Whenever I plan for a trip, I would try to include places where I would be being able to get up close to nature, including marine wildlife. Ironically, I have a phobia for water & cannot swim, but I get excited every time I have an opportunity to be out at sea (of course not in direct contact with water). Since 2013, I’ve been on-board dolphin cruises every year, be it a deliberate or accidental plan to include the tour in my holidays. The only exception was last year 2016, as the places I had been to (South Korea & Ho Chi Minh City) don’t offer such opportunities. I thought I would miss the dolphin cruise again this year after the one we booked at Chenggong Harbour was cancelled last minute due to bad weather conditions. 😦
However, as wet weather was forecasted to continue in the next few days, we decided not to visit Taroko Gorge for a full day. Instead, since dolphin sighting happens rain or shine, as long as it isn’t too windy, we decided to check if the dolphin cruise was still going to sail the following day. Thankfully, through 500KM Home, we managed to book the Turumoan dolphin cruise that was still set to sail off the next morning. The fee of 900 TWD (~S$42) per pax included return pick-up & drop-off service from the minsu slightly before 8 am. Price was slightly more expensive than what we had to pay at Chenggong Harbour, but not much of a choice…
When we arrived at Turumoan office, the briefing had already started as we were slightly late. The bubbly guide (as seen in photo above) introduced the cetacean family to us, which comprises of whales, dolphins and porpoises. She mentioned that there are several types of dolphins & whales found in the surrounding waters of Hualien Port, but the percentage of being able to spot whales was quite low compared to dolphins. Of course, she also emphasized on safety precautions aboard the boat & what we should look out for. Thereafter we were asked to board the mini-van again, which would bring us to the port for getting onto the boat.
The port was a quick drive away so without further ado, we set out to the ocean to seek the whale family on a drizzling morning. Disposable raincoats were provided aboard so we could wear them while standing on the deck to wait for the mammals to appear. Unlike my previous experiences in Bali & Hong Kong where we had to sail really quite far out from the pier before the adorable mammals could be sighted, we were pleasantly surprised when dolphins began knocking on the hull of the boat barely 10 min out.
Everyone aboard the boat was really excited as we could feel the dolphins right below as well as surrounding the boat, except for a few ladies who looked very seasick. I guess this was probably their first time on a small boat (about 20 odd passengers) riding on occasional waves. Frankly, despite the drizzle & breeze, I thought the sea was quite calm compared to the time I took the cruise out from Bruny Island. Dolphins were aplenty throughout the next half an hour or so of our journey. Here are some of the better photos of dolphins we managed to capture, using continuous burst shots.
After about half an hour, we couldn’t really see any more dolphins. Most passengers decided to return to the seats since there was nothing much to marvel at, except the mystical mountain range hiding behind the sea of clouds. I stood out in the rain for quite a while to soak in the beautiful sight before retreating back to the sheltered sitting area. Although the guide was explaining to us the different types of dolphins seen on the upper deck of the boat, I couldn’t really hear her properly & hence do not really know how many types of the cetacean family we managed to spot. However, I think there were at least 2 types, the Monk dolphin (the 1 we took the closest shot of) and Fraser’s dolphin.
I had expected the cruise to last at least 2 hours, but it soon turned back to the port about an hour out at sea. Before we knew it, the boat docked at the port just slightly 1.5 hours after we set off. Naturally, I was somewhat disappointed because this was the shortest dolphin cruise I had ever been on yet not exactly that cheap. The consolation was we spotted a lot of the adorable dolphins soon after departing. So I guess it was still better than nothing after all. 😉
Ending this post with a photo of the Turumoan boat docked at Hualien Port as we disembarked…