Taiwan Photo Journey
Island endemics, great food, and amazing culture.
Taiwan is one of the world’s most underexposed ecotourism destinations. The Taiwanese explore their island in droves, but westerners tend to think of it as a concrete megalopolis with little wilderness. Nothing could be further from the truth. 60% of the original forest cover remains, making Taiwan one of the wildest and least altered lands on Earth—a stark contrast to many of its neighbors. Despite its tiny size, the towering mountain ranges that dominate its spine are tall and spectacular. Lying on the tropic of cancer, the coastal lowlands are distinctly warm and muggy, and as the peaks reach up towards 13,125 ft. (4000m), concentric vegetation bands give way to temperate coniferous forest and alpine tundra, giving the island amazing habitat diversity. In addition to stunning landscapes, Taiwan boasts friendly people, stunning culture, and a cuisine that is second-to-none. All visitors, no matter what their particular bent, are in for a great experience. The wild interior holds some high quality endemic birds, including two pheasant species, as well as a host of laughingthrushes and the snazzy Flamecrest. Added to the wealth of resident birds are a suite of migrants that occupy the island on passage between Siberia and tropical Asia from September to March. In addition, many of the birds are tame and are easily photographed, making it a dream Asian photography destination. Asian birds are notoriously hard to get pictures of, but not in Taiwan!
This tour begins in Taipei, and after visiting the city’s cultural and natural highlights, including the cherry-blossom-festooned Yangmingshan NP and Taoist Longshan Temple, we head to the amazing Dashuashan area, a veritable bird photographer’s Disneyland. Photographers have done an incredible job of making some of Taiwan’s most spectacular and skittish birds remarkably tame here. First and foremost amongst these are the magical pheasants. Both the white-backed Swinhoe’s and the regal Mikado are regular at stakeouts along the road. Camera setups are easy, and the birds themselves are bold and unafraid. Fruiting Idesia trees are another phenomenon we hope to encounter, with up to 15 bird species gorging themselves on their photogenic red berries. Moving into central Taiwan, we will visit broadleaf woodlands seeking opportunities to photograph Taiwan Yellow Tit, Steere’s Liocichla, Taiwan Barwing, and the sensational Taiwan Blue Magpie. Later we travel via the highest road pass in Taiwan in order to search for the highest-altitude endemics, including Taiwan Laughingthrush and Collared Bush-Robin. After traversing Hohuanshan, we travel on Taiwan’s most scenic road and through one of Asia’s seven natural wonders, Taroko Gorge. This winding journey through vertical marble cliffs along the side of a deep, steep-sided gorge is not to be missed, and we will make many photographic stops as we progress. Traveling down Taiwan’s East Coast to the incredible wetlands in Tainan is likely to give us many more bird and scenery stops. Once there we will enjoy the stunning spectacle of thousands of wintering shorebirds and waterfowl at this internationally important site for wetland birds. Our main quarry will be the rare and endangered Black-faced Spoonbill; however, many scarce and amazing shorebirds and waterfowl are worthy of our photographic efforts here, including Asiatic Dowitcher, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Gray-tailed Tattler, and Saunder’s Gull. The tour ends back in Taipei.