Taiwan is full of turtles – it has a Turtle Island and go to many of the island’s temples and you’ll find them. Or the city’s parks. But the real treat is finding the vast numbers of turtles not in small ponds, but in the sea all around the coast of Little Liuchiu Island to the south-west of Kaohsiung.
We visited in January 2017, so our experience may not reflect the experience of others visiting at other times of the year. One of the great things about Liuchiu Island is its relative accessibility. There’s a healthy population on the island, which is just about 30 minutes boat journey from the city of Donggang (an industrial fishing port), ensuring a fast and frequent ferry service.
Liuchiu is small – you can easily scoot around the island and a car would seem superfluous – indeed, given the thousands of mopeds on offer for hire at the harbour, it would seem hardly anyone ever hires a car here. We stayed in one of the numerous homestays on the island, full of quirky wall paintings.
Our first impressions of Little Liuchiu were not great. The island’s main town has a busy fishing harbour, but, as with many towns in Taiwan, it’s far from quaint. Our early attempts to find a good beach nearby also didn’t result in success – though the shells and nearby Lobster cave are interesting. The real treat though was to come the next day when we had the chance to properly explore the island and its shoreline.
After quickly getting kitted out in wet suits we were amusingly driven down to the Jade Rock near the town’s harbour on mopeds and on our electric bikes (inexpensively hired for the day). Our initial disappointment at being taken to such a busy spot though was soon transformed once we started snorkelling – turtles! And not just one or two, but seven in total in just one hour. The turtles spawn on the island in the summer and there is an estimated 200 green sea turtles living off the shores. These are fabulous, majestic creatures flying through the sea.
How could the day get any better? Well, we spent the rest of the day touring the island, including visiting the fascinating coral coves and caves dotted along the shoreline. These included the Black Dwarf cave, with waves pounding all around it and the weird and wonderful narrow canyons of the Shanzhu Ditch. But the real, unexpected treat was to be found in the bay by the Ditch – looking like large circular stones just beneath the waves we could see tens of turtles. These fabulous creatures were literally just feet from the shoreline and we would see them coming up for air from time to time.
We’ll never forget Little Liuchiu.