Diving in Hong Kong: Something Fishy
Most people presume that the best place to see fish life in the New Territories is by the restaurants on Sai Kung sea front. Whilst this may be true it can still be a rewarding experience getting wet strapping on your fins and mask and seeing what's in and around Sai Kung waters.
Obviously pollution, over fishing, land fills and downright indifference (out of sight out of mind!) on the part of the Government and general population have all played their part in devastating underwater marine life over the years. Encouraging projects like the artificial reef project at Hoi Ha Wan and specific fishing bans in certain areas first implemented a few years previous are now beginning to show promising signs of life. Coral is growing once more and fish life whilst not exactly flourishing is returning to certain areas. Beach clean ups by local schools and dive clubs are also playing a small part.
It's worth bearing in mind that diving in Hong Kong is a slightly different experience than the Philippines or Thailand. Firstly, fish spotting can be quite difficult as a lot of fishes are not allowed to reach full maturity due to over fishing therefore, for example, a juvenile parrot fish can have totally different colouring to the mature fish. If in doubt the Hong Kong Marine Database www.hk-fish.net is a useful website to visit. Also visibility on a good day will probably never exceed 10 metres in Hong Kong as against say 20 metres plus in somewhere like Phuket, so scuba diving can be a case of looking in every nook and cranny. Sea horses, shrimps, clown fish, groupers, goat fish, crabs and many more are all around these waters so it's down to a case of persistence, an eagle eye and a bit of luck for budding underwater naturalists.
The clownfish (right) is one of the most common fish that a Scuba diver or a snorkeler will encounter when splashing around Sai Kung waters. The first impression that this lively little fellow gives is that it is playing with you. In fact they are protective of their home, the anemone and their young ones or eggs.
Shrimps are another peculiar inhabitant of places like Clearwater Bay and Sharp Island. Nearly always accompanied by a resident goby fish sticking its head out of their hole abode. This happy couple always give the impression of the housewife shrimp always cleaning and the useless guard dog/fish who whenever threatened darts straight into the hole!
The parrotfish is an interesting creature, with its bird like beak they break away either coral or chunks of sand finding food. Some species are characterized by their ability to cover themselves with a type of slimy covering forming a kind of cocoon overnight which is an amazing thing to see on a night dive. The cocoon protects them from nocturnal predators like the moray eel. When morning arrives the fish discards the cocoon and goes about its business.
Just as a footnote. Whenever you're down at the beach or on a junk trip please take home your rubbish and don't stand by and let other people litter either. There's a lot of stuff underwater still worth preserving.
THIS IS AN ARTICLE WE WROTE FOR DISTRICT LINK MAGAZINE IN JULY 2002. IT MAY GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND DIVING IN HONG KONG