Although some travellers think of Hong Kong as just Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon peninsula, the city is home to hundreds of inhabited and uninhabited islands.
Still, many of these islands are easier to access than others. Like Lamma and Peng Chau, some have regular multiple-times-per-day ferry services, a healthy community of full-time residents, and a range of shops and businesses. Others can only be visited via private boat or kayak.
Ap Chau and Kat O, AKA Duck Island and Crooked Island, respectively, fall into the sweet spot in the middle. It’s possible to visit both of these islands, located in Hong Kong’s far north, close to Shenzhen’s border in mainland China, provided you do a little careful planning ahead of time.
Your reward? Both islands, both beautiful in their distinct ways, don’t feel anything like the rest of Hong Kong, all for just a few dollars.
The first sign you’re not just taking any old commuter ferry is the look of the boat itself. To get to islands like these, you’ll be travelling by Kaito — a smaller boat that looks more like a fishing vessel.
While some of these Kaitos accept Octopus transit cards (the same ones you can use on Hong Kong buses and the MTR), others only accept cash as they are run by independent companies and not the city.
The Kaito to Ap Chau and Kat O departs from Sha Tau Kok, which is in the New Territories in northern Kowloon. Getting there is somewhat of a challenge and can easily take 90-120 minutes from Central.
Another place to pick up a Kaito to the two islands is Ma Liu Shui, near the busy Sha Tin neighbourhood. It’s a trade-off, as this ferry is significantly easier to access via public transit, but it only has one departure per day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It leaves at 9 a.m. and departs from Kat O around 3:30 p.m.
Each round-trip, same-day journey costs $20 HK cash (about $3 US).