Taiwan is often thought of as a single island, when in reality Taiwanese territory encompasses dozens of small islands, with the primary island being labelled as Taiwan. The majority of the island is covered in mountainous and heavily forested terrain with nearly 300 individual peaks within the mountains. The highest mountain on the island is Yushan (Jade Mountain) and it stands at 3,952 metres above sea level. The mountainous terrain is as a result of the islands location sitting on that of a fault line between two tectonic plates and was primarily formed 4 to 5 million years ago. The mountains dominate the centre of the island and along the East coast, leaving the remainder of the island relatively low lying and hosts the majority of the population of the island.
Taiwan is a very interesting place for weather, and despite the countries small size coming in at 36,193 square meters, which situates it rough size between Belgium and the Netherlands. It has an extensive coastal line at 1,139 kilometres. Despite the small size it can experience a wide range of varying temperatures and weathers. This occurs for several reasons, not only is it located 180km’s East of any significant land mass but it’s also bisected by the Tropic of Cancer. This means that sub tropical weather can ravish the norther and central parts of Taiwan which traditionally sees more moderate temperatures but higher levels of rainfall particularly within the winter months. The southern parts of the Island have much higher temperatures, but much less rainfall.
The climate is most heavily impacted by the East Asian Monsoon which is an air flow that carries moist air from the far reaches of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean to Eastern Asia. The East Asian Monsoon doesn’t just affect the climate of Taiwan, it affects over a third of the population and includes Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, The Phillippines, Indochine, and most of mainland China. Most of the time the East Asian Monsoon is predictable with south easterly winds during winter (November to March) brining high levels of rainfall within the North East of the island, leaving the rest of the island relatively dry and sunny. The Summer Monsoon as a result of the predictable nature of the East Asian air flow, will generally occur at the beginning of May and will account for roughly ninety percent of the total rainfall for the south of the region. The average rainfall for Taiwan is roughly 2,600mm per year.
The geography of Taiwan is diverse and has been greatly affected by human settlement and expansion. Before human expansion there was a range of vegetation on the island which encompassed tropical rainforest in the low laying regions, to temperate forests, boreal forests and alpine plants with the increasing altitude. Since human expansion the majority of the low lying hills in the Western and Northern regions have been cleared for extensive agricultural use – this occurred in the 17th and 18th century with the arrival of Chinese Migrants. Industrialization has also affected the local flora and fauna – prior to industrialisation the mountainous region of Taiwan held several endemic species and sub-species. Post industrialisation many of these animals have since become extinct or critically endangered. In an effort to curb the destruction, nine national parks have been set up to showcase the diverse flora and fauna of the region of the archipelago set.
Kenting National park was established on January the 1st in 1984 and it is the oldest national park in Tawian as well as being the most southern national park on the island. It is one of the most popular parks with tourists having hosting nearly six million visitors in the year of 2016. It is most known for its uplifted coral reefs, a moist tropical forest and extensive marine ecosystems. This park has 15 species of mammals, 310 varieties of birds, over 200 hundred butterflies and nearly 60 reptiles and amphibians. It also hosts the Eluanbi lighthouse which was completed in 1883 following several American and Japanese shipwrecks in the 1860’s. It is famed for being one of the rare examples of being a fortified lighthouse. The lighthouse stands at a height of 21 metres. The light flashes every 10 seconds and has a visibility range of over 50kms.
The island is over 50% forest and once had a range of natural resources such as gold, copper, natural gas, marble and limestone. With human settlement and expansion the natural resources on the island have been virtually depleted. Thanks to human preservation initiatives, environmental regulations the forestry resources are recovering slightly. The remaining forests on the island are not used for timber production due to these regulations and high productions costs.
In regards to determining the best time of the year to visit, it can be tricky and unpredictable. Summer, generally being the most traditional time to visit somewhere, can make the island uncomfortably hot for tourists and visitors so more people will generally come within the autumn and Spring. It should be noted that Taiwan does have a typhoon season which comes into effect in late summer, and this should be noted when it comes to travelling to Taiwan.
Whilst it might sound tempting to visit during the Chinese New Year celebrations, remember that prices across the island will sky rocket, and since Chinese New Year is a rather big celebration within Taiwanese culture many businesses and services will shut down over the holiday period.
If you’re visiting Taiwan and wondering what kind of clothes to take – you’ll need to take a mix of light and medium weight clothing with rain gear. Due to the strict nature of some of the Buddhist temples it is strongly advised not to wear revealing clothing though lightweight pants and a shirt will always be considered an acceptable form of clothing for both sexes. Even if you’re not normally a walker, you should also take along a pair of sturdy walking shoes - even if you’re intending on going trekking along the islands amazing walking trails, there are some shorter trails nearby some of the national attractions and parks that are quite worth it.