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The Ma Shi Chau peninsula, situated in Tolo Harbour, is one of Hong Kong's special geological sites. This area is sometimes dubbed an outdoor geological classroom, for the many different geological features that are on display here. The area is made up of sedimentary rocks formed in the Permian, some 280 million years ago, and belong to the Tolo Harbour Formation.
This tour involves less than 1 km walk within the village, and about 2 km walk on Ma Shi Chau. The trail here is partly dirt trail, but we'll also be walking on the barren rocks. Proper walking shoes are recommended: no heels or open toes. The trail is following the shoreline so almost no height differences.
Besides being educational, the area also has outstanding natural beauty. The rocks themselves have colours that range from pale grey to yellow, red and black, and all is set against the wonderful backdrop of Tolo Harbour.
The tour starts at Sam Mun Tsai fisherman's village (the green map marker). We'll take a walk through the village, to catch a glimpse of life of the fishermen, and to check out the local heritage exhibition and the geoheritage centre of the village (near map marker 1).
After that we board a speed boat to take us to Ma Shi Chau to start our walk. We're dropped off at the tombolo (map marker 2) - a natural land bridge connecting Ma Shi Chau to Yim Tin Tsai, which has grown so large that it only floods when the tide gets really high. Here is where we start following the nature trail to the other end of Ma Shi Chau to have a look at the rocks here. The most interesting features of these rocks include layers and folds, faults, beads-on-a-string, wave-cut platforms, wuartz veins (looking like molten cheese) and Lung Lok Shui - meaning "dragon entering the sea" - a local name for a feature where a ridge enters the sea, which looks a bit like the backbone of a dragon sticking out from the ground.
The first major feature we see is the Cheese Rock. This a rock which is filled with thin layers of quartz. The quartz is harder than the surrounding sandstones, so when the rock weathers, the quartz will stick out a bit as it weathers slower. This makes the rock look like it has some molten cheese poured over it.
A bit further along the trail is Lung Lok Shui, a dragon entering the water. This feature forms where there is a particularly hard layer of rock in between the other layers, so when the other layers weather away this layer will remain and stick out. This is a fairly common feature in sedimentary rocks, where layers have different composition and different hardness, and there are several such "dragons" in Hong Kong.
Many of the rocks are folded, some are faulted (displaced), forming these interesting shapes.
Other odd formations are these "beads on a string". These forms when the layers are still soft, and when one particularly soft layer is squashed by subsequent layers of sediment. After the rock has solidified the remains of this squeezed out layer becomes visible as if there are beads on a string.
The tour finishes at the end of the nature trail, which is also the far tip of Ma Shi Chau peninsula (map marker 3). Here we will again catch a speed boat to take us back to Sam Mun Tsai, where we can take a bus or minibus back to Tai Po Market.