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Paradise in the South China Sea

We stood on the beach at palm-fringed Yalong Bay, gazing out at the aqua water under puffy white clouds and anticipating a day at sea. Small wooden fishing boats rocked at anchor nearby. Out jumped Pirate Tang (Tang Yu), our handsome guide, and took us aboard.

We were looking forward to one of Sanya's many pleasures - a day at sea, enjoying the breeze and salty air, fishing, eating our catch, enjoying barbecue on a house boat and snorkeling with the brilliantly colored fish and corals we had only seen in aquariums.

Our day on Yalong Bay was a trip to be remembered.

Sanya City is at the southern tip of Hainan Province (Island) and the clean golden beach extends 7 kilometers around Yalong Bay; the clear waters are shallow, about 50 to 60 meters.

Locally it's called the No. 1 beach; annual average temperature is 25.5 degrees Celsius, water temperature is 22 to 25 degrees.

We got aboard Tang's small wooden boat, started up the motor and headed out to the middle of Yalong Bay.

Tang quoted the old saying, "If you give a man a fish, he will eat for day, but if teach him how to fish, he will eat for a lifetime."

"Now I'm going to teach you how to grab your lunch."

Tang brought out the fishing rods, lines and reels, baited the hooks and dropped the lines off side of the boat.

Other boats were out in the crystal-blue water, each on their own fishing trips, giving every boat plenty of room.

All the tourists, mostly city girls from Shanghai, were thrilled about catching fish, and also feeding the fish that came to surface.

"This is the first time I ever caught a fish by myself in my whole life," exclaims Shanghai Daily reporter Tan Weiyun, who reeled in a small fish, but benevolently tossed it back because it was too small.

Thanks to Pirate Tang, almost everyone landed a fish, but we tossed them all back; some people sat on the foredeck and dangled their feet in the water, enjoying the salty sea breeze.

After about two hours of fishing in the hot sun - hats, sunglasses and sun block definitely needed - the boat motored back to the houseboat for lunch.

A table was filled with fresh fruit of all kinds, like starfruit, dragon fruit, papaya and mangoes.

The lady who owns the houseboat served us from a huge pot of delicious seafood soup and rice. As we ate, we watched a musician perform fanciful tricks.

After two hours at sea, fruit and seafood soup wasn't quite enough, but at the back of the houseboat four handsome guys prepared barbecue, including fish, chicken, squid and meat kebabs. After a great lunch, and letting our tummies settle, we went aboard Tang's boat again, headed out and went diving - snorkeling with life jackets.

Pirate Tang and his mates brought out the gear and helped us put it on, and explained safety. Then, following Tang we jumped into the sea one by one.

I never ever saw such a beautiful sight with those lovely colorful fish swimming around me and the coral was so soft and shining.

I can't swim, but since I was wearing a life jacket I jumped in bravely and paddled around.

For city people, it was the experience of a lifetime. Cost per person for a day is 268 yuan (US$39).

Other fun

Sanya has other charms and popular destinations all year round.

Tianya Haijiao or "End of the Earth and Corner of the Sea" is a rocky, silvery beach at the foot of Maling Mountain, 24 kilometers from downtown Sanya. Boulders of strange shapes stand along the beach. Two rocks bear the inscriptions "Tianya" and "Haijiao" - which refer to lovers' oaths of fidelity.

According to a legend two lovers at this spot vowed eternal love and were transformed by gods into two huge rocks facing the ocean. The place is popular for lovers to declare their devotion.

Luhuitou Park lies south of Sanya and when visitors climb to the top they see three rock formations resembling three deer facing the sea at 274 meters. The spot offers a sweeping view of Sanya City.

Wuzhizhou Island in the northern part of Haitang Bay is a paradise of diversity. It's 30 kilometers from the city center.

The tiny island, shaped like a butterfly, is 1.48 square kilometers and the coastline is only 5.7 kilometers long.

It contains more than 2,700 kinds of native tropical plants and trees, including rare orchids and ferns. The water is always around 25 degrees Celsius and the quality is pure because the area used to be part of defense zone where no polluting commercial development was allowed.

Water sports

Sanya is a great place for water sports, including sailing, wind surfing, water skiing, scuba diving and even sea-bottom walking. Prices depend on season and travel agency or hotel. Here are a few options:

Sail boarding: Board, sail and training provided.

Tourist submarine: A 50-minute ride takes travelers as deep as 5 meters to the shallow bottom of Yalong Bay to see colorful marine life.

Semi-submarine cruise: A 60-minute ride takes visitors just below the surface at less than 2 meters down.

Snorkeling: With mask and snorkel dive down to see for yourself; you get a coach.

Scuba diving: Go as deep as 15 meters and spend some time on the sea floor. There's also a night option in which you carry your own light and see different creatures.

Sea bottom scuba walking: A 20-30 minute stroll lets you mingle with marine life.


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