A volcanic island – formed of magma erupting, Lanyu (蘭嶼) has preserved its indigenous culture more than anywhere else in the country; Orchid Island indeed was not open to tourists until 1967. The relative isolation of Orchid Island has allowed the native Tao to better maintain their traditions, language and culture and the natural environment remains unspoiled.
It is a volcanic island of breathtaking natural beauty and is home to the country’s most isolated aboriginal tribe, the Tao, who are famous for their annual Flying Fish Festival.
The humid, rainy climate helped the thick rain-forest to grown providing with a countless variety of plant and animal life. Coral reefs are distributed around the island making one of the best place for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The natives of Orchid island are prevalently called “Yami” but the natives do not use the name “Yami” to refer to themselves; they call themselves “Tao” meaning “man” or “person”, “Tao no pongso” meaning “people of the island” or “Tao no Irala” meaning “people of Irala.”
Currently there are around 2,400 people permanently living on the island, with about another 2,000 living on the Taiwan mainland. The Tao people rely on the sea for survival, and much of their traditions and lifestyle is centered on fishing.
Another unique characteristic of the Tao people of Lanyu is their underground houses, the symbol of Tao people’s wisdom. The Yami constructed their homes like this for centuries as a way to protect themselves from typhoons and the summer heat. There are still a few traditional homes left in Yenyin Village on the east of the island and you can see a recreated underground home in the Lanyu Museum. The main house faces the ocean and is surrounded by steps built according to the land altitude. Only the roof is above the ground.
The balcony in front of the house is built with a roof but no walls. It is well ventilated and has a great view, often functioning as a social place for villagers gathering to rest and chat.
⇒ Going around:
By far the best option to move around Orchid Island is on scooter.
They can be rented for about NT$400-500 per day. Be sure to book your rental in advance, especially during summer weekends.
Accommodations in Lanyu are limited and there aren’t 4* or 5* hotels. You can mainly find B&B and simple local rooms.
⇒ Getting to Orchid Island
The only planes to and from Orchid Island are from Taitung on board of a tiny 16 seats plane.
There are 6/8 flights per day depending on the season, from about 8 AM to 4 PM.
The flight takes about 25 minutes.
Due to Orchid Island’s unpredictable weather, flights are often delayed or canceled.
Costs: around 3.000 TWD
⊗ Ferries: Ferries leave from Fugang Harbor 富岡, 6km north of Taitung City. The rough seas might be an issue for the sea sick ones. It will take around 2 to 3 hours. Schedule might be changed due to the weather conditions or sea tides.
There are also high-speed boats leaving from Houbihu Harbor in Kenting from April to September. The trip takes 2.5 hours each way, and costs 2300NT$ for a round trip ticket.
Typhoon season is normally around June to October. During summer break – from June to August – can be hard to book a hostel or airplane ticket. Winter is the less crowded season, but the water will be cold, there will be constant wind (with result in the cancellation of your flight or ferry), and it will rain more often.
IN ORDER TO RESPECT THE LOCALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT we ask you to KEEP A RESPECTFUL BEHAVIOUR.
Flying Fish Season tourist’s rules (February to June):
– Do not take photos or get near the fisherman;
– Do not touch or get into canoes. Boats are considered sacred and the ultimate human creation;
– Do not bring oranges to beaches or harbors or give oranges as gifts, since they consider such actions will negatively affect their chances of catching fish;
– Do not try to fish without asking locals when and where and avoid swimming and snorkeling in or near traditional fishing harbors; Better to always ask your hostel owner or other locals where it is okay to swim and snorkel.
– Do not fish for flying fish;
– It is prohibited to trespass the backyard of houses where local residents hang and dry their flying fish
– Do not take pictures of or enter any of the underground houses without permission;
– Do not visit schools when they are in session;
– Do not speak loudly or shout in public areas especially when villagers are performing traditional rituals;
– Do not touch or enter into traditional canoes;
– Do not disturb the ecology or habitat when snorkeling, hiking, etc.
– Do not bring any plants or animal parts with you when you leave the island;
– Do not harm or remove coral.