Surrounded by 733km of coastline, Hong Kong is a special administration region of the People’s Republic of China. Rocky reefs and corals support over 300 species of reef fish and more than 80 species of hard and soft coral. Most diving is shallow and interesting topography makes for great dives with lots of marine life hiding in nooks and crannies. Sharks are common during the summer when water temperatures are warmer and many beaches are protected by shark nets.
Although diving can be on the colder side and visibility isn’t always perfect, Hong Kong has some great diving including a lot of macro life. It’s also a great place for dive training. One of the best ways to dive in Hong Kong is to join one of several scuba diving clubs such as the South China Diving Club. These clubs arrange dive trips and help divers get to all corners of the diving in Hong Kong, as well as international group dive trips and training.
Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) has daily flights from around the world, making it easy to get to Hong Kong. It is also possible to reach Hong Kong by ferry and public transportation from mainland China and Macau. Once in Hong Kong, it is easy to get around by taxis and public transport including mass transit (MRT) and bus systems. It is possible to rent cars, but traffic congestion and the complicated road system can make it difficult. There is also little parking, which is very expensive. The best way to get to dive locations is with arranged transport from dive clubs or dive shops.
Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate with hot and humid summers (June-Sept) with temperatures of 25-32C. Winters are cooler and windier with 18-22C, although nights can get as cold as 10C. Typhoon season is June through September. Water temperatures are warm in the summer, reaching 30C, but in the winter can be as cold as 15C. During the summer a 3mm wetsuit is recommended and a 5mm or semi-dry in the winter. Wind and weather often dictate if diving can occur, as boats may not be able to get to dive sites in rough weather, and sandy bottoms may get stirred up causing poor visibility.
The official languages of Hong Kong are English and Cantonese and they use the Hong Kong dollar.
Unfortunately some of the reason Hong Kong isn’t a premier dive destination is due to human caused problems. Pollution and overfishing are common, and in some areas (although illegal) dynamite fishing still occurs. There are also some hazards divers need to watch out for in all areas such as abandoned nets and fishing lines and boat traffic. Recognizing the deteriorating health of the reefs, Hong Kong started the Artificial Reef Project in 1995 that includes the sinking of steel and wooden vessels to help encourage fish aggregations. These areas are marine park sites and no anchoring or fishing is allowed. Sites continue to be monitored and more are being planned.
Around Mirs Bay, East Ping Chau Island has several dive sites with lots of hard corals and some soft coral growth. Turtles frequent this area and there are many anemone fish. There is usually a current, so this is a great spot for drift dives. Also close to Mirs Bay is Port Island, which has a rocky bottom with patches of hard corals.
Breaker Reef, or Shek Ngau Chau, is in the middle of Mirs Bay and has some of the best coral cover in the area. Large fish and sometimes sharks are seen; however it’s a popular fishing area and lines and nets may be a hazard. Accessible by car, Hoi Ha Wan can be dived from shore and is a nice shallow reef area good for training dives. There is also a wreck in the area with lots of nudibranchs and anemones on the ship.
East of Clearwater Bay is Ninepins, one of the best sites in Hong Kong. This unique rock formation has marine life including seahorses, nudibranchs, frogfish, cuttlefish, and scorpionfish.
A two-hour boat ride from Hong Kong Island is Pedro Blanco, an exciting deep rock pinnacle covered with life and a good place to see pelagic like such as blue marlins, rays, and whale sharks (April-July). The pinnacle is often used for deep and technical dive training. This site is unfortunately threatened by dynamite fishing (illegally), and its isolated location makes it hard to monitor these activities.
To the southwest, Aberdeen is a nice dive-able area between Ap Lei Chau and Hong Kong Island. The site varies in depth from 8-18 meters and offers unique critters for those with a good eye. Crustaceans, nudibranchs, and other marco life can be found here. Keep in mind the western side of the strait is near a shipping lane.
The diving in Hong Kong is mostly shallow reef diving with some slow current drift dives. There are some recently artificially sunk wrecks that are starting to become covered with marine life. Visibility can vary, although 30m is considered a good day, and during windy weather the visibility is often less. Water temperatures in the winter can get as cold as 15C and a 5mm or semi-dry suit is recommended. In summer, temperatures can get up to 30C and a 3mm is plenty.
Hong Kong has many dive shops that offer dive training and diving around the waters of the island. One of the most popular shops is Mandarin Divers, which offers PADI diving training from Discover Scuba Diving to instructor certifications and PADI technical diving. They also teach IANTD open and closed circuit rebreathers. On most weekends and holidays, they organize diving excursions throughout Hong Kong (including night dives) and they arrange international dive trips. They have a wide selection of diving equipment and a full service department.
The United Kingdom’s role in Hong Kong’s history has left its mark with several BSAC clubs. Marine Divers is a BSAC club offering diving courses including technical courses. They have diving trips throughout Hong Kong and international trips where dive training is also available. Hong Kong Underwater Club and the South China Diving Club are also part of BSAC.
Other highly rated dive shops include Dive Express, which offers PADI courses, diving around Hong Kong and international trips, and a full gear shop. Splash Hong Kong also does PADI courses and has boat dives every weekend and some weekdays. They also have offer rental gear and international trips. Froggy Divers is another favorite, teaching PADI courses and offering a lot of international trips.
There are several ways to get to Hong Kong, the easiest to fly into Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). It is also possible to get to Hong Kong by flying into Shenzhen Airport (SZX), part of mainland China or Macau International Airport (MFM) and then using the mass transit systems to get into Hong Kong. Buses and ferries also bring people to Hong Kong. Once in Hong Kong, most of the island is accessible by the MRT (mass rapid transit) and buses, although there are limits on the amount of luggage on can bring. Taxis also access the whole island. Renting cars is uncommon due to heavy traffic and the complex road system. There is also very little parking which is expensive. If renting a vehicle, be sure to know traffic rules, as penalties can be expensive and severe.
It can be difficult getting around Hong Kong with dive gear due to restrictions on how much luggage can be brought on public transport systems and taxis, not allowing wet gear in vehicles. This can be best overcome by diving with a shop or dive club that arranges transportation.
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