Scuba Diving in Hong Kong
Great Variety of Marine Life
Scuba diving is not exactly the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Hong Kong, probably not the second or third, either... Pollution and over fishing have certainly taken their toll, but yet there are over 300 species of fish, over 80 species of coral and almost 6000 species of other critters in Hong Kong waters. They might not be there in such abundance as you will find elsewhere in South East Asia, but they are there. It may take a bit of effort to spot some of the creatures, but that is part of the challenge.
Most diving in Hong Kong takes place in Sai Kung area, eastern side of Hong Kong. The western side is best avoided due to the murky water Pearl River brings along, heavy boat traffic and strong currents. Waters in the eastern side are not only calmer and clearer, they are also surprisingly clean.
Visibility in Hong Kong waters averages between three and five meters, but on a good day, it can be up to 10 meters or more. The low visibility is not due to pollution: the bottom composition right outside the shore line is very fine silt which easily stirs up. The visibility seems to have improved over the last couple of years, possibly due to the Hong Kong Government's ban on trawling fishing.
In summertime, algae growth further affects the visibility and gives the water a greenish hue. Water is usually warmest in August with surface temperatures reaching 30-32C. Winters offer the best visibility with less algae growth, but the water temperature in January-February drops down to 17C or so, so you’ll need a dry suit or at least a well fitting 5mm wet suit with a hood and vest to stay warm.
Diving in Hong Kong is relatively shallow. The best things to see are at only five to six meters deep. Due to the low visibility enough light only penetrates to the depth of 10 meters to allow things to grow. There are exceptions, though: a few dive sites offer beautiful corals down to 18 meters or more. Those sites tend to be a bit further away, and are occasionally affected by weather, heavy winds and waves, but are well worth visiting when the conditions are right.
Perfect Training Ground
For beginners and divers in the early phases of their diving careers, Hong Kong is an excellent training ground. The conditions are slightly harder, you have to be more aware of your buddy and your surroundings, and you learn buoyancy control and navigation skills quicker than you would in clear blue waters - you develop good scuba diving habits. Yet, as a beginner, you are never far from the surface.
When you learn to dive in Hong Kong, the first time you dive at a nice tropical reef, you’ll realize just how easy scuba diving really is. And when you see scuba divers who learnt at those reefs and those nice conditions, you’ll also realize the value of having been trained in Hong Kong.
Scuba diving in Hong Kong is possible throughout the year. Most boats however only run between early April to early December. In summertime, the piers in Sai Kung are packed with divers on Saturday and Sunday mornings waiting for the more than 20 dive boats to go out, wintertime only a few boats do. Winter diving is often shore diving in much smaller groups.
Hong Kong diving might not always be world-class and can be challenging at times, but you are rewarded by experiences you might not have thought possible practically right off your door steps. It is better than you think - come and see yourself.
You can check out the ecological hotspots in Hong Kong in this interactive map at Hong Kong World Wildlife Fund website. The eastern side of the map also reads as a guide to the Hong Kong dive sites. Click on the map to open, then click on the pins to see the site description and photos, or click 'List' button on the upper left to see the spots in list format. The map opens in a new window.
Oh yes, The Question... about sharks...
No, there are no sharks in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, but no.
The last shark attack in Hong Kong happened in June 1995. At that time a single shark, believed to have been a tiger shark apparently got lost in the maze of Hong Kong's bays and islands and attacked swimmers who were swimming at either dusk or dawn. Since then there have been occasional - mostly unconfirmed - sightings of what may or may not have been sharks. Dolphins are often mistaken for sharks from a distance. There are dolphin populations in Hong Kong waters.
There is no resident shark population in Hong Kong. There are shark populations near Hong Kong and it is possible that one may drift to Hong Kong every now and then. Sharks however are not the mindless killers as portrayed in the movies. Out of 400 or so known species of sharks, only a handful of species have ever been reported having attacked humans. Divers particularly are safe: at no time in the evolution of the sharks were they taught that the weird creature with a metallic container strapped on the back is something edible. Most known shark attacks on scuba divers have involved spearfishing and an accidental bite: a shark being attracted by the struggling fish the diver was holding.
Whale sharks have been videoed and photographed in Hong Kong recently. The latest confirmed sighting took place in July 2015. Whale sharks are plankton eaters and pose no threat to humans and diving with them is one of the highlights in one’s diving career.
So if it is sharks that worry you, fear not. You won’t encounter them diving in Hong Kong. And if you do beat the odds of winning the lottery and see one here, enjoy the sight, they are beautiful animals, and please let us know. We want to see them too.
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Hong Kong offers a great variety of marine life. Click the map to magnify and see what you can find and where. A more interactive version of the map is at Hong Kong WWF's website.