Take your stinking paws off my picnic …
Related Post: See my post An afternoon of idiocy at Hong Kong’s Monkey Mountain for photos of the feeding frenzy that is Monkey Mountain at the weekend.
Monkey Mountain, also known as Monkey Hill, or more formally as Kam Shan (金山), is located in Kam Shan Country Park in the northern reaches of Hong Kong‘s Kowloon District. It is known as Monkey Mountain because as soon as you step off the bus upon arrival, you will most likely be surrounded, confronted and/or in some way interfered with by the roaming brigands of Rhesus Macaques that live there.
It is said that 70% of Hong Kong monkeys live in the area around Kam Shan Country Park, almost all of which are thought to be descended from a few released pets from the 1920s. After the indigenous Hong Kong macaque species all but died out due to loss of habitat and hunting, the Rhesus and Long-tailed varieties that appeared in its place have evidently fared a good deal better.
Indeed, in the last twenty years or so, the number of monkeys in Hong Kong has grown from around 600 to over 2000 in the territory as a whole, with the annual growth rate currently reaching around 7% a year. Given that Hong Kong’s actual birth rate of just 0.9 is now one of the lowest in the world, is it really such an imaginative leap to envisage helper monkeys on the MTR, or monkey waiters in Tsui Wah, in the not too distant future?
Well, probably yes, but take a trip to Monkey Mountain almost any weekend and you won’t struggle to understand why the population of Hong Kong monkeys has grown so rapidly, as you watch members of our own allegedly more intelligent species throwing peanuts from car windows, distributing biscuits and generally giving little cause to doubt any one of the 93.5 per cent of DNA we share with our fellow residents.
More than just monkeys
Kam Shan Country Park has more than just monkeys of course. The park covers an area of 3.37 km² and takes its name from the 369m peak that marks the highest point of the area. Kowloon’s four main reservoirs occupy much of the park’s territory. There are also jogging trails, barbecue and picnic areas, and innumerable hiking opportunities, all of which are easily accessible from Tai Po Road next to Kowloon Reservoir.
From the summit of Kam Shan there are good views back towards Hong Kong Island, as well as Tai Mo Shan to the north, Sha Tin and Lion Rock to the east, and Tsing Yi and Tsuen Wan in the west. There are also remnants from Hong Kong’s wartime defences, with many bunkers still visible along Smugglers’ Ridge and the abandoned, underground complex that made up Shing Mun Redoubt definitely worth exploring.
The park also sees stage 6 of both the Maclehose Trail and the Wilson Trail passing through, each of which cross the hills towards Shing Mun Reservoir and give excellent views of the surrounding areas before continuing their way into the New Territories. Added to this there is the shorter Kam Shan Family Walk and the Kam Shan Tree Walk, as well as numerous other short walking routes to enjoy.
But it’s the Kam Shan monkeys most people come to see. Hong Kong’s wild monkeys have long since lost their fear of humans and have no qualms about gang-pilfering anything you are foolish enough to come swinging around in a plastic bag. But if you are sensible, keep your distance, and watch your back, they will likely take little interest in you or your belongings. The monkeys are fast, often rather intimidatingly large, and at times they can seem like they are everywhere, particularly around the main road. If they see something on you and decide to go for it, don’t say you haven’t been warned.
The sheer numbers of monkeys at Monkey Mountain was particularly evident as the sun started to go down. As we made our way to catch the bus back towards Kowloon, there were dozens of them walking in troops along the slopes on the other side of the road and others crossing the bridge to reach them. They were sitting on railings, swinging from lamp posts and had essentially ‘taken’ and were occupying the walkway. Yet still people dared to run the monkey gauntlet. Check out the video below and see for yourself.
How to get to Monkey Mountain
Kam Shan Country Park is the closest of Hong Kong’s parks to the Kowloon urban area. A short bus ride along Nathan Road then up the hill along Tai Po Road will have you there in around 15 minutes.
From Kowloon, take bus 81 anywhere along Nathan Road from Jordan Road onwards. Get off at the Shek Lei Pui Reservoir stop just before the bridge.
To reach the park from the road, follow the access road next to the toilet block. It will take you down to the southern end of Kowloon Reservoir from where you can join one of the various smaller walks.
You can also join the Maclehose Trail by continuing some 100m or so along Tai Po Road after you get off the bus until you reach Golden Hill Road and the large wooden sign for Kam Shan Country Park.
Get Involved: If you’ve been to Monkey Mountain recently, feel free to share your experience in the comments below.