watching is a relatively new amusement in Taiwan.
It was inspired by cetologists who, after going
out on marine field trips, thought landlubbers
would probably get a kick out of seeing whales
and porpoises in their natural environment, and
realized there's actually a pretty good chance
of seeing one of these swimming mammals during
a half-day outing.
captain Lin Kuo-cheng took cetologists out on research
trips in the 1990s, and founded Sea Whale Tours
in 1997. For him, as for other whale-watching operators,
business grew for the first few years, though sustaining
interest has proven to be a challenge.
foray into whale watching was an extension of his
fishing business. In a bid to win new customers,
he's turned his two/three-hour boat trips into
the centerpiece of an overall experience blending
education, entertainment, and sightseeing.
Lin can't provide the service you require, odds
are he's developed a relationship with someone
I called Sea Whale from Taipei, I was recommended
a package that included a night's stay in an aboriginal
village, an evening meal the night before going
out, breakfast and lunch on the day of the tour--and
an aboriginal dancing show. Also, Sea Whale can
arrange car-rental deals in Hualien at reasonable
opted to rent a car from Taipei but, considering
the slow traffic coming and going, I recommend
traveling by train and arranging car rental from
Hualien. The scenery from Suao to Hualien is magnificent,
but south of Hualien there's much less traffic
and the scenery is also terrific.
our honor, Lin engaged a former guide, Vicky Lin,
to ensure we understood what we were seeing.
we headed out of the harbor, another guide called
Joseph--an Ami Aborigine--pointed out landmarks,
and played on people's sense of anticipation by
shouting out, " I see, I see, I see," then
groaning: "a fishing boat."
Vicky said that one of Joseph's strengths is that he knows how to keep
customers entertained, even if no cetaceans are spotted. Another of Sea
Whale's strengths, she said, is that it emphasizes education. As if to
prove her point, Joseph and Captain Lin then explained that the fishing
boat we were passing was a long-line fishing boat, and it was after mahi
were fortunate enough to spot a trio of Risso's
dolphins; we followed them with great interest
for about 20 minutes.
whale-watching customers have a 90 percent chance
of spotting either porpoises or whales each time
out. If the odds work against you, Sea Whale will
give you another ticket, though you do have to
pay a NT$300 insurance fee the second time around.
is about an hour's drive south of Hualien. It can
easily be reached by car or scooter. Sea Whale
will arrange a 26-hour car rental from Hualien
on request, for NT$1,200.
typical Sea Whale tour is two-and-a-half-hours
long, and is preceded by a 30-minute slide show/presentation
given by the guide in Chinese. Price, including
insurance, is NT$1,200 per adult (NT$850 for ages
6-12; NT$300 for kids under 6). Itineraries that
include lodging are available.
go out so long as one person makes a reservation
(online or by phone) at set times (6 am, 9 am,
2 pm, and on Saturdays only, at 4 pm) from April
through mid-October. Charters for up to 80 people
at a time can be arranged.
sure to take along your passport, ARC or Taiwan
ID, since the Coast Guard may ask to see it.
(02) 2783-7151, (03) 878-1233; www.seawhale.com.tw
Sea Whale is recommended by the Taiwan Cetacean Society (www.whale.org.tw)
because of its eco-friendly philosophy. There are other whale-watching
outfits in Hualien, and an operator in Shiti. Ilan County also offers
whale-watching tours, but the chance of a sighting is lower, around 70