Pui O, Lantau Island

Seen from the main road along southern Lantau Island, Pui O (貝澳) appears a scruffy place, a higgledy-piggledy mix of houses, restaurants and shops, with glimpses of fields, and the hills of Lantau's interior looming above. No signs indicate that it's worth alighting from a bus bound to or from Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha; yet it's well worth stopping off here during a visit to Lantau, to stroll through fields, see the feral buffalo, and head onto the beach to enjoy magnificent views.

From the main road, you can look for one of the narrow, concrete footpaths that lead through the damp fields - or, more simply, walk along the road to the beach (should be only little traffic).

The old paddyfields here seem long abandoned by farmers; nowadays, they are grazing pastures for a few dozen water buffalo. Though the adult buffalo are huge, with massive horns, it seems they are benign, placid beasts, well used to having people walk and cycle right past them.

Yet some local people evidently object to the buffalo living here, saying they sometimes get into small gardens and munch on vegetables grown there.

Who knows if these complaints are real, or are driven partly by notions that if the buffalo are removed, would-be developers will find it easier to get permission to cover the fields in buildings; but the buffalo have become something of a cause celebre, with some animals taken away by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, while buffalo fans (some of whom also live in the area) formed the Lantau Buffalo Association. (The association may be defunct, but some people still aim to maintain the presence of feral buffalo in the area.)

Pui O - a place for water buffalo, and Hong Kong style ecotourism

Yet some local people evidently object to the buffalo living here, saying they sometimes get into small gardens and munch on vegetables grown there. Who knows if these complaints are real, or are driven partly by notions that if the buffalo are removed, would-be developers will find it easier to get permission to cover the fields in buildings; but the buffalo have become something of a cause celebre, with some animals taken away by Hong Kong's Agriculture and Fisheries Department, while buffalo fans (some of whom also live in the area) have formed the Lantau Buffalo and Cattle Association.

For myself, I reckon the buffalo could become something of a tourist attraction - a key reason for people to visit Pui O, and then benefit locals by spending money in shops and restaurants. The buffalo help keep the fields marshy, with flowers, and water birds such as egrets - including Cattle Egrets, which keep close company with the buffalo, snatching insects they disturb.

Follow the road to the beach, and you'll arrive at Treasure Island, which bills itself as an "eco-Adventure Centre". When I just visited, it didn't seem there was much stress on ecology or adventures, but there was a pleasant, beachside restaurant, with a menu focused on Mediterranean food (rather pricey compared to many of HK's rural restaurants; mainly aimed at westerners?).

There's a campsite just beside Treasure Island; also a nearby stall selling beach balls and so on, and with cycles for rent (yet not claiming to be an "eco" centre).

Though dark sand mingles with pale, so Pui O can't boast picture postcard white sands, the beach is a tremendous place for admiring the scenery of Lantau's southern coast - with hills and headlands dominating the view.

You might walk a circuit at Pui O, from the road, through fields to the beach, then back to the road, and perhaps clambering onto a bus to another Lantau destination, such as Ngong Ping, or Cheung Sha. Or, there's a pleasant walk to the east, to Chi Ma Wan.

Pui O in Explore Wild Hong Kong!:

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