Daqiu Island is a small island in Matsu (Lienchiang County), Taiwan that is home to hundreds of wild Sika Deer, and is a "deer watching paradise.“ Once home to a small village, then ROC military base, this island is now home to only one man that takes care of the hundreds of deer on the small island. It is a worth while day trip for anyone visiting the Matsu Islands.
Thousands of years ago, stone aged peoples once inhabited the Matsu Islands, including Daqiu Island itself. These stone aged people later disappeared.
The Matsu islands were inhabited again around theSong Dynasty (990 - 1200 AD) by Chinese Fisherman, the descendants of whom still inhabit the islands today.
Daqiu Island literally means "Big Hill" in Chinese. This is because the entire island is one big hill.
Around 200 years ago, these fisherman started to inhabit Daqiu Island. At its height in 1970, the island had 45 households and 280 inhabitants.
Due to poor quality of life, over fishing, and inconvenient transportation, most the of the inhabitants slowly moved to other islands in Mastu or Taiwan.
In 1990, the last family on the island, surnamed Chen, moved off the island, leaving only soldiers and a military base as inhabitants.
In 1996, the military base on Daqiu Island closed down, leaving it an uninhibited ghost island.
In 2009, one man decided to move back to the island and start a tourist business based on the deer living on the island.
Currently there are regular ferry boats to Daqiu from Nangan during the summer, but in winter the boats must be chartered.
Why are there Sika Deer on Daqiu Island?
Sika Deer were originally raised in Matsu during the Chinese Civil War (1950-1970s) as a food supply for soldiers to eat. However the soldiers did not like deer meat that much, and as tensions with China eased, the practice was discontinued. The 13 deer that remained were sent to Daqiu Island in 1981 and left to become wild. Now there are around 200 deer living on the island.
When to go:
We recommend going In Spring to early Summer (April to June). If you go earlier it will not be so hot during the day, and you will be able to see the Blue Tear phosphorescent microbes in the water at night all around Matsu.
In the winter it is cold and windy, so we do not recommend going then.
How to get there:
Public Ferry from Nangan Fu'Ao Harbor (福澳港) (April to October):
350 NT round trip per person （Stops at Baisha Harbor in Nangan)
Nangan departure times: 9:50 AM, 1:30 PM, Daqiu departure times: 12:10 Noon, 3:40 PM
Trip takes about 20 minutes.
Public Ferry from Beigan Qiaozi Harbor (橋仔港) (May to October):
300 NT round trip per person
Beigan departure times: 8:30 AM, 2:30 PM, Daqiu departure times: 10:30 AM, 4:30 PM
Trip takes about 10 minutes.
Chartered ferries: Around 300 NT per round trip.
Ask your hostel in Beigan (like we did) or try the following phone numbers (in Chinese):龍福號娛樂漁船：馬祖北竿鄉塘岐村273-8號
Please see below:
We have been to Daqiu Island once in July of 2019. It was originally not even part of our plan in going to Matsu. We originally planned on going to Dongju or Dongyin Islands, but the short boat ride, lack of need to hire scooters, and wild deer enticed us. It ended up being the best part of the trip!
Originally I had everything planned out where we would ride our scooter to Baisha Harbor in Beigan and take the public ferry from there to Daqiu. But our hostel owner suggested we just take a chartered boat from the local harbor in Qiaozi Village, which we did. The chartered boat was more flexible in that we picked the time we wanted to leave, but the boat owner only gave us two hours to explore the island.
Some soldiers looking over Qiaozi Village. Most of Beigan is military bases (or at least that's what it seems like).
Along the ride came a father and son pair. Like them, we also bought some leafy sticks to feed the deer, 100 NT for a pile of leaves.
Our view as we left Qiaozi Village in Beigan.
Our boat captain gave us a map that we were supposed to return back to him at the end of the trip. By the end of the trip though it was covered in sweat.
The island consists of the village on the west, a fort on the very top, and an empty grassy peninsula on the north. The whole island is about 1 square KM. But it is steep and hilly, so it will still take considerable time to walk all around.
On the back of this map are the phone numbers for more chartered ferries, and of the only hostel on the island (which only has four rooms).
View of Beigan from the boat.
A military fort on Beigan.
Our fearless captain taking us to Beigan.
An ad for the boat itself.
A rig of Beigan, apparently to build a foot bridge between Daqiu and Beigan, which I have mixed feelings about. Maybe it will be completed before you go!
Saying goodbye to Beigan.
When we got to Daqiu it was hot, and this man was standing in the sun like it was the middle of January.
There is a small pavilion at the dock that you can wait at while your boat comes.
Some info about deer, such as don't touch them or get near them out of risk of being hurt or spreading disease.
Three deer could sense our presence from the get go.
Before we knew it they were at our heels begging for leaves.
These deer I'm sure just sit at the dock and wait for tourists to feed them.
They were not going anywhere until all the leaves in my hand were eaten.
They literally followed me everywhere, and all I could do is hand them all the leaves I had so they would stop following me.
Soon another boat was on its way.
More tourists landing on the island.
This is part of the old village, now taken care of by a single man who makes a killing off his hostel and baked chicken restaurant.
Three more boats arriving. In the distance is Dengdao, which is the closest island to China, and only soldiers are allowed.
The only temple on the island, dedicated to the White Horse King, who was king during the Han Dynasty and worshiped by Fujianese people.
Some old graves along the trail around the island.
More tourists piling in.
The forested area on the west side of the island is where most of the deer hang out. There are five deer in this photo.
In this forest we found a real unicorn, and here is the proof!
Steps leading to ancient graves.
Another deer on the path.
View of Dengdao Island.
On the back side of the island the landscape is mostly grassy, and it was super hot with no shade.
There is a nice concrete path that goes around the whole island. I would say that this place is wheel chair friendly.
A viewing platform on the northwest side of the island.
The path continues to wind on the north side.
More information about why you should not touch the deer.
The north peninsula of the island was more shaded and green, but we didn't have time to explore. From the peninsula, you can see views of Xiaoqiu, which is an uninhabited island north of Daqiu. Due to a toddler and hot sun, our pace prevented us from walking the entire island in two hours.
View to the east.
A deer resting in a pavilion along the trail.
The trail on the back side is steep, which makes for quite the workout in the hot sun.
At the very top of the island is a small park which is great for photo taking, like with this rock.
There is also a giant white staircase which is great for group photos. This place rests right next to the old army base, Daqiu Fortress.
Deer poop inside one of the abandoned bunkers. One could also call this place "Deer Poop Island."
A fake soldier guards the abandoned base.
A bridge now goes across an old moat in the ground.
More old bunkers peering through the woods.
Deer tracks left in the cement trail.
A deer poking around the ruins of the old village.
Another deer among the ruins.
A deer cuts in front of us.
A deer wanders among remnants of old stone houses.
Remnants of some stone walls.
What I am guessing was an ROC soldier's bathroom.
Decripit buildings mixed with the intact stone houses in the background.
The few stone houses still standing are maintained by the hostel owner, the island's only inhabitant.
Interesting use of an old urinal.
Fallen tree house. I have a feeling that some of the stones here were salvaged for other uses.
Backside of an old stone house.
One of the more interesting ruins here.
The sign above the door says "Fish Village 魚療"
"Develop the fishing industry, improve the livelihood of fisherman."
Too bad the fish populations here were depleted.
A deer sniffing around for food.
Chickens cooking for the delight of tourists.
Above are the only four "hostel" rooms on the island.
Deer and man living in harmony.
A deer taking a sip near the fishing harbor.
We had pretty much finished our boat tour, and it was time for us to leave. A few deer wandered over to the harbor too, probably still waiting for us to feed them.
Last view of the trail up to the island.
A deer sits at the pavilion, waiting for attention.
Ignoring all the signs I just saw, I too participated in the petting.
More deer finding some grub behind the fishing harbor.
Soon we climbed back into the boat to Beigan.
Last view of the fishing harbor.
Dengdao Island in the distance. It looks much bigger and more mysterious than Daqiu.
View of the abandoned village at Daqiu.
Landing area and beach at Daqiu.
Drifting away from the island.
Last view of Daqiu as we sailed back to Beigan.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out more of our adventures in Matsu soon to come.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.