Tao people give tips to visitors on Taiwan's offshore Orchid Island for flying fish season

The flying fish season for the Tao indigenous people kicked off in March and will last through June

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The flying fish festival and the fishing season have drawn hundreds and thousands of tourists to the Orchid Island over the years (Source: CNA)

The flying fish festival and the fishing season have drawn hundreds and thousands of tourists to the Orchid Island over the years (Source: CNA)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The flying fish season has kicked off in March on Taiwan’s outlying island, Orchid Island, and local residents from the Tao (達悟) indigenous people have some tips for tourists during their stay on the island in order to avoid bringing bad luck to local fishermen.

The flying fish season is the busiest time of the year for the Tao, who live in six villages on Orchid Island (also known as Lanyu) off the coast of Taitung County in the southeast of Taiwan.

However, since the Tao people’s traditional practices come with a variety of taboos, the Lan An Cultural and Education Foundation, a local organization dedicated to promoting the indigenous culture, has produced guidelines for tourists to prevent them from violating the norms on the island.

Tourists should not randomly touch the chinurikuran and tatara, two types of fishing boats local people use to catch fish, said Maraos, president of the foundation.

Made with more than a dozen types of wood and adorned with beautiful patterns in bright colors, the fishing boats always attract tourists to take pictures with them. Yet touching the chinurikuran or tatara without permission will bring bad luck to fishermen, according to Maraos.

It is also prohibited to trespass the backyard of houses where local residents hang and dry their flying fish. It is another taboo considered jinxing the fisherman’s luck, added Maraos.

Due to the isolation of the island, the Tao people have been able to keep their traditional culture fairly intact for generations, including the underground stone houses, the fishing boat, as well as rituals and ceremonies.

Over the years, the fishing season, which entails various ceremonies, has drawn hundreds and thousands of tourists to the small island every year from March to June to experience traditional indigenous culture.

In addition to the two taboos visitors are most likely to commit without awareness during the fishing season, it is advised that visitors should not give tangerines to fishermen or ask about their fishing journeys before they set sail to the sea, since they consider such actions will negatively affect their chances of catching fish, according to the foundation.

Maraos said the island welcomes visitors from around the world, but conflict and misunderstanding sometimes occur when modern tourism meets with a traditional tribal lifestyle. That is why the foundation has printed flyers for travelers to get a better understanding of the beauty of the island, as well as the traditional customs and practices of the Tao people.