Located just 14km off the southwest coast of Pingtung County, Xiao Liu Qiu (or Little Liu qiu) is a small coral island that’s known for its geological formations and pristine beaches. Visit during the quieter weekdays, and the island is a perfect couple’s 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.
ABOUT THE ISLAND
The island’s total land- mass is only 6.8sq.km., 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 geological sites and beaches. Near the Tourist Information Center at Baisha port lies the symbol of Xiao Liu Qiu: Flower Vase Rock, a 9m-tall rock formation that resembles a flower vase.
While many of the natural sites are free, an entry ticket is required for three: Beauty Cave, Wild Boar Trench, and Black Dwarf Cave (NT$120 for all three).
Mostly scattered along the northern coast, each natural site has its own romanticised legend. If travelling clockwise from Baisha, the first site is Lobster Cave, a sea trench dotted with natural potholes.
The next site is Black Dwarf Cave, which is not for claustrophobics – you have to squeeze through a narrow opening with a flashlight. Legend has it that the cave was once a hiding place for some slaves who were abandoned by the Dutch, and were burned alive inside the cave when they were caught stealing. The trail is 400m long, and weaves between a few boulders and steep cliffs, ending at a stairway that leads to a sea-facing pavilion.
Along the coast is a coral cliff covered with roots of banyan trees. Further along the coast is Wild Boar Ditch. 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. 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 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 last paid-for site is Beauty Cave, which 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 pavilion where you can spot sea turtles that often swim close to the shore.
BEACHES & UNDERWATER
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. Several companies offer snorkelling tours (NT$300-500), providing goggles, wetsuit, aqua shoes, insurance, and a coach. 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 ac- companying 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, vivid nudibranchs and transparent crystal shrimps.
There are numerous fishing villages dotted around the island, since most of the residents rely on fishing for a living. As life at sea can be unpredict- able, locals turned to religion for peace of mind, building temples across the island. Today, these colourful temples are a unique characteristic of the island – the oldest is Biyun Temple, located in the middle of the island.
Biyun Temple is popular for locals who come to ask for everything from weddings to a bountiful catch. The temple is connected to the Bamboo
Trail which passes through a bamboo grove before reaching a scenic pond; at night, the trail is lit for a romantic mood. Sanlung Temple and Lingshan Temple are also popular sites; the latter commands an impressive view from the cliff near Baisha port.
Of the 2 lighthouses on Xiaoliuqiu, the most popular is the White Lighthouse, located atop Mt. Dongnanjian. Built in the Japanese colonial era, locals say that this is a place where strange occurrences take place.
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 to Baisha port in about 20 minutes, while public ferries
(NT$380) dock at Dafu port further south. While Xiao Liu Qiu can be visited
year-round, check on the weather if visiting during the typhoon season (July-September). Scooters (both fuel and electric) are available for rent on
the island, as are e-bikes. Visit http://liuqiu.pthg.gov.tw for