Hong Kong’s surrounding islands offer a wide range of outdoor activities. The first thoughts coming into one’s mind when talking about the beautiful Lantau Island are hiking, swimming and fishing. Rarely anyone would think about an activity such as plane spotting at Sha Lo Wan Pier.
Until 1998, Hong Kong had been famous for its Kai Tak Airport and its dramatic landings. Landing at this airport had been very demanding to the pilots and due to its location (high rising skyscrapers, mountains and only one runway towards Victoria Harbor) built up a myth among travelers and resulted in stories to share with the following generations (…”did you hear that the Kai Tak Airport is one of the most dangerous in the world”). Photographers capturing the dramatic arrivals and landings added to the myth and image of Hong Kong aviation history. In the matter of fact, one of the most sold images of Hong Kong is an approaching airplane at the old Kai Tak Airport. The Kai Tak Airport closed down after 73 years of operation in 1998.
Taking interesting and dramatic pictures of arriving planes got a little bit more difficult with the new Chek Lap Kok Airport. No high rising skyscrapers and hard to find spots to take photos of arriving planes. Nonetheless it seems there are still a number of plane spotting enthusiasts in Hong Kong. If you are interesting in hiking and would like to get a good chance to capture some starting planes from the Hong Kong International Airport this following article might be for you:
At Sha Lo Wan Pier you have a great opportunity to spot planes taking off as well as landing. The pier is located right across the south-runway. Only a small channel divides the airport and Lantau Island. There are several good spots on or close by the pier. One spot is directly on the pier. The pier is usually not crowded at all. Just a few people are relaxing and fishing there. Another spot is just a few minutes away. Walk along the path from the pier. After a minute turn right and walk the path uphill. You will have a good chance to take some great pictures. The further you climb uphill, the better the view and chance to take unique pictures.
The best time to take pictures is probably in the morning hours (especially in summer). In the afternoon, the view often gets hazy…but you maybe have some good luck. Even if the weather does not turn out like you wish, it is not bad to stay for a few more minutes. May be you can catch one of the new A380 Airbus like we did.
Some important piece of advice:
Before arriving at the pier make sure that you have plenty of water as well as food with you. There are no restaurants, vending machines and washrooms at the pier. It is pure nature. In addition, it is a good idea not only to take enough sun-lotion with you, but also an umbrella or hat. There is not much shade and it can be very hot and humid there. Make also sure to take some mosquito repellants with you.
How to Get to Sha Lo Wan Pier:
From the Airport:
Take one of the following buses S1, S52P and S64 which will take you to Tung Chung and the Citygate Outlet Shopping Mall. It just takes about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can jump in one of the cabs at the airport.
Take the red MTR Tsuen Wan Line towards Tsuen Wan. Take nine stations and exchange Lai King Station to the orange Tung Chung Line. Stay to the end of the Tung Chung Line (3 stations). Exit the MTR station at Tung Chung through exit C. Approx. travel time is 38 minutes and the fare for a single ticket is HK $ 15.5.
If you start in the MTR Central station walk towards the Hong Kong Station. Take the orange Tung Chung Line and at the last station (Tung Chung). Then take exit C. Approx. travel time is 29 minutes and the fare for a single ticket is HK $ 21.
After arriving at the Tung Chung MTR station walk towards the Tung Chung Development Pier. The walk takes you about 10 minutes (you need to cross the Lantau Highway via the foot-bridge). Then you have basically two options to get to the Sha Lo Wan Pier. First, taking the Fortune Ferry Service and second taking one of the private water taxis. We highly recommend taking the Fortune Ferry Service since usually, most of the captains of the private water taxis can only communicate in Cantonese. The Fortune Ferry takes only 10 minutes and the Sha Lo Wan Pier is the first stop. Fare is HK$ 25 on weekdays and HK$ 30 on Sundays and Public Holidays. The ferry accepts cash and octopus.