Swimming in Winter?
I arrived in Keelung at the start of winter in Taiwan (January), and I was told that it would be too cold to swim in the ocean just outside of my window (more or less). I, of course, felt an inconsolable sadness after hearing this as one of my favorite hobbies was to swim with aquatic creatures big and small.
Heping Island Park’s special swimming pools
But on my first visit to Heping Island Park (on Heping Island, at the South West entrance of Keelung’s Harbor), I noticed the swimming pools built right next to the shore, with canals letting the ocean’s water in but not its strong waves. I, of course, dipped my hand in the water and to my surprise, it was warmer than expected! I also noticed with excitement the many schools of fish swimming in the pools.
With a renewed sense of adventure, I went back to the park on the next sunny day, this time with my snorkeling goggles, swimming trunks, and water shoes, and it did not disappoint! There are 2 pools at the park, one almost olympic sized and the other one much smaller. There’s also a kid’s wading area with a soft sandy bottom, and even a section where you can swim with your dog! You can rent lifejackets for yourself and your four-legged companion!
Snorkeling with only a few locals
The water temperature is a balmy 20C or as I call it “1hr” (as in 1hr after which the cold becomes unbearable and one must get out! Disclaimer: I have slightly more blubber than the average person, so I might be better insulated from the cold than most).
In winter you will only find a few locals (mostly middle aged and senior men) swimming laps in the pools or chatting with the lifeguards, so you might have the pools almost to yourself. I was especially keen on checking out the fish, and I loved every moment of it. The Largescale Mullets (Planiliza macrolepis), a large fish that you might see for sale at the Keelung Fish Market, will surround you as you snorkel around the pool, and you can even see a puffer fish or two! But most of the smaller fish concentrate in the canals surrounding the pools, using the rocks in this area as artificial reefs. You will be amazed by the variety and number of fish found here. You probably won’t see this many fish until you go to a real coral reef.
But be careful around the canals as the concrete walls are rough to the touch, and there might be sea urchins lurking between the rocks and the concrete. You’re also required to wear rubber boots (or any shoes that you don’t mind getting wet) to swim because of said urchins. But I did not see many sea urchins, and the bottom of the pools are made of soft sand. The pools are at least 2m deep, and you can only swim when the green flag is up and the lifeguards are on duty, so you’ll be safe. Oh, and one last thing, diving or wearing large flippers (over 30cm long) are not allowed in the pools so as not to disturb the fish and their habitats.
What you can do after swimming at the Heping Island Park?
The indoor shower area is also very spacious and clean. For NT$10 you can have a cold 5min shower and NT$20 for a hot one. Soap is not included. After you rinse off the salt from the swim, you can hike and visit the many geological wonders of the island park. It’s a very nice place for a sunny day in Keelung!
More Information of Heping Island Park
The park’s entrance fee is NT$120, and you can get there by taking bus #101 from Keelung downtown across the K-hotel at Yiyi Rd.
Hope to see you swimming with me and the fish there someday!