Of the Island’s 10 Most Popular Touristic Activities, Whale Watching Ranks First
TAIWAN / ACCESSWIRE / August 3, 2020 / Turtle Island is a turtle-shaped island off the coast of Yilan County’s Toucheng Township. In view of its abundant natural attractions, on August 1, 2000 the government ended military control and opened the island for tourism. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the opening of Turtle Island to tourism, the Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area Administration (hereinafter referred to as the “Administration Office”) of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau arranged a very special event that included historic photos and many special invitees. The invitation list included well-known entertainer Ms. Tsai Gui. In Chinese, “gui” means “turtle.” Others who share this word were also in attendance. Former Turtle Island residents were very special guests, including former teachers, students, officers and soldiers on the island. They expressed warm gratitude and shared their nostalgia for the place they left 20 years ago. Recognition was given for the contributions all had made to Turtle Island and its tourism development. Making the event even more warm and special, the Administration Office, the Yilan Hotel Association and Yilan Agape Welfare invited 25 children and their relatives from one-parent or poor families to the event. The gathering was filled with a joyful and warm atmosphere.
Lin Chia-lung, Minister of Transportation & Communications, landed on Turtle Island, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the island‘s opening to tourism. (The photo was provided via the Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area Administration.)
Six visitors with names containing “turtle” gathered happily with Minister Lin on the island.
The celebrations began with the gathering of a fleet of twelve whale watching boats at Wushi Port. Amid a fanfare of wind instruments, the boats grandly sailed towards Turtle Island. They first stopped at Putuo Rock, and then moved on to the island’s old settlement. The arrival of the boats was celebrated with the rhythmic beating of welcoming drums. Following a special invitation from the Administration Office, Ms. Pei Chih-wei, the winner of 6 gold medals in global pastry contests, presented a fondant cake in the shape of Turtle Island. It was 120cm in diameter and 50cm high. The number “20” was then jointly planted on 401 Peak by Minister of Transportation & Communications Lin Chia-lung, Director-General of the Tourism Bureau Chang Shi-chung, and Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tzu-miao. The number 20, when said as the two numbers “2” and “0,” sounds like “love you” in Mandarin. The number thus also represented love and affection for ecology and the nation’s hopes for growing success in Turtle Island’s tourism efforts.
Minister Lin pointed out that the competitiveness of tourism is important to national competitiveness. Although the pandemic has hurt Taiwan’s tourism industry, the government has provided support via stages 1.0-3.0 of relief programs. These include safe-tourism efforts as well as “local-feature” tourism programs. In August, relief project 3.0 will be launched to provide further help. He added that Taiwan is endowed with beautiful mountain ranges and abundant ecological resources. In the future, the government will continue to combine ecology and tourism to add more depth and value to Taiwan tourism. He hoped that Turtle Island tourism will attain an international level and enjoy another fruitful 20 years.
Director-General Chang emphasized that the Administration Office had now managed the island for 20 years, during which they had enjoyed much success in maintaining island’s natural ecology and landscape, while at the same time allowing visitors to enjoy the island’s unique features. Strict controls over visitor numbers, including no more than 1,800 per day, have been an important part of preserving the island’s environment. As a result, Turtle Island provides a high quality and beautiful destination for visitors. He added that northeast Taiwan offers many attractions for tourists, in addition to Turtle Island and its Peak 401 Trail. These include the Caoling Trail, the Sandiao Cape Lighthouse Trail, the Bitou Cape Trail, the Fulong Beach Sand Sculpting Festival, the Caoling Tunnel Circular Cycling Route, the Zhuangwei Coastal Cycling Trail and the Zhuangwei Dune Visitor Center. The above attractions all provide wonderful experiences and sights between the mountains and the sea.
According to Mr. Chien Ming-yi, Chief of Staff of the Yilan Whale Watching Association, their members’ business declined by about 90% when tourism to the island reopened in March amid the worsening pandemic. Fortunately, the government stepped in with a relief program as well as targeted efforts such as “safe tourism,” a travel voucher program and creative marketing efforts from old friends at the Administration Office. Based on data from Klook, in June whale watching off Turtle Island was Taiwan’s most popular event-type tourism product. At present, the boats are almost fully booked. This in turn has supported very important peripheral businesses such as food and beverage and other tourism related activities.
Ms. Tsai Gui said that while sailing around Turtle Island she was awed by the magic of Mother Nature. She said that as soon as she stepped onto the island, she was facing a hill that resembled a reclining pregnant woman and another that resembled a pug-like dog. Her attention was also riveted by the crystal-clear Turtle Tail Lake and magnificent coastal views. She emphasized that we are all very lucky to have this emerald in the sea, and she hoped that everyone will treasure this island and visit it.
Mr. Wu Guixiong, an elderly resident of the island, served as a host and guided Ms. Tsai Gui (whose real name is Tsai Xigui) and a group of others who shared the name “Gui” around the island to enjoy its beautiful scenery. “Traditional buildings on Turtle Island were built with what we call ‘turtle-egg pebbles,'” said Mr. Wu. He added that in earlier times, while he was primarily a fisherman, he and others on the island also farmed sweet potatoes, which they substituted for rice in some recipes. The fishing boats stayed home in autumn and winter, and in order to fill some of the idle time, residents held kite flying contests using 72-angle kites developed by their predecessors on the island. Now, seeing visitors coming to this island on this occasion, he was touched and delighted.
The Administration Office highlighted that Turtle Island has a distinctive undersea hot spring and volcanic landscape. Of the world’s 79 species of whales and dolphins, approximately 27 have been observed in Taiwan’s seas and 17 near Turtle Island. The island is closed to the public from December to February to protect its ecology. At other times, visitors are limited to 1,800 per day. Wednesdays are restricted to academic research and a maximum of 500 visitors. Only 100 visitors per day are permitted to ascend 401 Peak, the island’s highest peak. Reservations are required for both whales watching and trips to Turtle Island. For details, contact the Yilan Whale Watching Association at 03-977-0606 or the Administration Office via its website (https://www.necoast-nsa.gov.tw/index.aspx?l=2) or its Facebook page.
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