Mon, Oct 13, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Nation’s ninth national park to open in Penghu

MARINE PARADISE:The park, opening Saturday, is set to be the nation’s second-largest and features basaltic lava rocks, excellent scuba diving and cheap accomodation

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Dongyuping, one of “the four southern islands of Penghu,” is pictured in an undated photgraph.

Photo: CNA

Four islets south of Penghu County are set to become the nation’s ninth national park on Saturday, the Ministry of the Interior said.

The South Penghu National Park comprises of Dongi (東吉嶼), Sigi (西吉嶼), Dongyuping (東嶼坪), and Siyuping (西嶼坪) islets, as well as their surrounding waters and is to cover a land area of 370 hectares and a sea area of 354.73km2 in the Taiwan Strait.

The national park is set to become the second-largest in Taiwan, with a total surface area of approximately 35,843.6 hectares.

The ministry said visitors to the islets are greeted by a view of giant columns of basalt rocks, formed by the rapid cooling of basaltic lava near the Earth’s surface.

Visitors can also see houses surrounded by walls built from coral and basalt, which are used to protect gardens from the Northeastern trade winds which blow through the islets every winter, the ministry said.

It added that scuba diving enthusiasts would not want to miss out on exploring the coasts of these islets, especially those of Siyuping Islet. Graced with an abundance of sea plumes and brain coral, the waters off Siyuping boast the highest seabed coverage rate among the four islets, at more that 50 percent, making the area the perfect habitat for fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

According to statistics published by the Marine National Park Headquarters, the population on the four islets has been decreasing over the past several decades due to poor access to transportation systems, the inconvenience of shipping in daily necessities and a lack of jobs. There are currently only about 50 residents living on the four islets, statistics show.

Since there are not yet any direct boats from Taiwan proper, those who wish to visit the new national park can book tours with ferry operators based in Greater Kaohsiung and Greater Tainan, from where the journey takes two-and-a-half to three hours.

Marine National Park Headquarters director Yang Mo-lin (楊模麟) said sea conditions between May and August were best for traveling to the islets. He recommend staying with local bed and breakfasts, which he said can accommodate a dozen guests and only cost about NT$200 a day.

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