Geomundo Island (Hangul: 거문도 [Geomun-do]) is a beautiful and serene island in Jeollanamdo (South Jeolla Province) belonging to Yeosu City. It is surrounded by three more islands fantastic for exploration.
Geomundo Island (or Komondo) is also called Port Hamilton (more on this below), is part of Dadohaesang (maritime) National Park, one of the two national parks in the country with both sea and land areas.
The islands are about 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles). There are three main islands, the two larger ones, Seodo to the west (서도) and Dong-do to the east (동도), forming a harbor with the smaller island in the center. Once, there was a British naval base on this central island, Observatory Island (Godo, 고도) (1885-1887).
Godo (Geomun-ri) and Seodo (Seodo-ri) are connected by Samho Bridge, while Seodo and Dongdo by Geomundo Bridge (built in 2015).
Aside from hiking, sightseeing, and enjoying the scenery, you can also observe the local products, such as seaweed mugwort, mackerel, cuttlefish, among others.
They hold an annual festival wherein they promote local products, have presentations, and even hold fireworks.
Let me share with you some tips on why you want to travel to Geomundo Island.
Fundamentally, the island is serene, peaceful, and has fantastic scenery. The island itself is beautiful (trees, rock formations, nature, etc.), and the surrounding sights of the sea are amazing.
You can rent a bicycle to move around quickly; otherwise, you can hike leisurely as you please. There are no dangerous animals or anything threatening even to a lone traveler (a man or a woman, or other).
If you love the photos or scenes of white lighthouses, you will enjoy Geomundo. It has two of them at both ends of the island. You can spend some time at any of both lighthouses not only to take photos (Instagram or any) but also to explore the beautiful views of the islands and blue seawater of Dadohaesang National Park.
If you want to take a water adventure and explore specific places along with the islands, you can take a speed boat from Godo to explore around and see the islands' views from below, including the white isle, at least for an hour.
Yes, those are some things you can do and enjoy, but possibilities abound when you visit the island.
Where to Stay?
As of this writing, there are not many established facilities, such as hotels, except for overnight guest houses.
The British Imperial Navy gave the name Port Hamilton during the Victorian era to the present Geomundo Island. The islanders called it 'Bodo Haemoli' as they have known it since the beginning of time.
The British occupied Port Hamilton at the end of the 19th century when they realized that the Russian Empire was also gaining control in many regions.
Since there was no diplomatic agreement regarding the occupation on the island, the British Imperial Navy's occupation was illegal which lasted for two years (April 15, 1885 - February 27, 1887).
During the occupation, the living condition of the whole island was very simple, and people lived only on a day-to-day basis compared to the more commercialized places on the mainland.
Established early in 1905, Port Hamilton was established with the lighthouse as the key point of the British occupation of the island.
The British also used it as an intermediate port of call and a coastal artillery base. When they left the island, Japan took it over and used it as a fishing base but not as a naval base due to its small size.
Stories of Love and Death
A story is told that a British sailor died while falling in love with a local woman, a shaman. He died while trying to save the woman from drowning. Eerily, whenever a young woman is drowning, people say that the sailor's ghost would appear to save the woman.
Because of that legend, producers make tv dramas related to the tale but not so compelling and successful.
narrates twelve British sailors taking two boats heading towards Hamilton Port to have fun but accidentally drowned to their death. The distance between Godo and Seodo is only half a kilometer.
According to the survivor, Private Peter Ward, the eleven tried to swim for their lives but perished. Stories told indicated that they were not good swimmers and that their pockets were too heavy with coins that they sunk.
Some of the bodies were buried on Geomundo, while the others were sent home to Britain. You can still see the tombs at present.
The British Soldiers on Hamilton Island
Approximately there were less than 1000 British sailors stationed on Geomundo Island.
About 5 to 6 warships were stationed around the island during those two years.
The British soldiers were believed to be acting as gentlemen towards the locals. They pay wages to workers and even pay rent for using parcels of land.
The British Embassy in Seoul recognized the British presence in that place and time in history and started giving scholarships to Geomundo students since 2005, and maybe even until now.
Relatives of the dead sailors sometimes travel to the island to pay respects. Even Queen Elizabeth II tried to travel to the island, but the trip was canceled due to the busy schedule and distance.
Besides the British navy, the Russian navy and the Dutch also reached Geomundo Island but did not leave good impressions to the locals compared to the British, who were behaving as 'gentlemen' to them.
Geomundo Lighthouse is one of the ancient lighthouses in the Peninsula. It was built in 1905 on Suwolsan Mountain, south of Seodo Island.
It seems that the original lighthouse above is now so old that they built a new one just next to it. The new lighthouse is open to the curious public and travelers.
This new lighthouse has an observatory where you have the best standpoint to view the fantastic scenery surrounding your position. If you are physically capable of climbing up to the topmost level to enjoy the views and vast ocean.
Next to the lighthouse is a pavilion. This structure offers you a great space to relax and observe the surrounding from a different perspective than the lighthouse.
Also, you will find the Ministry of Marine and Fisheries office just behind the lighthouse.
When you have decided to travel and see the lighthouse, keep note that you will be threading on a non-paved road. So, it could be a little bit challenging to get there, especially when the weather is rough and the wind is strong.
This second lighthouse is un-managed, located north of Seodo Island. This one was built by the Japanese during their occupation of the Peninsula on Sangbaekdo Island in 1938.
Expect that this one is smaller than the Geomundo Lighthouse above. You will find natural sights, including old and dead trees around, making it a more nature-looking ambiance.
In the olden days, one could climb up to view the surroundings, but it's no longer allowed.
Just for fun...
Two stories are being told about the origin of the name, Baekdo.
The island is white, so it is called the white island (or 'baekdo' in Korean). The second story says that since there are 99 islands, the name 'baekdo' (100 islands) can be counted as the hundredth island to complete the number.
Geomundo Island belongs to Samsan-myeon, Yeosu-si (city), South Jeolla Province (Jeollanamdo).
By Train from Seoul
Take a train from Seoul to Yeosu City's train station.
From Yeosu City
Take a ferry from Yeosu Port, Narodo Port, and Nokdong Port to Geomundo Island. Unfortunately, the fast boat only transfers people twice a day.
The Nokdong to Geomundo is a car ferry and operates only once a day.
The Yeosu - Geomun ferry drops by at Narodo, Sonjukdo, and Chodo. It takes two hours and twenty minutes to reach from end to end.
By Bus from Seoul to Yeosu
Take a bus from Seoul to Yeosu Inter-city Bus Terminal, then transfer to a local bus for any of the ports you plan to take the fast boat for Geomundo Island.
If you need further information, please let me know. Thanks for reading.
Further Sources: https://namu.wiki/w