Breaker Reef 打浪排 — a glimpse in the gloom

Out in the middle of Mirs Bay, half way between Sai Kung and the Dapeng Peninsula (China) lies a submerged rock known as Breaker Reef (打浪排). At low tide, waves break on top of the rock, giving this site its name.

On the satellite map below, Breaker Reef is the little white dot southwest of the larger rocky island of Shek Ngau Chau (石牛洲).

Breaker Reef is somewhat of a legendary dive site in Hong Kong. Perhaps because it’s remote. Perhaps because sharks have been allegedly sighted there. Most likely because everybody has heard of it but nobody has had a chance to dive there (unless you are a spear-fisher with a bunch of mates and a speedboat).

Very calm conditions are required for a boat to reach this site. It is rare for any of the typically risk-averse Hong Kong dive operators to go this far out as there is no shelter; the site really is out in the open sea. (Not to mention the fuel costs, I expect). In my three years of regular diving in Hong Kong, only last week did I get my first opportunity to go to this mysterious place, aboard Mandarin Divers‘ boat.

After spending the morning conducting the reef check at Port Island, the sea was still spectacularly calm so we decided to head out and give Breaker Reef a try. After a good 45 minutes’ sailing we reached the rocky island of Shek Ngau Chau and anchored there.

20150712_132555 (1000x750)

Approching Shek Ngau Chau, home of a thousand seagulls.

Wing, the captain, then drove us over to the reef a couple of minutes away in the speedboat. Even though the sea was calm, the waves were still churning around the reeftop. In even the slightest wind this place must get pretty rough. My buddies and I dropped in from the speedboat and down to some sloping rock. There was a kind of gully between two larger rocks and the swell ‘wooshed’ us through it. Sadly, as we descended, so did the visibility, and it remained a pretty poor 2-3 metres or so across most of the site for the duration of the dive.

Bathed in a greenish gloom, we rounded the contour of the outcrop at a depth of about 15 metres. Below 10 metres, little orange, white and pink soft corals grew up out of the sand — little gorgonians and sea whips — and their density increased with the depth. We attempted to go down to 20 metres but the visibility turned to pea soup and we were forced to turn back to a shallower area where at least we wouldn’t lose each other in an instant.

Above 10 metres, in the shallower area on top of the rocks there was a very healthy coverage of sea anemones with their resident anemonefish, and a lot of small fish were schooling around the outcrop. Although this site has a reputation for big fish, we didn’t see anything large, sharky or otherwise (the visibility really hampered things). The other group of divers were much luckier than us and spotted two sizeable stingrays. Keith Kei who managed to get a shot of the stingray has kindly shared his photo for this post. Thanks also to Eian Kee for his image of the crinoid in soft coral.

Breaker reef photo gallery: click on photos to view

We could only make one dive at Breaker Reef before we had to head back to the pier. Given the opportunity, I would certainly come back and give it and the elusive sharks another chance, and I’d love to dive around neighbouring Shek Ngau Chau too. From this first glimpse, I would say that Breaker Reef is a similar site to Sung Kong in that it is a deeper rocky reef with an abundance of soft coral and I suspect with better vis it would make an excellent dive. I promise more photos if I get to return in better conditions!

Dive: max depth 18.5m for 57 minutes

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Categories: HK divesTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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