The Gaomei Wetland (高美濕地), also known as the Gaomei Wetland Preservation Area (高美濕地野生動物保護區), is located on the south of the estuary of Dajia River (大甲溪) in central Taiwan’s Taichung City.
It is an eco-friendly wetland with an elevated walking platform that stretches into the open sea. The wetland is one of the most well-known wetlands in Taiwan and attracts numerous tourists from home and abroad every year.
The Gaomei Wildlife Conservation Area was established on September 29, 2004 after it was approved by the Council of Agriculture of the Executive Yuan earlier that year. It was designated as one of the Wetlands of National Importance (國家級溼地) by the Ministry of Interior in 2007.
Watch the following video of the Gaomei Wildlife Conservation Area:
According to an online survey conducted by a leading Japanese travel agency, H.I.S., in 2016, the Gaomei Wetland was the most popular tourist destination that Japanese tourists wanted to visit that fall, followed by Germany’s Schloss Neuschwanstein (New Swanstone Castle 德國新天鵝堡). It was also referred to as a place that people should visit at least once in their lifetime.
The wetland was once a popular beach during the Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). It was open to the public in 1932, but closed in 1976 due to serious sedimentation induced by the completion of a rockfill embankment constructed by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the North Embankment of Port of Taichung (台中港) constructed in the 1970s.
Covering an area of 1,733 acres (701.3 hectares), Gaomei Wetland is a mix of mud and sand. It is a famous habitat for a diverse number of birds, fish, crabs, invertebrates, and plants. According to data released by the Taichung City Government, 148 bird species in 41 families (including 15 protected species), 33 crab species in 7 families, 5 shellfish species in 5 families, and 13 fish species in 13 families inhabit the wetland area. This includes black-faced spoonbills (黑面琵鷺) and Yunlin Bolboschoenus planiculmis (雲林莞草), which is an endangered plant in the sedge family.
The wetland consists of three zones. Extending outward 400 meters from the embankment, with an area of 260 acres (105.2 hectares), the Core Zone (核心區) is the area designated for the preservation of Yunlin Bolboschoenus planiculmis (雲林莞草). The Buffer Zone (緩衝區) has an area of 65.5 acres (26.5 hectares), which extends 100 meters from the Core Zone. With the winding elevated walking platform extending outward 500 meters from that embankment, the Sustainable Development Zone (永續利用區) covers an area of 1,407 acres (569.6 hectares).
Among the three zones, only the Sustainable Development Zone is opened to the public, where visitors can either walk or sit on the platform to see thousands of fiddler crabs (招潮蟹) and amphibious mudskippers (彈塗魚) running around. It is also fascinating to enjoy the soothing sea breeze and watch the spectacular sunset against the orange clouds at dusk or to appreciate the vast expanse of the largest group of Yunlin Bolboschoenus planieulmis (莞草) in Taiwan.
Gaomei Wetlands is also a popular location for birdwatching, as migratory birds can be seen on the grassy and muddy tidal flats throughout the year. If you are lucky enough, you may spot some endangered black-faced spoonbills and other rare and valuable species.
Another feature of the Wetland is the Gaomei Lighthouse (高美燈塔), located just outside of the Gaomei Wetland. Officially opened to the public in 2014 after an extensive renovation, the octagonal concrete tower rises 34.4 meters high and is topped with a light reaching to 38.7 meters. It is the only lighthouse painted with red and white stripes among Taiwan’s 36 lighthouses and is one of 10 lighthouses that are open to the public.