Confessions of a Hong Kong Naturalist is a natural history memoir, tracing the journey from novice to expert of aspiring naturalist Graham Reels as he follows a trail of discovery into the miraculously fascinating and diverse world of Hong Kong’s wildlife.

Read this excerpt from his book. It is taken from Chapter 9, Far-flung Shores.

Graham says: “The background is that it is March 1996. My colleague Michael Lau and I have recently started working on a territory-wide biodiversity survey for Hong Kong University. This involves making inventories of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects at scattered locations and is taking us to some very remote places, including the abandoned village of Pak Lap in Sai Kung peninsula.”


At Sha Kiu we walked up a trail to the ridge, going through shrubland in which I set a malaise tent and Michael his Sherman traps. Following the trail eastward over the headland, we descended to the abandoned village of Pak Lap. There was a nice beach there which reputedly was a favoured landfall site for illegal immigrants from China (still a big problem in the Hong Kong of 1996). We set more traps in marshy grassland at Pak Lap, hiked back over the ridge to Sha Kiu, and boarded our sampan again to travel the two miles to Bluff Island. The water was calm enough in the sheltered cove to get quite close in to the shore, before we jumped out and hauled our remaining equipment (light trap, fuel, tent, camping gear, malaise tents etc.) up the beach. The boatman waved goodbye in the growing gloom of the afternoon and we turned our eyes landwards.

[Two days later]

Michael and I met up again at Sai Kung and disembarked from the sampan at Sha Kiu in weather which continued to be drizzly and a little blowy. We walked up and over the ridge to Pak Lap, inspecting the two malais