It's a sunny afternoon on the sea northeast of Hualien. The waves gently swell and a sea breeze cuts the heat. A boat slowly sets out from the port of Hualien, moving eastward, into the vast Pacific Ocean. Soon the land fades away and there is calm, just the thud of the motor and slap of the waves on the bow. Suddenly, one of the tourists on the boat screams out, "There it is! It came out!"
\n"Wow! Where did it go?" The guide on the whale/dolphin-watching boat asks, using a microphone to make himself heard over the din of excited exclamations.
\n"Oh, OK, now look, around three o'clock. A group of dolphins. Oh wow, look at this group! There is one doing the flips. One, two flips," the instructor continues. "Now, they are into the water again. You see, dolphins are fast and agile animals ... oh, now look, nine o'clock."
\nThe dolphins were like dancers, with more than a dozen leaping out of the water from different directions. The guide said these were spinner dolphins. They were black and gray, with white bellies. Young dolphins appeared to have pink-colored bellies. The guide said the dolphins were famous for "showing off" and they would often flip out of the water, especially in response to seeing humans.
\nNot long after, another whale/dolphin watching boat joined us and chased the dolphin groups at high speed.
\nThe whale/dolphin-watching business has been developing since the first boat went on its maiden whale- watching trip in 1997. Now there are 33 boats along the east coast of Taiwan, taking out an estimated 220,000 tourists a year. The Taiwan Cetacean Society (
PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES
PHOTO COURTESY OF TOURISM BUREAU
PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES
1. Choose a service that has the government-approved eco-tourism label.
2. Choose a bigger-sized boat. A larger boat helps reduce the amount of boats on the sea. It also offers more room for whale watching.
3. Make sure you have at least 30 minutes of instruction before the trip.
4. Bring ID cards or ARCs with you for coast guard inspection.
5. Sleep well the day before to avoid seasickness.
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