January 7, 2006
The Hong Kong Dolphinwatch tour offers a unique opportunity to see some of the dwindling population of pink dolphins (or Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins). This organization has been conducting noninvasive tours since 1995 to promote awareness of their conservation.
The 4-hour eco-tour is offered three or four times a week with extra runs during peak times. Try to reserve ahead of time, since these tours are relatively small in order to disturb the dolphins as little as possible. There are two meeting points, one in Central (Mandarin Oriental Hotel) and one in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon Hotel). Our tour guide gathered the first group at the Mandarin Oriental at 8:30am. Oddly, we had to walk about 3 blocks to meet the tour bus. After going through the tunnel linking Central with Kowloon, our bus reached the Kowloon Hotel about 9am. The second group was all Japanese tourists, so the second guide joining us spoke both English and Japanese. Currently the Mandarin Oriental is under rehab, so the Central meeting point is at the main entrance of City Hall facing Queen’s Pier.
We traveled over the Tsing Ma Bridge connecting Kowloon to Lantau Island, passing the site of the new Disney theme park. Our two guides passed out free postcards and a fact sheet. Their narration summarizes the plight of the pink dolphins, which find their natural habitat shrinking due to pollution, overfishing, increasing boat traffic, and continued land reclamation projects in the region. The airport at Chek Lap Kok is just south of their waters, so one can only imagine the impact on the dolphins. The guides effectively blended in offbeat anecdotes about dolphin survivors like Ringo, and the possibility of flotsam making this a “Refrigerator-Watch tour.”
Along the north shore of Lantau we boarded the boat. The cookies and beverages are complementary, and so were the occasionally rough seas on this hazy but sunny Friday morning (a bit windier than average I was told). The decks are slippery with saltwater, so hang on tight. We sailed past the airport and saw the New Territories in the background. The passengers gathered on deck with great anticipation when we heard “nine o’clock,” so we staked out our positions on the port side. The company offers a free “go again” guarantee tour if no dolphins are sighted (only 3% of their tours have been dolphin-free), but we were all happy to see pink dolphins (including a baby dolphin) appearing in the waters during the next 30 minutes. There is no swimming with or feeding of the dolphins, but you are allowed to take photos.
Souvenirs are sold on board while the boat sails back to Lantau to conclude the 90 minutes on the water. From the dock the bus takes us a short distance to Tung Chung, which is an alternate drop-off for those who want to see more of Lantau. Otherwise, the bus will roll you back to either Kowloon or Central.
From journal Bill in China - HONG KONG