Thursday, June 2, 2011

A big bay and a small island (Travel in Taiwan)

Despite the best efforts of the Tourism Bureau's Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area (DBNSA) Administration, there are still tourists who've not heard of this area in southwest Taiwan.

Just in case you're one of them, here are some basic facts: Dapeng Bay is divided between the townships of Donggang and Linbian in Pingtung County. The waters of the lagoon here cover 532 hectares and average five meters in depth. Used by the military until the 1970s, the bay later became one of Taiwan's most important oyster-farming areas – it's said a man could get from one side to the other, a distance of 1,800 meters, by clambering from platform to platform.

The bay is stirred by consistent winds, but because the mouth is narrow, the waves never reach any great height. Conditions are thus perfect for all kinds of water sports. For those who like to stay dry, a bicycle path stretching 13.3km rings the lagoon.

On this occasion, however, Travel in Taiwan was not heading south to get fit. We were there to learn about the unique ecosystems of the scenic area, which consists of the lagoon and Xiao Liuqiu, an island 14km offshore.

The DBNSA official showing around the bay, began by telling me something so counterintuitive I had to double-check it. The bay, he said, is saltier than the nearby ocean. Surely not, I thought; freshwater inflow would reduce the salinity. Yet only two small creeks feed into the bay, and year-round sunshine evaporates a great deal of the water. Also, because salt is relatively heavy, it tends to sink and linger rather than being washed out through the bay's constricted opening.

A pleasurable way of seeing the bay is to get on a boat...

This longish article appears in its entirety in the May/June issue of Travel in Taiwan. To read it, go here and click on the cover of that issue (it's mostly green, and bears the numbers 5/6 in the top right corner). The second half of the article, which I've not posted, focuses on Little Liuqiu, and I've blogged about that part of the press trip, and posted some photos. For a previous article of mine about Dapeng Bay, go here.

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