In Penghu Waters
By Tricia Chen, The China Post December 30, 2009, 10:48 am TWN
Being an island enveloped in large bodies of water, Taiwan naturally comes with a culture that features aspects related to the sea, such as ocean life, beach culture or even bridge building.
A 50-minute flight from Taipei brings you to the Baisha Township, situated on the northern part of the main, most populated Penghu Island called Makong. The town is home to the aquatic-heavy side of Taiwanese culture.
The name of the township, Baisha, means "white sand" in Chinese and derives from the white beaches running several kilometers along that part of the island's north and east coast.
Offshore from Baisha Township is Little Baisha Island, where extensive coral reefs can be found. It's famous as a paradise for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling.
Even though many people mainly visit the area for its beautiful, soft white sand and bright sunny weather (the tourist season tends to be between April and August), Penghu possesses much more to entice visitors any time of the year.
The first must-visit site in town, the Penghu Aquarium, proves the point.
A Peek At Of Penghu's Aquatic Life
Set up by the Fisheries Research Institute, Penghu Aquarium was opened to the public in 1997, occupying an area of 2.5 hectares. The area of the neat two-story building adds up to approximately 4,600 square meters, and can admit up to 500 people.
The aquarium is divided up into three exhibition zones, each with a theme in the order of seashore, coral reefs, and the ocean – leading visitors from the shallow to the deep.
All aquatic creatures in the aquarium originated from the waters in an 800-kilometer radius from Baisha town, which includes the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, reflecting the varied marine world of the Penghu region.
Not far past the entrance of the aquarium brings visitors to the Reef Tank, where three green sea turtles swim and swirl in circles, not far removed from the old sea turtles that appeared on screen in Pixar's "Finding Nemo." I never got tired of watching them.
Note: Feeding is strictly prohibited (even if you sincerely believe they're asking for food).
Several cases display different live corals up close, fascinating visitors with the wide range of life in the waters surrounding Penghu Islands.
My favorite part of the delightful aquarium is the transparent semicircular underwater tunnel that has a 2.8-meter diameter and is 14 meters long. Built under the big Ocean Tank, the tunnel provides visitors with a 180-degree view. It puts forwards a convincing impression of floating through water alongside the underwater creatures – I jumped when a guitarfish swam by.
Other local animals living in the Ocean Tank include salt-water fish and some shark species. Feeding shows take place in the big fish tank and are available for public viewing twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Note: Feeding session times are subject to change, depending on the season and water temperature.
Once through the glass tunnel, visitors arrive at a corner of the aquarium with long benches facing the other side of the Ocean Tank. It's perhaps the most calming spot of the building where you can sit back and embrace the underwater beauty.