on Taiwan's Gangtzai Desert
Words and photos by John
Matthews Translated by Ann Lee
One of the most surprising geographic
features in southern Taiwan awaits your exploration
in an equally unusual fashion-in a 4x4 recreational
vehicle. The Gangtzai Desert (Jioupeng) is a fascinating
body of rolling sand waves, some of which are 100 vertical
feet or more.
At Gangtzai, there are at least half
a dozen businesses that rent All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
or provide 4x4 Jeep tours for small groups. The best
places to rent from are those situated nearest to the
beach, thereby giving you direct access to the dunes.
If you are alone or with a friend, take an ATV for a
spin. For a 125cc ATV, expect to pay at least NT$600
for a half-hour of cruising around and exploring on
your own. If you have the courage and experience, rent
the bigger 300cc ATV (NT$1,200/half hour) and feel the
power of the machine ripping you up and down these sand
mountains and across giant berms, without even a groan.
However, be careful as you're on your own here; bring
a helmet if you want head protection, as they are not
provided and ATVs can be some of the most dangerous
recreational vehicles on the planet.
The sand dunes are ranked as some of
the largest in Taiwan and, on a typical weekend, only
a handful of visitors come to revel, play or just spend
a few moments taking photos. After all, this area remains
relatively unknown. It gets little mention on any maps
and, even more surprising, is the ecological sensitivity
and importance of the site to certain species. Sea turtles
are known to visit the massive beach once every year
to lay their eggs in nesting grounds among the dunes.
Getting there from nearby Hengchun
is the most practical. Travel on County Route 200 as
it heads east across the island towards Manjhou. At
Manjhou, the road swings to the left (northwest). Continue
following Rt. 200 past Manjhou for roughly 30 kilometers
of winding road to the town of Gangtzai and the Pacific
* Visit www.ktdesert.idv.tw or call
0935-618-218 or 0952-023-268 for more information.