It is the third largest island of Hong Kong, with an area of 13.55 km2(5.23 sq mi) and a length of 7 kilometres (4.3 mi). The northern village is called Yung Shue Wan (Banyan Tree Bay) and the eastern village is called Sok Kwu Wan (Picnic Bay).
Few people live on the southern part of Lamma. Access for much of this part is by hiking or private boat. Sham Wan, an important breeding site for sea turtles, is located there.
Mount Stenhouse (山地塘, Shan Tei Tong) is the tallest mountain in Lamma 353 metres (1,158 feet) above sea level, situated between Sok Kwu Wan and Sham Wan. Unusually shaped rocks can be found all over this mountain, but a gruelling hike is necessary to access these.
The British name: – Lamma Island
Lamma Island got named Lamma only because of a chart reading error by Alexander Dalrymple in the 1760s. He had acquired a Portuguese chart to the entrances to the Pearl River and, close to the west of the island, the Portuguese owner had written “Lama”. Dalrymple misinterpreted that as the name of the island. However, it was a Portuguese notation as to the holding (consistency of the seabed from the point of view of anchoring there), which was (and is) mud – in Portuguese “lama”.
In all the early charts the name was spelled with only one “m”. So the island acquired a British name by error and one that subsequently was Sinicized by its name being rendered phonetically in characters (“Lam a” can mean “south fork” in Cantonese), and everyone forgetting about the original muddle.
At some point in time, things became even more obscured by the addition of the second “m” in the English spelling.
Ancient History of Lamma Island: Sham Wan & the endangered Green Sea Turtle
Sham Wan is one of the five most important archaeological sites in Hong Kong. The bay is the site of an important Bronze Age settlement which was unearthed by archaeologists in the 1970s. It yielded evidence of people living on Lamma during the “Middle Neolithic” phase (approximately 3800-3000 BC).
It is also a place for green sea turtles to lay eggs. The endangered green turtles are a special group of marine organisms with distinctive navigation behaviour between their nesting, breeding, development and reproduction sites. As Sham Wan is the only existing nesting site for them in Hong Kong, every year there is a period of restricted access to it from June 1 to October 31 to allow the turtles to breed. The breeding site is about 5,100 m2 (54,896 sq ft).
The main (biggest) village on Lamma Island: Yung Shue Wan (northern ferry terminal)
Yung Shue Wan (Banyan Bay) is the most populated area on Lamma Island. Several decades ago, it was the centre of the plastics industry. The factories have now been replaced by seafood restaurants, pubs, grocery stores and shops which sell oriental and Indian-style handicraft. Hung Shing Yeh Beach, Lamma Power Station and Lamma Winds are also main features of the island and are located in the northern part between the two ferry terminals.
Sok Kwu Wan (southern ferry terminal) and home base of Sea Kayak Hong Kong
The big street of Sok Kwu Wan consists mainly of seafood restaurants. The most famous of these is called The Rainbow Restaurant which provides their own ferry service between Hong Kong Island and their restaurant.
By far the most comfortable for the westerner is the Lo So cafe, owned and operated by Julie, a native of Lo So Shing Village who speaks fluent English and provides a fusion of western and eastern style foods. She also has a very large selection of English beers and ciders.
Sok Kwu Wan is the largest fish farming site in Hong Kong.
Visitors can also barbecue and fish at Lo Shing Beach which is a ten-minute walk from the village.
The trail between Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan is surrounded by grassland and offers a picturesque walk. From there one can see a nice portion of the coastline of the island. It takes roughly an hour to walk the trail.
Hikers will notice a ‘cave’ on the trail near Sok Kwu Wan, labelled on tourist signs as ‘kamikaze grotto’. This cave is one of five that were dug out by the Japanese during the war, to store munitions alongside the suicide boats. When the British Navy reclaimed Hong Kong, they discovered rows of speedboats with explosive rigged to the bow in Sok Kwu Wan.
In addition to the caves, the Japanese also dug tunnels into the island’s peaks, including two known tunnels on Ling Kok Shan and one on Mt. Stenhouse.
Tin Hau Temple.
Tin Hau temples are typical places of worship in Hong Kong’s coastal communities because Tin Hau is believed to be the goddess of the sea and of fishermen, protecting them and ensuring full nets. There are three Tin Hau temples on Lamma, located in Yung Shue Wan, Sok Kwu Wan, and Luk Chau Village.
The Tin Hau Festival
(twenty-third of the third month of the Lunar Calendar) is widely celebrated by the fishermen’s communities in Lamma. Cantonese opera and floral paper offerings known as Fa Pau at both Sok Kwu Wan and Yung Shue Wan are the highlights of the celebration.
Lamma Island is also one of the few remaining places in Hong Kong where traditional Chinese New Year celebrations still take place: at the stroke of midnight, fireworks will be set off by the main families of the villages to frighten away the evil spirits, sending off a deafening thunder that can last up to 30 minutes.
There are regular ferry services to Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan from Central on Hong Kong Island, as well as to Yung Shue Wan via Pak Kok, and to Sok Kwu Wan via Mo Tat Wan, from Aberdeen.
It takes about 25 minutes by ferry between Yung Shue Wan and Central. There are no cars on Lamma Island.