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Small Wonder: Taiwan’s Little Liuqiu Island

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Located about 14km off the southwest coast of Pingtung County, Xiao Liu Qiu (or Little Liuqiu) is a small coral island that’s known for its geological formations, coral beaches, and an abundance of green turtles. Visit during the quieter weekdays, and the island is a perfect getaway where you can swim with sea turtles, explore the coral reefs, visit various temples, stroll through coral caves, or simply relax on the beaches to enjoy a picturesque sunset. While you can visit this island on a day trip, you can also spend a night here at one of the few themed B&Bs or camp by the beach.

The island’s total landmass is only 6.8km, so you can effectively drive around the island within 20 minutes without stopping. Most visitors rent scooters to get around the 18km ring road, although e-bikes are also great ways to get around; the clockwise direction has more downhill slopes.

From Baisha port, the ring road takes you along the coast, dropping by the island’s scenic geological sites and swimming beaches. While many of the natural sites are free to visit, and entry ticket is required for the three popular sites: Beauty Cave, Wild Boar Trench, and Black Dwarf Cave (NT$120 for all three).

Black Dwarf Cave (Black Ghost Cave)

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This is a popular attraction that’s not for claustrophobics – you have to squeeze through a very narrow opening (the entrance has collapsed) and a flashlight is required. Legend has it that the cave was once a hiding place for some slaves who were abandoned by the Dutch, and when it was revealed that they were stealing from docked boats, the slaves were burned alive inside the cave. The trail is 400m long, and weaves between a few boulders and steep cliffs, ending at a stairway that leads to a sea-facing pavillion. Along the coast is a coral cliff covered with roots of banyan trees.

Wild Boar Ditch

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Further along the coast is Wild Boar Ditch. Here, the picturesque labyrinth of well-maintained wooden boardwalks criss cross a forest of banyan trees and coral caves, with a few trails that lead off to narrow passages in hidden crevices. Composed of vertical cliffs, the ditch is carpeted with wild plants. The “Thread of Sky” portion is a narrow crack in the coral cliffs several hundred metres long. The name of the place was inspired by a local legend in which a wild boar managed to take on a human form, but was spurned by a celestial being, so he died in melancholy.

Beauty Cave

Beauty Cave was so named because rumour has it that a beautiful woman was shipwrecked and drifted to this cave, where she eventually died of hunger. Stretching for 700m, narrow paths wind through this area that’s comprised of limestone walls, eroded cliffs, collapsed coral cliffs, sea terraces and sea caves where you can find fossilised corals and sea plants. There is also a pavillion where you can spot sea turtles and offshore fish farms where net-cages are used to raise fish like grouper and amberjack.

Beaches

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The best part about the island is that in between visiting the cave sites, you can relax at one of the beaches – like the star-sand beach of Geban Bay, the largest on the island – for a spot of swimming or sunset-watching. The corals that surround the island are in great shape and are rich in aquatic life, especially with green turtles. These graceful creatures can be spotted on snorkelling and diving trips, as well as from various observation decks.

You can rent snorkel gear (NT$50-100), or opt for a tour. Usually only venturing a short distance off the beach, there’s a high chance of spotting turtles at the beaches near Beauty Cave and Vase Rock. On shore dive trips, you can explore a wreck called Venice not far away. Green turtles can often be found accompanying divers.

The Sanfu Ecological Path is a rich terrain of sea rocks, and the Intertidal Zone boasts a rich diversity of marine species. In the rock pools, you can find brittle stars, starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, as well as brightly-coloured nudibranchs and transparent crystal shrimps.

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Getting there

Xiao Liu Qiu is located 14km off the coast of the port town of Donggang, itself located about a hour’s drive south of Kaohsiung. Private ferries (NT$410) get you Baisha port in about 20 minutes, while public ferries (NT$380) dock at Dafu port further south.

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