Big webs usually mean one thing: big spiders. And there are a lot lurking around on this hot and steamy July Saturday, the creatures patiently waiting for lunch in the centre of webs that stretch across our path.
“Duck your head – there’s a lot on this part of the path,” says Francis Haden, stopping to peer closely at a web. “They’re called Nephila pilipes [also known as the northern or giant golden orb weaver]. The females are the big black and yellow ones, the males small and brown. They’re not venomous to humans but the females have huge fangs – you’ll know it if you’ve been bitten.”
Haden knows a lot about nature – he used to be a reptile handler in Australia. But his number one passion is rock climbing and today we are on Tung Lung Chau, also known as Nam Tong, a relatively small island (2.42 square kilometres) off the tip of the Clear Water Bay Peninsula in the New Territories.
It is a popular spot for dogs to swim; on this day about 20 of them, mostly shibas, cool off on the main beach where the ferry docks. Camping and hiking are also popular, but mainly it is one of the best places in Hong Kong to rock-climb, with the pristine granite and volcanic cliffs ideal for both beginner and experienced climbers.
Rock climbing is growing in popularity in Hong Kong, Haden says, fed by an increase in peoples’ appetite for outdoor activities and an influx in the number of indoor climbing walls – the best way for beginners to train. He started rock climbing in Britain aged 12. Now 40, his passion has taken him all over the world. “I’ve climbed and developed new climbing areas all over Europe, North America, Asia and Australia,” he explains on the 45-minute ferry ride to the island from the Sai Wan Ho Typhoon Shelter.
“Hong Kong is a climbers’ paradise – it is so accessible and the added bonus is that it is a great way to explore. Over…