline: +852-2383-0168). You can also take a flat 1.5km walk to the East Dam and wait for a taxi under the pavilion there. You could wait for quite a while, but on most days people are getting dropped off relatively frequently, though you won't have much luck at night. There are also no amenities nearby so you have to bring all your food and water. The biggest concern for kids here are the ferrel cows, dogs and pigs. Make sure to keep kids away from them if they show up, and ideally have a big stick handy to usher them away should they get too curious about your camp.
- Number of Tent Sites: 10
- Site Facilities: BBQ Pits, stone benches, flat tent sites, trash bins
- Campground Facilities: Two toilets
- Fire: There is deadfall and dry scrub to be used in small fires
- Beach: N/A
- Fresh Water: N/A - There are nearby streams but none onsite and no onsite potable water source
- Nearby Resources: N/A - There are a few places to eat and buy supplies within 1 to 2km hiking down to Pak Lap or Sha Kiu Tau, otherwise its an 8-10km walk or taxi to the main gate for supplies
If you choose to walk, pack light starting with my STANDARD SOLO CAMPER GEAR LIST adding on only what you think you can carry for long distances. If you taxi in and out the world is your oyster and you can pack for life at camp. With that said Pak Lap isn't a particularly compelling site to spend lots of time and works better as a base camp or through hike stop, so spending a lot of time an energy setting up a major camp isn't necessarily the best approach.
If you do feel compelled to bring gear in addition to the STANDARD SOLO CAMPER GEAR LIST you may want to consider:
- Extra food and water given the lack of immediately available resources
- A soft sided cooler for cold drinks given the relatively warm environment in the hotter months
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.
Pak Lap is most easily accessed by driving to the main gate at Peak Tam Chung and parking in the free parking lot. Alternatively you can taxi or Uber to the same spot. If you are in a green taxi already you can keep driving right to Pak Lap Campsite, otherwise get a green taxi at the taxi stand and do the same. There are other options for public transportation by taking MTR and buses. Specifically, assuming you can get to Sai Kung Town:
- Take bus 94 from Sai Kung Bus Terminal or Minibus 7 from Hoi Ha in Sai Kung Town and get off at Pak Tam Chung.
- From Pak Tam Chung take a green taxi to Pak Lap, or walk 8.3km on Sai Kung Man Yee Road straight to the site.
- You can also take Sheung Yiu Country Trail from Pak Tam Chung which meets up with Sai Kung Man Yee Road near the west dam taking you right to Pak Lap.
- See the map at the top of this page for details.