The eco-destination series continues with a summary of Ilha Formosa, or Beautiful Island, as the Portuguese explorers first called Taiwan when they discovered it in the early 16th century. Taiwan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. However, in contrast to the media images typically seen in the west, Taiwan is also distinguished for its steep mountains, beaches, national parks, lush forests and hot springs.

Taiwan lies between Japan and the Philippines where the tropical and subtropical zones converge. Surrounded by the Philippine and Southern Seas, the country features a full range of climates and terrains from the tropical to the frigid. The variations in weather, geology, and elevation also give Taiwan a richness of flora and fauna.

In recent years, the Taiwanese people collectively determined that the increasing severity and frequency of hazardous storms coupled with historically poor land development practices were threatening Taiwan’s economy, people, and mere existence. Subsequently, they have embarked on an ambitious plan to become a green jewel for Asia. Today, Taiwan boasts one of the world’s highest recycling rates (45.49% in 2009), an efficient waste management system, and a wide range of wildlife refuges and national parks that help to attract millions of nature tourists each year.

Taiwan has some of the highest peaks in East Asia, which collectively have created a great network of hiking and skiing trails. Additional ecotourism activities for this versatile nation include bird watching, kayaking, whale watching, mountain biking and climbing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The best time to visit is from October to December when temperatures are a bit cooler and the likelihood of dangerous storms is low.

Some top ecotourism sites include:

Alishan – misty forests of giant cypresses and impressive sunrises at the center of the island; this area can only be reached by train

Kenting National Park – located at the extreme southern tip of the island, this park is famous for its beaches and lush vegetation

Sun Moon Lake– nestled at 2,500 feet in the mountains of Nantou County, this lake is famous for its clear sparkling blue water and picturesque mountain backdrop

Yushan (Jade Mountain) – at 12,966 feet, this is not only the highest mountain in Taiwan, but all of East Asia

Lalashan– located in one of the natural protection zones in Taiwan, Lalashan is an area that contains divine trees, which range from 500-2800 years old, and the No. 5 divine tree is reputedly even older than Confucius. Lalashan is also known for its peach trees and peach season (July – August) is also a beautiful time to visit

Taiwan’s explosive growth over the last couple of decades unfortunately led to massive consumption of coal and other fossil fuels. However, since 2002, Taiwan has made a concerted effort through government subsidies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. Programs include the production of energy from solar power, wind power and biofuels as well as the development of green urban spaces and bike paths.

In addition, a general sense of conservation has propelled many government programs to occur at once, including reforestation programs and wildlife protection programs that have set aside approximately 20% of its land for national parks, nature and forest reserves, and wildlife refuges.

Why a good choice for a family ecotour:

Taiwan is a very safe, out-of-the-ordinary eco-destination that offers families a number of nature activities in a compact area. Children will enjoy what is considered to be some of the best food Asia has to offer as well as the excellent (and fast) public transportation options that easily take travelers to all points of the country. Whether it’s exploring vibrant Taipei or observing the thousands of migratory birds that make the west coast of Taiwan their temporary home, Taiwan offers travelers a unique eco-experience.

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