I've been in Taiwan for almost three years now and although I've tried to be more active in my local travels lately, I've never made it to the famous beaches in the south of the island which are scattered around the small town called Kending (墾丁). In general, beaches in Taiwan are not what you would expect from a tropical island since Taiwan is an island of volcanic origin and the only postcard-type beaches can be found in the south.
I left Taipei on a sunny and humid Sunday morning. It wasn't 9 am yet and the temperature was already at 35 degrees. I took the High speed rail at the Taipei main station and after about 90 minutes arrived in Gaoxiong (高雄), which is the second largest city in Taiwan. From there I took a bus called the "Kending express" which after about an hour of a pretty sound ride arrived at the National museum of marine biology (國立海洋生物博物館), which is roughly 20 km away from Kending.
The national museum consists of three large pavilions, an outside water park, research facilities and is absolutely amazing. The three pavilions are called: The Waters of Taiwan, Coral Kingdom and Waters of the world and for someone coming from a landlocked country like myself, they are absolutely fascinating.
Apart from buying a regular entrance ticket visitors have a 'sleepover' option, which is a two day-one night ticket with the possibility to sleep in the museum, and I went for that. By buying this ticket, visitors could choose to sleep in any of the three pavilions next to the exhibit of their choice. I chose to sleep next to the huge Whale shark fish tank and waking up with it swimming above my head was really something amazing. I think the shark must have been about 7 meters long and seeing such a huge animal swim right next to you as you wake up is truly unbelievable.
On the first day of our stay in the aquarium, we toured the 3 pavilions and the nearby coral beach with the aquarium staff. I learned a lot of fancy words like 鰓 (gills), 水母 (jellyfish), 鯨鯊 (whale shark) or 魟 (stingray), which I will probably only get to use when I go back to the aquarium next time:)
We first went for a walk on the coral beach, looked for anything that moved and staff members explained to us what it was. Afterwards we toured the 3 pavilions, listened to lectures about everything possible from sharks to how the aquarium was built and did a lot of side activities like jellyfish feeding or going into the fish care area where daily guests were not allowed to go. Organization was wonderful throughout the whole stay and is a part of Taiwanese mentality that can only be admired.
The next day morning I left the Aquarium and went further south to stay in a hotel not far from Nanwan (南灣), which is only one stop away from Kending and went straight to the beach. The water was warm like a bath tub and I never felt the sun burn so strong before in my life. At this time of the year, the weather in Taipei is changing fast. In the morning it is usually very hot and humid, with thunder showers in the afternoon. In Kending there are no thunderstorms, it is only very hot, very humid and a there is very strong sunshine throughout most of the day.
|Small companies offering snorkeling services|
Later that day I went to the southernmost point in Taiwan called Eluanbi (鵝鑾鼻) and the next day I took the bus back to Gaoxiong where I spent the rest of the day just wandering around the city until taking the High speed rail back to Taipei.
|Taiwan's southernmost point|
Although there are other options, taking the High speed rail to Gaoxiong is the best one. If you order your ticket online 15 days before you go, you have a 30% 早鳥 (Early bird) discount.