Guess not many Singaporeans know that it is possible to view wild Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (or simply “pink dolphins”) in Hong Kong waters, & even if they do, most would just pay for a 25 min boat ride at Tai O, Lantau Island to see the beautiful dolphins. I also got to know of such ecological sightings in Hong Kong waters only because I saw the Tai O dolphin boat tour on a travel programme. As I wanted to explore a different side of Hong Kong for this trip, I googled for more information & found that about Hong Kong DolphinWatch Ltd.
This company was founded in 1995 with 3 goals in mind: to raise awareness of the pink dolphins’ plight, to give them an economic value by helping them contribute to the tourist economy, & to generate revenue for research and campaigns. It is also the only company that has been recognised by the Government and the Hong Kong Tourism Board as the real eco-tour operator. The eco-tours run every Wednesday, Friday & Sunday for about 3 hours on the water. Although much more expensive than those Tai O boat tour operators – HKD 380 vs HKD 20 per adult (about S$61.30 vs S$3.20), I still decided to try this out as I thought it should be a memorable experience taking a cruise out to view pink dolphins. 🙂
The pick-up point was at Kowloon Hotel (about 5 min walk from Tsim Sha Tsui Station exit E) at 8.50am. The turnout was quite big despite the heavy rain, with most of them Europeans and only a number of Asians. Upon confirming our attendance, we were told to board the coach to Tung Chung New Development Pier at Lantau Island, about 30 min ride away. So the adventure began!
Although it was a rainy & misty morning, our guide, a British national who has been living in Hong Kong for many years (the taller one in the top right photo above), assured us that we had a 97% chance of viewing the dolphins as “dolphins are water-proof & don’t care about the rain”. 😉 Our guide also explained to us that the dolphins are actually born grey/ white but somehow due to the unique conditions in Hong Kong waters, they turn pinkish, hence the term “pink dolphins”. This species of dolphin is resident species of Hong Kong & can be sighted all year round.
We sat in the cruise liner for about an hour or so the rain turned into a light drizzle. By then, we had ventured quite far off from Northern Lantau to the western part of Hong Kong & we followed the 2 guides out to the deck as we could be catching the pink dolphins with our naked eyes anytime from now! While waiting for the pink dolphins to pop out anytime, I chatted with the friendly local guide. She told me that those Tai O boat tours are quite disruptive to the eco-nature with their motor engines, & often scare & hurt the dolphins in the process. Furthermore, such tours only last around half an hour so the possibility of sighting the dolphins will not be high. I also learnt that most of the passengers on Hong Kong DolphinWatch cruises are Caucasians from Europe & Americas & occasionally there would be some Asians, such as from China, Japan and Hong Kong. Very few Singaporeans take this cruise, & I was also the only Singaporean that day too.
Initially, my camera was on “high alert”, trying very hard to capture any pink dolphins jumping out from the waters, be it as a picture or video. However after numerous failed attempts to take successful shots despite trying all camera modes e.g. continuous shot etc, I decided to just relax & use my eyes to “record” & enjoy those beautiful moments in my head hehe. It was also getting more difficult to control my camera due to strong winds & the rain got quite heavy again. Fortunately I brought my windbreaker along!
So I don’t have many photos to “show-off” here, but just 2 where I managed to capture the pink dolphins’…. tails… hehe better than nothing right?
I had a really lucky Japanese tour mate who managed to take a lovely shot of a pink dolphin doing a beautiful stunt, & I was thick skinned enough to ask her to share it with me. 🙂
As you can see above, the dolphin is actually grey in colour with just a tinge of pink near its tail. Actually we saw several dolphins doing such stunts as we ventured further (till we could see Shekou from afar), just that I couldn’t get a nice shot successfully. 😛 Each time we saw the lovely dolphins everyone got so excited, in fact there were shouts of excitement everytime we saw them doing the stunts hehe.
We returned to Tung Chung New Development Pier after about 3 hours & transferred to the coach to drop us off either at Tung Chung Station or Kowloon Hotel (the pick-up point in the morning). I really enjoyed this eco-tour, although it was quite tiring, as we were standing on the deck for most parts of the tour. Surprisingly the tiredness only came at night and not during the time we were standing on the deck waiting for the dolphins, I must have been too excited to have noticed my strained legs! 😛
Therefore I highly recommend you to sign up for this dolphin-watching eco-tour by Hong Kong DolphinWatch if you visit Hong Kong for a “wild” experience! But do remember to have your breakfast before boarding the cruise. If it’s too early for you to eat something before the cruise, then do bring some food along with you, because the light refreshments they provide on board are indeed light, only some Marks & Spencer biscuits, water, coffee & tea being served & you will only be able to reach Tung Chung Station or Kowloon Hotel after 1pm.