Thursday, March 24, 2011

Back to Little Liuqiu

A couple of weeks ago, I returned to Little Liuqiu, this time with my wife and son in tow, for 24 hours of ecotourism on behalf of Travel in Taiwan magazine. While driving around the southeastern corner of the island, we approached what most maps call 'Indian Rock', because it resembles a North American native wearing a traditional headdress. Our guide, a knowledgeable young man working for Dapeng Bay Scenic Area Administration, pointed out that many visitors feel it more closely resembles Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu.

The highlight of the visit was a nighttime tour of the intertidal zone at Yufu Fishing Harbor (魚福魚港). The foreshore there is rocky and uneven, so there are countless pools and trenches where sea creatures hide out between tides.

The guide sensibly began by warning us not to touch anything until he gave the OK; some denizens of the intertidal zone – such as rock boring urchins – can inflict nasty stings. We waded what seemed a considerable distance from dry land, but never getting more than our ankles wet, and saw black brittle starfish, sea cucumbers, and metre-long black-and-white worms no thicker than a strand of spaghetti. More remarkable were the sea hares, soft gastropods that emit purple ink when under attack. This substance intoxicates and disorients fish; our guide said that when he was child, he and his friends would use it to help them catch fish.

Like any good entertainer the guide had a finale. Asking us to dim our flashlights, he began brushing the water with his hand. Within seconds spots of greenish lights appeared in the water. Bioluminescent plankton, the underwater equivalent of fireflies!

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