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Instagrammable

Lau Shui Heung and Hok Tau Reservoirs: woodland hike to breathtaking ‘mirror of the sky’ reservoir and nature reserve’s rare butterflies and dragonflies

  • About 7km

  • 3 hours

  • Moderate

Written by South China Morning Post (Morning Studio)

Much of Hong Kong’s outstanding natural beauty is hidden away, but you can easily discover it by venturing into forested valleys and climbing mountain paths — including those found in and around Pat Sin Leng Country Park, in the northeast New Territories. This photogenic hike starts at a wooded nature reserve dedicated to butterflies and then climbs to the upland plateau of Sha Lo Tung, which is inhabited by rare species of dragonflies and damselflies. Streams flow down into this secluded valley from mountains on all sides, once feeding the villagers’ rice paddy fields, but now creating a lush freshwater wetland which is home to many kinds of amphibians, fish and mammals. You’re surrounded by Instagrammable views of abundant nature. The trail carries on through the hills to finish at the jewel in the crown: Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, a breathtaking ‘mirror of the sky’ embedded in thick forest.

Refuel

At the lonely hamlet of Cheung Uk at Sha Lo Tung, ruins of traditional single-storey houses are covered in blankets of soft greenery. The last remaining inhabited house doubles up as a village shop, at least at weekends when hikers stop off for a bowl of silky dau fu fa (tofu dessert), or noodles with fried eggs. Try the honey tea made with fruit grown in the field next door.

  • Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve

    Stop first at the nature and culture education centre, located in a village house. This reserve is home to more than 200 butterfly species, including the large black and yellow Common Birdwing, with its distinctive black and yellow wings, and stubby-winged White Dragontail, with its forked hindwings. It occupies old farm paddy-field terraces planted with a variety of shrubs and fruit trees, each of which attract a different species of butterfly, and the air is full of these colourful creatures. This sheltered forest valley has such a specific microclimate that some migratory butterflies flutter here all the way from northern China each year just to lay their eggs. When this happens, serious lepidopterists with zoom camera lenses arrive to record the event.

    Get me there
  • Sha Lo Tung

    The trail leads uphill and out of the forest, giving you scenic views of Tolo Harbour, and then drops down into Sha Lo Tung’s concealed valley — home to some of the city's most extensive freshwater wetlands. Here you may spot many dragonflies and smaller damselflies, which thrive in this fertile environment. The area boasts a record 72 officially identified species of dragonfly, including the yellow-spotted Spangled Shadow-emerald (Macromidia ellenae), which is endemic to Hong Kong. If you’re lucky, you may also be able to catch sight of rare species of freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, butterflies and birds.

    Always follow the countryside code. Respect villagers and do not damage private property, crops or harm livestock. Take your litter with you and do not destroy vegetation, wildlife or their living environment. To learn more, visit the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department’s (AFCD) website.

    Get me there
  • Hok Tau Reservoir

    As you carry on north, between fields and irrigation channels which are being restored by Green Power, a local NGO, to keep the wetland balance of the former paddies, you may spot some of the dragonflies which thrive in this fertile environment. A weathered old milestone points your way to a boulder track through the forest, and soon you hear rushing water; unseen streams are heading in the same direction as you, down towards Hok Tau Reservoir. Turn right off the main trail, crossing fast-moving rocky streams with many tiny cascades, to make an anti-clockwise circuit of the reservoir and get closer to the water’s edge.

    Get me there
  • Lau Shui Heung Reservoir

    Follow the steps up from the far end of the Hok Tau dam, and the scenery changes again: now you’re climbing an earthen path up through tall forest. Gaps in the foliage allow you glimpses of the bulky mountain ridgelines that dominate this rugged yet luxuriantly green part of Hong Kong. Lau Shui Heung Reservoir is a place where joggers and families and Instagram enthusiasts go to enjoy open space and fresh air, and to appreciate the calming view: the reservoir is colloquially called ‘mirror of the sky’ for its deep, reflective waters. At different times of year, the changing leaves and blossoms of the forest create an ever-evolving diorama of water, nature and sky. It’s an idyllic setting where you have another chance to admire Hong Kong’s captivating diversity of dragonflies and damselflies, including the bright red-bodied Crimson Marsh Glider dragonfly and orange- or yellow-legged Yellow Featherlegs damselfly.

    Get me there
  • Dining Option
    Luen Wo Hui, Fanling

    Minibus 52B will take you back to MTR Fanling Station, but if you alight a couple of stops earlier, at Luen Wo Hui, you’ll find a busy neighbourhood with dozens of restaurants at street level. These range from all types of Chinese cuisine — including beef balls, pork knuckles, chicken leg buns and steamed vermicelli rolls — to Western, Thai and Japanese favourites.

    Get me there

Transport

Getting to Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve:

Take the underpass opposite Exit A at MTR Tai Po Market Station and find minibus 20P, which departs every 6–15 minutes. Stay on board until the last stop at Fung Yuen Tsuen. Walk straight ahead for 10 minutes to reach the Butterfly Reserve, which is on the other side of a colourfully painted bridge crossing a stream.

Leaving from Lau Shui Heung Reservoir:

Down the hill from Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, there’s a junction marked by a Pat Sin Leng Country Park sign where people wait for minibus 52B. But if you want to be sure of a seat on it, you should walk ahead for 15 minutes to its terminus on Hok Tau Road.

You can also walk along Hok Tau Road to Lau Shui Heung Road then Po Kak Tsai Road towards Lung Ma Road to take bus 78A from Shan Lai Court Bus Stop or Queen’s Hill Bus Terminal to Fanling.​

More Routes

Instagrammable

Lau Shui Heung and Hok Tau Reservoirs: woodland hike to breathtaking ‘mirror of the sky’ reservoir and nature reserve’s rare butterflies and dragonflies

  • About 7km

  • 3 hours

  • Moderate

Written by South China Morning Post (Morning Studio)

Much of Hong Kong’s outstanding natural beauty is hidden away, but you can easily discover it by venturing into forested valleys and climbing mountain paths — including those found in and around Pat Sin Leng Country Park, in the northeast New Territories. This photogenic hike starts at a wooded nature reserve dedicated to butterflies and then climbs to the upland plateau of Sha Lo Tung, which is inhabited by rare species of dragonflies and damselflies. Streams flow down into this secluded valley from mountains on all sides, once feeding the villagers’ rice paddy fields, but now creating a lush freshwater wetland which is home to many kinds of amphibians, fish and mammals. You’re surrounded by Instagrammable views of abundant nature. The trail carries on through the hills to finish at the jewel in the crown: Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, a breathtaking ‘mirror of the sky’ embedded in thick forest.

Refuel

At the lonely hamlet of Cheung Uk at Sha Lo Tung, ruins of traditional single-storey houses are covered in blankets of soft greenery. The last remaining inhabited house doubles up as a village shop, at least at weekends when hikers stop off for a bowl of silky dau fu fa (tofu dessert), or noodles with fried eggs. Try the honey tea made with fruit grown in the field next door.

Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve

Stop first at the nature and culture education centre, located in a village house. This reserve is home to more than 200 butterfly species, including the large black and yellow Common Birdwing, with its distinctive black and yellow wings, and stubby-winged White Dragontail, with its forked hindwings. It occupies old farm paddy-field terraces planted with a variety of shrubs and fruit trees, each of which attract a different species of butterfly, and the air is full of these colourful creatures. This sheltered forest valley has such a specific microclimate that some migratory butterflies flutter here all the way from northern China each year just to lay their eggs. When this happens, serious lepidopterists with zoom camera lenses arrive to record the event.

See more...
Get me there
Sha Lo Tung

The trail leads uphill and out of the forest, giving you scenic views of Tolo Harbour, and then drops down into Sha Lo Tung’s concealed valley — home to some of the city's most extensive freshwater wetlands. Here you may spot many dragonflies and smaller damselflies, which thrive in this fertile environment. The area boasts a record 72 officially identified species of dragonfly, including the yellow-spotted Spangled Shadow-emerald (Macromidia ellenae), which is endemic to Hong Kong. If you’re lucky, you may also be able to catch sight of rare species of freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, butterflies and birds.

See more...

Always follow the countryside code. Respect villagers and do not damage private property, crops or harm livestock. Take your litter with you and do not destroy vegetation, wildlife or their living environment. To learn more, visit the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department’s (AFCD) website.

Get me there
Hok Tau Reservoir

As you carry on north, between fields and irrigation channels which are being restored by Green Power, a local NGO, to keep the wetland balance of the former paddies, you may spot some of the dragonflies which thrive in this fertile environment. A weathered old milestone points your way to a boulder track through the forest, and soon you hear rushing water; unseen streams are heading in the same direction as you, down towards Hok Tau Reservoir. Turn right off the main trail, crossing fast-moving rocky streams with many tiny cascades, to make an anti-clockwise circuit of the reservoir and get closer to the water’s edge.

See more...
Get me there
Lau Shui Heung Reservoir

Follow the steps up from the far end of the Hok Tau dam, and the scenery changes again: now you’re climbing an earthen path up through tall forest. Gaps in the foliage allow you glimpses of the bulky mountain ridgelines that dominate this rugged yet luxuriantly green part of Hong Kong. Lau Shui Heung Reservoir is a place where joggers and families and Instagram enthusiasts go to enjoy open space and fresh air, and to appreciate the calming view: the reservoir is colloquially called ‘mirror of the sky’ for its deep, reflective waters. At different times of year, the changing leaves and blossoms of the forest create an ever-evolving diorama of water, nature and sky. It’s an idyllic setting where you have another chance to admire Hong Kong’s captivating diversity of dragonflies and damselflies, including the bright red-bodied Crimson Marsh Glider dragonfly and orange- or yellow-legged Yellow Featherlegs damselfly.

See more...
Get me there
Dining Option
Luen Wo Hui, Fanling

Minibus 52B will take you back to MTR Fanling Station, but if you alight a couple of stops earlier, at Luen Wo Hui, you’ll find a busy neighbourhood with dozens of restaurants at street level. These range from all types of Chinese cuisine — including beef balls, pork knuckles, chicken leg buns and steamed vermicelli rolls — to Western, Thai and Japanese favourites.

See more...
Get me there

Transport

Getting to Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve:

Take the underpass opposite Exit A at MTR Tai Po Market Station and find minibus 20P, which departs every 6–15 minutes. Stay on board until the last stop at Fung Yuen Tsuen. Walk straight ahead for 10 minutes to reach the Butterfly Reserve, which is on the other side of a colourfully painted bridge crossing a stream.

Leaving from Lau Shui Heung Reservoir:

Down the hill from Lau Shui Heung Reservoir, there’s a junction marked by a Pat Sin Leng Country Park sign where people wait for minibus 52B. But if you want to be sure of a seat on it, you should walk ahead for 15 minutes to its terminus on Hok Tau Road.

You can also walk along Hok Tau Road to Lau Shui Heung Road then Po Kak Tsai Road towards Lung Ma Road to take bus 78A from Shan Lai Court Bus Stop or Queen’s Hill Bus Terminal to Fanling.​

More Routes

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