Kayaking One Of The World’s Busiest Shipping Lanes

A short journal of the day we kayaked from Hong Kong Island to Lamma Island.

It’s only taken me two months but it’s finally time to put out my first blog since moving to Hong Kong for a seasonal Outdoor Education role. I’ve yet to finish all of my Kenya and Kyrgyzstan content from the summer but HK life is fast, work is busy and – to tell the truth – I’ve been too focused on making the most of the adventure out here to feel particularly compelled or motivated to sit down and write anything.

One of my recent programs involved being ‘tech support’ for five days on the sea kayaking element of an expedition program up in HK’s New Territories; essentially acting as an extra pair of hands on the water for ratios and rescues, plus any coaching or environmental education I felt I could contribute. At the end of the trip, rather than moving the boats back to their base on the glorious Lamma Island by Sampan, our Program Manager Rob decided it would be an awesome idea to paddle them back over, crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the process. This was an extremely rare opportunity and something that people had been looking to do for some time.

On receiving the invite to join the Saturday morning outing I was ecstatic and, despite having just paddled for five days straight with the stiff muscles and hamstrings to match, it was an offer I jumped at.

We started the day early at Deep Water Bay where we’d left the boats overnight, making our way out towards the channel with Ocean Park on the hilltop to our right. Ahead, huge cargo ships and tankers criss-crossed. There was some swell and we allowed the boats to ride over it gracefully rather than trying to fight it.

Author in Deep Water Bay. (Rich Holt, 2018).

As we neared the channel, a few colleagues shared some knowledge, teaching me a kayak stroke I’d not yet come across. We surfed a few waves and played around, hugging the Hong Kong Island coast whilst waiting for a sufficient window to cross towards Lamma.

Hugging the HK Island Coast Line. (Rich Holt, 2018).

After a few kilometres with Cyberport to our right, our window opened and we went for it. We set our sights on a navigation beacon over on Lamma’s hilly coastline and made a hasty break.

The sky clouds over looking towards Cyberport and Aberdeen. (Rich Holt, 2018).

Fifteen minutes later and we were on the Lamma side of the channel, just a few hundred metres from shore. At this point we felt almost underwhelmed; no ships had passed for fifteen to twenty minutes, despite usually being at nearly-minutely intervals. To that end we decided to hang about and wait for one to approach so we could experience its magnitude up close.

Group selfie looking across the channel towards HK Island from the Lamma coastline. (Rich Holt, 2018).

We didn’t have to wait long. A gargantuan Bulker  approached. For a moment it appeared to be on a direct heading for us, though we knew it would have to turn as we were so close to the rocky shore. As it got to a large buoy about 250m away it changed course, a magnificent site and quite the heart-pumper!

Despite its speed we were amazed at the lack of wake the ship gave off. I can only assume this is a result of its Bulbous Bow dispersing the water. Its wake was so small that one colleague got close enough to try and surf it but couldn’t even catch the wave, slumping down into its trough with a look of defeat.

The bulker passes about 200m away. It looks considerably further through a GoPro lens than in real life! (Rich Holt, 2018)

Once the thrill of the ship had passed it was time to make our way around Lamma to the main town of Yung Shue Wan. We kept close to shore, passing the ferry pier many of us utilise for our daily work commute, until the unmistakable chimneys of Lamma Power Station came into view. Our heart rates were briefly accelerated once more when a large swell nearly dunked us into submerged rocks but we soon reached Yung Shue Wan harbour where we became the subject of a few hundred people’s photographs whilst they disembarked the ferry that had just arrived.

Lamma Power Station comes into view. (Rich Holt, 2018).

Once ashore we carried the boats to their storage location and made our way to the family festival ‘Lamma Fun Day’ for a celebratory beer or two. 15km in just under three hours, across a major global shipping lane. Fun times!