Travel with me #109 : Dolphin spotting in Hualien, Taiwan!
Dear Steemit Friends:
Today we're going to be exploring some of the coastal area of Hualien County, in Taiwan.
Thank you for joining me once again for another adventure! Today we're going to be exploring some of the coastal area of Hualien County, in Taiwan. Hualien County is the largest by land area of all of the counties of Taiwan and has a lot of mountains and coastline. It is located on the east side of the country and is famous for its beautiful mountains, many of which rise straight up from the blue ocean and beaches.
The region is very sparsely populated, with perhaps less than 350,000 people living here, probably because of the geography of the area with 87% of the county being mountains. Taiwan is renowned for experiencing frequent earthquakes, because it sits on a boundary between a number of different tectonic plates and the country is considered very geologically active because of this.
When I arrived in Hualien City there had been a massive earthquake just some weeks prior which I had heard quite a lot about. I expected to arrive and see a lot of earthquake damage to different buildings but I was amazed to find nearly no damage. The city experiences very frequent earthquakes, so they are very good at fixing the damage quickly and keeping buildings strengthened against the shocks. There was just one bridge that I saw that I was not able to go across because the supports had been weakened by the earthquake. I was very saddened to hear that during the large earthquake a hotel had collapsed and some visitors from the mainland had been killed. The people of Hualien City do a lot to keep the buildings strong against earthquakes but this was a particularly big one that made the news all of the world.
I didn't have much time to explore the city because I had arranged to go to my first visit in the area, Qixingtan Beach which is located near the township of Xincheng. I try and keep to my plans!
Qixingtan Beach is on the Pacific Ocean side of Taiwan, and the water as you can see was beautifully blue. This was not a sandy beach, but rather a pebble or rocky beach. With the large mountains of the Taiwan's coastline in this region, many rocks are eroded from the land which are then smoothed by the crashing of the ocean waves into these beautifully smooth stones. Though I wouldn't want to walk around on the beach in my bare feet, because it would be quite painful on the rocks and stones, I loved the aesthetic of these stones on the beach. They felt so smooth and I wondered how many thousands of years it would have taken to make each of these stones like they are now!
As you can see, the ocean is a beautiful blue, but the water was also quite rough. Because of the geology of the area, the seabed drops very deeply, very quickly. The same as the mountains that rise up quickly behind me, the bottom of the sea continues to drop down deeply too. Because of this the sea here can be quite rough. From this coast line the Pacific Ocean stretches for thousands of miles until you hit the Americas. Because of this, there is no big land mass to slow the weather or the waves so the coast line of Hualien gets weathered quite strongly by the elements.
I hope the water always stays as clear and beautiful as it is. In 2009 the officials of Hualien County abolished the Qixingtan Environmental Impact Statement which was protecting the area around the beach from large developments so now there are many big development projects around the beach. I'm glad that many more people are able to come and see its beauty but I hope that does not spoil the environment's beauty at the same time. Every year more and more visitors come to the beach and I hope thousands more to come can still visit to enjoy the nature.
Getting some refreshing coconut juice!
I don't think there's much better to quench your thirst than fresh coconut, especially by the sea on a hot day
By this time I had worked up quite a thirst for myself and wanted to get a quick drink. I'd been quite fascinated by the beautiful surroundings so hadn't really looked much as what there was to offer around the beach to get refreshments. Almost as soon as I turned from the stunning Pacific Ocean, I was delighted to see this colourful van selling fresh coconuts! I don't think there's much better to quench your thirst than fresh coconut, especially by the sea on a hot day.
The vendor had so many coconuts, and I knew he probably would need them because this was a lovely idea to have coconut juice by the beach. I'm sure that many people would soon come and take all of his stock so I quickly purchased myself the biggest one I could see ready for a refreshing drink. Apparently, coconuts are not actually nuts they are in fact from a group of fruits called drupes. Examples of other drupes include olives, plums, cherries, apricots and mangoes! Unlike these other foods, the coconut is hollow and full of beautiful, healthy, fresh juice. This hollow space is the main way that coconuts spread their seeds - the coconut can float on the ocean because of it and travel thousands of miles to other islands and continents.
If you've never drunk coconut fresh, it's hard to explain how good it is. You can now buy many different coconut water drinks in packages, but it doesn't taste the same as when it's out of the coconut itself. First the flesh is cut off around the outside of the inner nut and then the very top of the nut is pierced so that you can get a straw in to reach the juice - or some people just lift the whole coconut to their mouth! They are portable little hydration carriers for anyone that needs to refresh themselves, as I really needed to!
There were many other vans selling different foods and drinks to help you cool down on the hot day. Icecreams and different drinks were most popular but I was much happier with my fresh drink straight from nature.
Dolphin spotting near Hualien
The Kuroshio Gulf Stream is a very large current of warm sea that brings millions of migratory fish with it. And where there are lots of fish there are lots of dolphins looking for tasty fish to eat!
After the beach I headed back to Hualien City for my next activity, dolphin spotting! Just off the east coast of Taiwan runs the Kuroshio Gulf Stream which is a very large current of warm sea that brings millions of migratory fish with it. And where there are lots of fish there are lots of dolphins looking for tasty fish to eat!
The dolphin watching tours here are very popular. There are many different companies offering this experience so it pays to look around a little bit to find one that looks nice and professional. You aren't guaranteed to see dolphins because obviously they are wild animals, but this is one of the most likely places in the world that you will see them. Most of the tour operators are in contact with each other so that if one finds dolphins, they can all come and help their tour experience the beauty of these animals. Because there's a lot of dolphin watching boats, that means you're very likely to see some!
First, you must leave the harbour to get out into the ocean to where the dolphins feed. This takes around thirty minutes and it's also a lovely boat ride too. I enjoyed looking back out at the coast line of Hualien and also seeing the many different buildings of the city and harbour getting smaller and smaller behind me. Remember, even if it's a hot day the boat goes quite fast so it becomes very windy while you're standing on the outside of the boat. I almost lost my hat a couple of times, but I was glad I had it because the wind would have sent my hair flying all over my face!
As we left the city behind you could see many other large ships docked and also out at sea. With its location on the coast Hualien City still makes a lot of its trade by sea. Though there are good road networks in land, the mountains of the region can make transportation a little slower. Because of that I noticed that the docks were busy with different big ships, all bringing in goods for the city and for the surrounding townships. Being the only city in the region, Hualien City is the centre for most of the shipping.
Because of the Kuroshio Gulf Stream fishing is also very important to the city and other townships with many people making a living from fishing around this coast of the country. When you looked out you could see many fishing boats as well as many dolphin and whale spotting boats. The Pacific Ocean here is much the centre of attention for many different livelihoods.
And then we found them! After around half an hour heading out into the ocean, our captain called for us all to look over to the front right of the boat. Of course I rushed to the side of the boat and after a few seconds I saw splashes on the horizon. Soon we had caught up with a huge pod of dolphins. There were probably around twenty or thirty of them all on the surface of the water just jumping and swimming together in their family.
There are over 40 different types of dolphin, but these were the famous Bottlenose dolphin. They are actually quite large, larger than I expected. Our captain told us that they are usually around three to four meters long on average and weight around 600 pounds or 270 kilos. They often live for more than 40 years and are very social animals, spending all of their time in a group known as a pod. They love the warm oceans and hunt together to catch mostly small fish. Many scientists believe that the dolphin is one of the most intelligent animals in the world and have the second largest ration between body size and brain size, after humans!
Dolphins are a mammal, which means they can't breathe underwater like fish but they can hold their breath for a very long time when they are diving for food. When they aren't swimming underwater trying to catch fish they'll swim on the top of the water so they can breathe out of their blowhole on the top of their head.
I was amazed at how fast they could move. Our captain told us that some dolphins can swim at 55 kilo meters per hour and jump up to six meters in the air. They are very communal and communicate with their own language under the water but apparently their jumping also serves as communication. Different jumps and flips mean different things so they can tell each other what they are feeling! I was just completely in love right from the very first sight of them.
Once our boat had caught up with the pod of dolphins, they realised we were there and they slowed down so that we could drive alongside them. It felt like they were playing with us and wanted to show off! You can see how close I got. I thought that I could almost touch them.
With the boat now moving slowly and the dolphins just wanting to swim with us and play, I felt this was a very special moment. These beautiful dolphins knew we were here and it's like they wanted to spend time with me so I could admire them and take photos. Perhaps they were showing off a little bit for the cameras? I like to imagine they wait around for the boats to come each day so they can play with us humans and show off how beautiful they are in the water.
Even looking back at these photos I feel a little overwhelmed by how lovely these animals are. I think I will let the rest of my photos and videos do the talking because I can't match their beauty.
Traditional Beef Noodles
By the end of my day I'd worked up a serious appetite. I couldn't wait to eat and didn't want to waste too much time finding a restaurant so I headed for the first place I saw. And what a gem it was. A really traditional little family run Taiwanese restaurant. Not far from where I'd just been whale watching, the restaurant was nestled just next to the road in the foothills of the mountains.
I was seriously hungry and ready to try as many different local dishes as I could! Let's go inside together.
The restaurant had a pet dog! I think he was keeping his fish friends company. Maybe he though that people would try and eat them for dinner and he was protecting them! He looked like he'd had just as long a day as me and just spent his time half asleep and watching the world go by.
I suppose he probably gets so many visitors every single day that it's boring now. I wonder what his name is? I called him Goldy. I think he might be a cross between a golden retriever and a corgi, what do you guys think?
There were so many dishes to choose from so I got a little selection for myself. The preserved egg tofu looked particularly amazing. I also got some courgette, some stir fried beef and a couple of other bits. I couldn't wait to get started. Everything looked really lovely.
Care to join me?
Thank you so much once again Steemit friends for joining me on my adventures. You can already guess my favourite part of the day - the Bottlenose dolphins. Those animals are completely magical and I cannot believe that I was able to see them so close. To see them swimming, jumping and playing with each other and the boat really was amazing. You can see how fast they can swim through the water. I wish I felt that natural in the water, I would feel just like a mermaid.
If you could go and see dolphins, would you do it? I'd love to go back there and spend many more hours just watching them. The time I had just wasn't enough. If you've enjoyed my post, please give me a vote and a follow but most importantly, please comment below so that I can get to know you better and enjoy speaking with you!
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