After viewing 3 different types of lakes/ spring for the first half of our Hualien private tour, we proceeded to Danongdafu Forest Park, the highlight of our day. More accurately, I should say it was the highlight of the evening, because this was where we would enjoy a firefly night tour in the forest. 😅 I accidentally found out about this annual night event in Danongdafu, touted to be the largest & earliest place in Taiwan where one may see beautiful fireflies glittering in the dark forest. Since it was a special event & we would be in Hualien at the right time, this was definitely a must-do! 🤗
Located in Guangfu Township between the Central Mountain Range & Coastal Mountain Range in Huatung Valley, Danongdafu Forest Park is a manmade forest project started by Taiwan Forestry Bureau since 2001. Occupying an expansive plain of 1,250 hectares, Danongdafu is Taiwan’s first flat forest park, a massive size equivalent to 48 Da’an Forest Parks. Nearly 20 species of common low-altitude trees can be found in the vast forest, providing an invigorating lush green space where everyone can visit to recharge & relax.
3 weeks before the night tour, I had already registered online for the first session that would start around 6 pm. However, we arrived at the park before it got dark, so that we could still admire the beautiful forest views in daylight. Our first stop was the Totoro Tunnel pictured above. Apparently, the scenic area within the woods located outside Po district of Taichung is the better known Totoro Tunnel, but I thought this one in Danongdafu resembled the scene in popular animated Japanese cartoon “My Neighbour Totoro” too. 🙂 This was also where we would pass by later for the firefly tour.
I had expected the park to be quite crowded with visitors, since it was a weekend with the firefly night tour. But throughout the time we were here around 5 pm, there was only 1 cyclist who passed by (too bad couldn’t capture a nice shot of him zooming past)! Guess the park is so huge so there wouldn’t be any overcrowding issue. 😂 Really love the serene atmosphere & veritable fresh air here! 😉
Then, we made our way to the flower exhibition area. I didn’t really check which flowers were in season then, but it seemed that we had missed the full bloom period for most flowers. Only the bright sunflowers were still in bloom. 😐 Although we had already seen them in Luye Taitung [click for more lovely photos in this article: 7 Great Things To Do Other Than Hot Air Balloons In Luye Taitung], we couldn’t resist the temptation to cam-whore with these pretty flowers again. 😛
Thereafter, our tour guide Jing Jie told us that the equivalent of Taitung Chishang’s famous “Mr Brown Avenue” right at Danongdafu! Before the firefly tour began, she quickly drove us to the spot, which is actually near the main entrance of the park.
Unlike Chishang’s Mr Brown Avenue which is only open for cyclists, Hualien’s version of Mr Brown Avenue was open to vehicular traffic too. Since this was the way to get to the firefly night tour, we had to be extra patient & cautious when trying to take photos of the road to capture the exact feel.
Fortunately, we came at the right time when there were fewer cars. ✌ In case you haven’t seen or visited Chishang’s Mr Brown Avenue yet, please refer to my Chishang article from last year’s visit to compare the 2 sites: Taitung Private Tour Day 1 Part 2: Wandering Through Chishang’s Paddy Fields.
Now that you have seen both, do you feel the above road is a replica of Mr Brown Avenue? 😉 Personally, I feel it is only about 60% similar, because the real one cuts across paddy fields while Hualien’s version is flanked with taller trees & plants. 😛
Finally, after scrambling through the crowd to complete registration & payment, we got our tickets to the tour & were split into various groups. It was around 6.15 pm when the tour started & the sun had began to set.
As it wasn’t dark enough to see the fireflies yet, our guide took his time to provide more information about the forest park as we walked along the trail. In case you didn’t know, the male lighting bug glows to attract mates of the same species. Night time is time for romance in their world, & after mating, they would complete their life cycles. For the female lighting bug, she glows to lure a male so that he becomes her dinner. Oops, looks like you should never underestimate the female power. 😂
As seen in above collage (no enhancements made to the photos), it got darker from the top right to bottom left photo, & we could barely see anything in the bottom right photo except for some lights in the middle of the pic. That was actually a train passing through in the background. 😉
Danongdafu Forest Park is open only from 0800 to 1700 hours daily except Mondays. Only during the annual firefly viewing festival, usually from mid-March to mid-April, will the park extend its opening hours till about 9 pm. Flash photography isn’t allowed during the firefly tour so as not to alarm the fireflies. Prior to the tour, I had heard it would be extremely difficult to catch good shots of the twinkling fireflies, unless you use a DSLR camera with a stand. Unfortunately, both of us don’t have a DSLR. Attempts to take photos with our mobiles & powershot camera proved futile. In fact, the guide kept stopping me from using my powershot although I didn’t turn on the flash. I feel he thought the monitor light from my camera’s handheld night scene was the flash, that’s why he insisted I turn off the device. 😦
See the vast difference in the photo collage above, as I deliberately put my failed pic together with Jing Jie’s beautiful shots (using DSLR) when she joined the tour a few weeks later in April. Frankly, I don’t think we saw such a spectacular scene that night though, because just like what our guide had mentioned, the best time to catch a magical scene would be in April because of there would be more fireflies. So do take note if you plan to join the tour next year! 🙂
It was a long firefly night trail which ended almost 1.5 hours later. Before leaving the park, we collected a souvenir of our choice using the ticket, from a selection of local produce such as steamed bread & black rice. We thought that was the end of an eventful day in Hualien but Jing Jie had a surprise for us. 😉
Just a 10-min drive away was the now defunct Hualien Sugar Factory during the Japanese colonial period. Jing Jie drove us here because she thought the views around the old Japanese style houses, which served as the workers’ dormitory in the past here were pretty alluring. Indeed, with the illumination of the street & houses, the place looked beautiful. Thanks to Jing Jie, now we know! 🙂
It was a memorable evening visiting the first flat forest park in Hualien, Taiwan. Happy to have found this promising eco-tourist attraction nestled in picturesque Huatung Valley. Danongdafu is certainly a unique destination to check out for a relaxing day out in wonderful nature. 🙂