Lonely Planet Writer

Hong Kong island becomes ecotourism paradise

Yim Tin Tsai is the tiny island off of Hong Kong that is fast becoming a model for ecotourism, from having been an abandoned island.

Yim Tin Tsai
Yim Tin Tsai Image by John Jonas Liu/Twitter

The island has an interesting and varied history. It’s name – Yim Tin Tsai – means Little Salt Pan in Cantonese, reflecting the islands historic source of income, salt pans.

But the island was originally sparsely populated by the Hakka clan in the 20th century. In 1864 the population was baptised by Catholic priests and became an odd little bastion of Christianity.

The Hakkas eventually struggled to keep the salt pans going, and slowly the island began to depopulate until it was left uninhabited until six years ago.

Since then the Romanesque church, St Joseph’s Chapel, and the salt pans on the island have all been given awards by the Unesco, and efforts have been put underway to turn the island’s unspoilt surroundings and salt pans into an ecotourism destination. Salt pans are used to dry out salt water in pools in order to retrieve salt.

Yim Tin Tsai has gone from abandoned island to ecotourist paradise
Yim Tin Tsai has gone from abandoned island to ecotourist paradise Image by anpanyik/Instagram

In recent years the descendants of the Hakka tribe have also returned in order to act as guides on the island, and the salt pans have been started up again after many years of lying dormant. The new life in such an unspoilt surrounding, with a strange little ferry bringing visitors back and forth, means that the island has become one of China’s main ecotourist destinations situated close to Hong Kong.

Yim Tin Tsai has gone from abandoned island to an ecotourism paradise.