Xiaoliuqiu, an island off the southwest coast of Taiwan, has been on our Taiwan bucket list for the past year. A month before Jack died we visited for a short 1 night, 2 day trip. With our snorkel masks in hand, our main goal was to swim alongside the popular green sea turtles!
Traveling during a pandemic?
Let us explain. There was never community spread of the virus on the island nor a country-wide lock down (aka “stay-at-home” order). However, in mid-March Taiwan closed its borders to non-residents to prevent new infections from entering. By mid-April local restrictions were lifting and we finally felt comfortable traveling.
Taiwan was and still remains safe, in fact Taiwan has been able to track and trace so effectively it’s eliminated COVID-19 except for the occasional resident returning from another country who tests positive from a transit infection (measures are in place at the airport to contain/test/transport each person safety). This video by PBS explains the process perfectly (published in April). Taiwan has a consistent, collective approach to: (1) aggressive testing and tracing (2) mask wearing, (3) use of 75% alcohol spray to sterilize hands/surfaces, (4) social distancing, and (5) strict quarantines. Breaking quarantine costs $33,228 USD. Taiwan doesn’t eff around with this virus and has maintained all these practices since February. The virus was never made to be a political issue. It was always a matter of public health. With only 7 deaths, Taiwan has and continues to prove itself as a leader in health and science. We feel pretty proud of this little island! Please share these tips with Donald so we can SAFELY visit home soon. We miss our families and friends and most of all want to celebrate Jack’s life with loved ones.
This little island is known for its green sea turtle population, snorkeling, diving and laid back island life. Sounds nice, right?
This island gets very busy on the weekends, but we were able to go on a Thursday and there were no crowds. It’s about a 2 hour drive south from our apartment to the ferry terminal and then a 20 minute ferry ride to the island. We booked a hotel on our way there via Agoda (our favorite online travel site in Asia) and rented a scooter on arrival.
True to the island’s name, “xiao” which means small in Mandarin, this island is only 2.6 square miles so a scooter is all you need to get around. There are lots of scooter rentals as soon as you walk off the ferry. We found the electric rentals, paid $15 USD for a 24 hour rental. Easy breezy.
We made a pit stop at our hotel to drop a bag off and then scooted around to get the lay of the land and beaches. At 2.6 square miles it didn’t take much time.
We were excited to see some green sea turtles. Globally they’re an endangered species and protected by law in Taiwan. The protection measures seem to be working as we saw loads of turtles!
We saw them from shore! We saw them as we waded in the shore break! We saw them snorkeling! It’s a turtle paradise and one very much worth protecting.
Sensitive Sea Creatures
Did you know? Mother turtles looking for a breeding place (they lay eggs on beaches) are easily scared away by light, noise and/or other human interference? Even streetlights can misguide the baby turtles as they break out of their shells and, through instinct, would normally head for the ocean by following the moonlight.
Green turtles are highly loyal to their origins too. They use natal homing just like salmon. Mother turtles swim back to the beaches where they were hatched to breed their offspring. Sadly, only 0.1% (1 out of 1,000) of hatchlings will mature to adulthood, a process that takes 20 to 50 years.
It was absolutely captivating to observe these creatures in such pristine conditions. Some of the larger turtles were about 5 feet in diameter. Most were observed in the warmer shallow waters munching sea grass. We also saw loads of other marine life, but the turtles were the highlight.
Sadly, the turtle populations are shrinking globally (including around Taiwan) due to human activity which contributes to the destruction of their food and habitat (i.e., water/light/sound pollution, poaching, destructive fishing methods, and development projects such as building jetties).
Under Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Law, offenders who harass, hunt, or slaughter animals can be imprisoned up to two years and pay fines up to 300,000 NTD ($10,000 USD).
Our Favorite Snorkeling Spots
Vase Rock Beach (花瓶石)
Secret Beach (厚石魚澳)
Beauty Beach (美人沙灘)
Beach near Zhongao Pavilion (中澳涼亭)
Gebanwan (蛤板灣｜威尼斯沙灘) Closed, but looks great!
That’s it for our little island getaway. Taiwan’s beauty continues to impress us!
Pickles & Passionfruit
(post written/shared end of July, 2020)
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