Once a training site for Japan’s kamikaze attack pilots during World War II, Dapeng Bay (大鵬灣) has been transformed into a tourist attraction. A lagoon located between Donggang (東港) and Linbien (林邊) in Pingtung County, Dapeng Bay was known by locals as the “Big Lake” and was used as an airport for seaplanes during the Japanese colonial era.
One underground tunnel used to hide seaplanes operated by kamikaze pilots still exists. Other underground tunnels were bombed and destroyed by the Japanese Air Force when they left the bay, burying several military aircraft.
In 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government reclaimed the bay and built Dapeng Air Force Base (大鵬營區). A portion of the lagoon was also opened for oyster farming.
Eleven years ago, the government relocated the oyster farms and the air force base and established the Dapeng Bay National Scenic Administration.
Today, the bay has gained a reputation as a haven for water sports enthusiasts and is home to the annual Dapeng Cup National Windsurfing Championship. This year, the race will be held on Sunday.
Yang Jui-chi (楊瑞吉), general secretary of the Pingtung County Sailing Association, said the water in Dapeng Bay is around 4m deep, allowing sailboats of various sizes to operate their.
Because the lagoon is free from the influence of the northeast seasonal wind, the wind speed in the bay maintains an average of around level 4 on the Beaufort scale, ideal conditions for sailing, Yang said.
To match the bay’s reputation as a water sports paradise, the Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau designed the soon-to-be-completed Dapeng Bridge (大鵬橋) in the shape of a sail. A section of bridge can be opened whenever a large sailboat needs to pass through.
Former Tourism Bureau deputy director general Hsieh Wei-chun (謝謂君) said that once completed, Dapeng Bridge would make it possible for boats to sail from the bay to Liouciou Island (小琉球).
Aside from water sports, Oyster Shell Island (蚵殼島), formed by oyster shells discarded by farmers over the years, is another noteworthy attraction. Visitors can stop by the isle and enjoy fried oysters on the dock.
Cyclists can ride along the bay on a bicycle path.
Hsieh said that the contractor in charge of development of Dapeng Bay — a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project — aims to begin construction of an F-2 racetrack this year.
“So far, they [the contractor] have passed the Federacion Internacional de Automobile evaluation. They need to secure bank loans of approximately NT$400 million [US$13 million] to start building the racetrack and the relevant infrastructure,” Hsieh said.
Meanwhile, the contractor is also applying for licenses from the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) to rent out light aircraft to visitors, Hsieh said.
Visitors to the bay can now watch light aircraft from a seaplane-shaped deck, another of the bay’s landmarks.
Hsieh said that adding Liouciou Island to the Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area had helped add some diversity to the bay’s somewhat monotonous natural scenery. Also known as Samagi (沙瑪基), Liouciou is a small island located off the west coast of Pingtung.
According to the administration’s Web site, the island was first discovered in the Qing Dynasty by Kaohsiung resident Lee Yue (李月). Amazed at its rich fishery resources, Lee called on about 20 families to migrate to the island and named it Liouciou, which means “a ball drifting in the sea.”