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If you have any questions about my tours or require further information, I am always happy to hear from you. Feel free to contact me by email or phone.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Trebrown Farm, Horningtops, Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 3PU. UK.

Email:
Telephone: 01503 240170
(International +44 1503 240170)

Taiwan - Birds and Botany Expedition 2019

Taiwan has one of the highest concentrations of endemic birds and plants in Asia. This is first and foremost a birding tour with the added interest of also plant hunting for many of Taiwan's rarest plants in natural habitats. I've been studying Taiwan plants for over 20 years I can't not talk about them!

PLEASE NOTE: This is an Expedition to Taiwan and therefore involves sleeping five interspersed nights in hammocks in wilderness locations and also some (optional) slightly more difficult hiking. (Please see my other Taiwan Tour if you'd rather not sleep in hammocks).

Nature Expeditions is the only tour operator in Taiwan offering overnights in the wilderness. Fewer nights in hotels means this is also much less costly than other Taiwan tours. Also note the tiny group-size of only 6 people!

Price: £2,720.00 (GBP) per. person
Single supplement: £250
Current Exchange rate guide:
£2,720 GBP = $3,513 USD or €2,420 EUR

Fri 26 Apr 2019 - Wed 08 May 2019 (5 places left)

  • 13 days, 12 nights (5 in hammocks).

Taiwan lies 180 km off the southeastern coast of mainland China, a tobacco-leaf-shaped island approximately 400 km long by 120 km wide lying right on the Tropic of Cancer. The human population lives in only ⅓ of the western side of the island. The remaining ⅔ contains rather a lot of wilderness. The island has the largest number and density of high mountains in the world. There are 286 mountain summits over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level. The mountains are this tall because, like the Himalayas they are very young and formed by being thrust-up from the sea-bed due to the Manilla plate crashing into China’s continental margin.

The mountains are home to some quite spectacular animals like the Asiatic black bear, Chinese pangolin, Red and white giant flying squirrel, Yellow-throated marten, Masked palm civet, Leopard cat and the now thought to be extinct Formosan clouded leopard. But due to the terrain, mammals other than the Formosan rock macaque, Reeves's muntjac and the odd Taiwan serow are difficult to see in the wild. However, due to the young age of these mountains and their geographical isolation Taiwan boasts one of the highest concentrations of endemic birds in Asia and with many migrants passing through. Furthermore the birds are easy to see.

Taiwan is also a wonderland for botanists with new species being found every year. It’s difficult to know where to start with regards to the diverse plants of Taiwan, I’ve been studying them for over 20 years, but to use ferns for example Taiwan, with over 600 species of fern has more than any other place on the planet. Emphasising the reason this tour is focused on both birds and plant hunting.

During the expedition we shall concentrate on the central mountain massif of Taiwan, Lanyu Island and the wetlands of the southwest coast. To make the expedition easier we will try to spend, where possible alternate days in hammocks and hotels, which means you get to stay out in the wilderness to take full advantage of the evening and early morning for watching wildlife that most people never get to see, but the following night is in a comfortable hotel where you can freshen up.

Itinerary

PLEASE NOTE: Itineraries are for guidance only. Programmes may vary depending on weather and wildlife conditions. Flexibility is paramount for high elevation expeditions.

Day 1


Arrive Taipei - International arrivals in Taipei land in Taoyuan airport which is 43 km from our hotel in Taipei City. There are regular buses to Taipei. I highly recommend arriving a day or so early to overcome any jet-lag you may have, but if you arrive on the day and if you arrive in the airport before 13:30 local time I can collect you from the airport as I pass through. The start time of the tour is 15:30 hours, meeting in the lobby of the hotel where we have brief introductions before getting straight out looking for birds. We will be walking out around some of the city parks to see the Malayan Night Heron and possibly Black-crowned Night Heron, Taiwan Barbet, Taiwan Scomitar-Babbler, Chinese Bulbul, Japanese White-eye and Grey Treepie all before dusk when we will return for dinner.

Accommodation: Comfortable city hotel with breakfast.

Day 2


Coastal headland & Geo Park, then to Yilan paddy fields and lowland forest - There's an opportunity for those who want to walk the Taipei parks again in the early morning before leaving the hotel to head for the coast and the chance to find some migrants. Yeliu Geo Park is popular with Chinese tourists all looking at the rock formations. We will quickly leave them behind as we walk out to the promontory devoid of sightseers. Here we may find Brown Shrike, Plain Prinia, Blue Rock Thrush, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler and Pacific Reef Egret. Overhead there are the occasional Peregrine falcon and Crested Serpent Eagle. Looking out to sea we stand a chance to see whales and dolphins from the headland. There are 20 species of whales and 11 species of dolphin in Taiwan waters, though only a few can be seen from the mainland and of those the only one I usually see is the Risso's dolphin. We then drive down the southeast to Yilan where we can stop a while to view birds in the paddy fields before making wild camp in hammocks in lowland forest, which is a good location for seeing Taiwan serow, Taiwan Blue Magpie and the newly discovered Yilan banana.

Accommodation: 1 night in hammocks in lowland forest.

Days 3-4


Mountain driving with frequent stops then 2 nights at Dasyueshan - We will wake to the dawn chorus, with lowland birds all around us and maybe the odd Taiwan serow walking through the forest. We have quite a long day's driving ahead. Not because it's a long way but because the road over the mountains is slow and winding. After we've made our own breakfasts we have time for a short walk before we set off. The first 74 km leg can be done in 2h 14 min., but we'll take longer due to frequent stopping to see what we can see. The next leg of the journey is a 2h dash down the freeway. Then the last leg is 36.3 km, 1h 15 min. (a good 2h for us), a tortuous ascent back up into the mountains to the Forest Recreation area of Dasyueshan at 2,250 m. We'll stop at km 23 on the way which is a regular site for Swinhoe's Pheasant and Taiwan Hill Partridge. Then stop again at km 47 which is an good spot to see the Mikado pheasant. We're staying up here for 2 nights which will greatly increase our chances of seeing most of the birds you've come to Taiwan to see. The bird list should read something like this: Mikado Pheasant and the gorgeous Swinhoe’s Pheasant, the secretive Taiwan Partridge, Taiwan Bamboo Partridge, the beautiful Collared Bush Robin, Sombre Bush Robin, the tiny Flamecrest, White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Barwing, the beautiful Yellow Tit, Taiwan Rosefinch and Taiwan Bullfinch. In the forested foothills we should see Black-necklaced and Taiwan Scimitar Babblers.

Accommodation: 2 nights in a forest lodge.

Day 5


Day of mountain driving then overnight at high elevation wilderness - The main cross-island road (Highway 8) across the centre of Taiwan is permanently closed due to earthquake damage which means we have a much longer detour to make via Nantou. So we have a choice this morning - stay in Dasyueshan for an hour or two to catch anything we may have missed or visit Sun Moon Lake in the very centre of Taiwan, or both! We will then proceed to drive over the central mountain spine of Taiwan at the Hehuan mountain pass, at 3275 m the highest road in East Asia. We may also have time at the end of the day for a short hike to look for Alpine Accentor and the uncommon and furtive Golden Parrotbill.

The objective is to spend a night in the hammocks at high altitude in the forest during the descent on the other side of the pass before heading down to the east coast tomorrow.

Accommodation: 1 night in hammocks in highland forest.

Day 6


A slow day of mountain descent and coastal driving - Today, after what would have been a chilly night on the mountain we drop down to the east coast through the awesome marble cliff scenery of the Taroko Gorge to the hot and humid coastal lowlands where we will focus on Styan’s Bulbul, Black-necklaced and Taiwan Scimitar Babblers, Taiwan Hwamei and the superb Red Oriole. We may have time to hike to see the rare and prehistoric Cycad trees (Cycas taitungensis).

Accommodation: 1 night in comfortable hotel.

Day 7


Catch the boat for 1 night on Lanyu Island - Our next destination will offer a striking contrast to what we have seen so far, the flora and fauna of the island of Lanyu is that of the Philippines, the climate is tropical and the island's facilities are not so well developed. The island holds a series of special birds including Lanyu Scops Owl, Taiwan Green Pigeon, Philippine (Brown) Cuckoo-dove, Japanese (Black) Paradise-flycatcher, Brown-eared Bulbul and Lowland White-eye. The 46 square kilometre island is 65 km east of the southern tip of Taiwan and about 110 km north of the Batan Islands of the Philippines. To get there requires 3h by boat, this will give us an opportunity to see Humpback whales, dolphins, with Streaked and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters being the most realistic targets and Bonin Petrel, Bulwer's Petrel and Swinhoe's Storm-petrel requiring a large slice of luck.

You now have a choice of what to do. Most other bird tours to Lanyu stay close to the small road that encircles the island, and you can see pretty much all the birds from there. Most of my botany work over the last 10 years has been in the steep forested interior of the island and you now have the opportunity to hike in to the rain-forest with me and sleep in hammocks for 1 night or stay in a guest house. I'll deliberately choose a guesthouse that is within 2 km of the Jung-Ai bridge and easy walking distance, an excellent place for birds especially the Lanyu Scops Owl at night. The group can divide into those who want to hike in and those that don't.

The main transport on the island is motor scooters, if you are able to ride one of these (they're not difficult) then bring along an international driving licence. It saves a lot of walking if some of us can ride and carry the others as pillion passengers. Like I said the hike into the jungle is steep and uncomfortable, I feel that anybody could do it if they are willing to push themselves a little. We have two choices of where I could take you in - the easier route is up to Tian-chi pond at about 300 m, the harder destination is to 552 m (the highest elevation on Lanyu) on Hong-tou mountain, where I can show you the orchids and the critically endangered Pinanga tashiroi palm tree endemic to the island and restricted at elevation.

Please note, bad weather or military manoeuvres in the area could cause cancellation of the Lanyu portion of the tour.

Accommodation: 1 night in hammocks or 1 night in simple guest houses.

Days 8 and 9


Return to mainland and head south - After returning to the mainland, we will check some wetlands for Chinese Egret before heading for the south of Taiwan at Kenting where we can hopefully recover from our tropical island excursions.

Kenting is a popular Taiwan holiday destination. You might enjoy a stroll along the night market in the evening. Where we're staying is at the top of the hill in the botanical garden of the forestry research station. An interesting place to walk around. While in the far south we'll visit the southerly most point for the chance of some migrants, and maybe check out Long Luan Tan Lake, which is part of Kenting National Park, could produce Ruddy-breasted Crake, White-breasted Waterhen, we may find a few lingering Black-faced Spoonbills.

Accommodation: 2 nights in comfortable rooms at the botany research station

Day 10


Back into the southern, drier mountains - The place I want to take you today is seldom ever visited by anyone, the cloud-forest here is the only place in Taiwan that the rare tree-fern Cyathea loheri can be found. To get there (if the road's open) we'll travel up through the drier forests of the south with spectacular views on the way.

Accommodation: 1 night in hammocks.

Day 11


To the Tsengwen river-mouth near Tainan - In the Tainan-Chiku area, we may find a few lingering Black-faced Spoonbills. Shorebirds are another big attraction of this part of Taiwan and the star attractions are likely to include the impressive Great Knot, Long-toed Stint, Broad-billed and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattler and even the rare Asian Dowitcher, Far Eastern Curlew or even the charming Little Curlew. More widespread species may well include Black-winged Stilt, Oriental Pratincole, Kentish, Little Ringed, Mongolian, Greater Sand, Pacific Golden and Grey Plovers, Red-necked Stint, Dunlin, Eastern Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Marsh, Wood, Terek and Common Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone and possibly Red-necked Phalarope.

Accommodation: 1 night in comfortable hotel.

Day 12


Visit Yushan National Park, the highest elevation of the tour - We will now head to the Tataka Recreation Area in Yushan National Park for additional high mountain specialities. Yushan National Park is known as 'the ridge of the roof of Taiwan'. From here we will be able to see Yushan Peak, also called Jade Mountain, which, at 3952 metres, is the highest mountain in East Asia. Birds to look for include Taiwan Bush-warbler as well as Yellowish-bellied and Brownish-flanked Bush-warblers, Golden Parrotbill, Eurasian Nutcracker, the shy Taiwan Cupwing, Collared Bush-robin, White-browed Bush-robin, the endemic subspecies of Island Thrush, and White-browed Shortwing.

Accommodation: 1 night in comfortable hotel.

Day 13


The last day of the tour, anything we can fit in before we depart - By late morning we will have to leave the high mountains and return to the lowlands to try for Fairy Pitta, and drive back north. Depending on what time people have their flights out. Today we head back up to Taipei, passing Taoyuan airport on the way up. Some people might want to depart at this time. Otherwise I might suggest we detour to Wulai, a stronghold of Taiwan Blue Magpie, Taiwan Whistling Thrush, Plumbeous Redstart, Rufous-capped Babbler and Brown Dipper. On return to Taipei the tour finally ends. Those who are staying in Taipei now depart. If anyone needs a lift to the airport I can drop them off as I pass by.

Additional Information

  • How comfortable are the hammocks?

    I can tell you now they are far more comfortable than you might imagine. I find them more comfortable than my bed and most would agree. The only irritating thing is that tropical evenings are hot but in the middle of the night it turns cooler. You'll need a 3 season sleeping bag or quilt (not provided). If you bring a sleeping bag then you'll use it un-zipped as it is difficult to climb into when in a hammock, a feather down quilt is best. The hammocks are fitted with a mosquito cover, and have an independent fly-sheet. They have a foot-well for optimal comfort, and they even have a shelf to store your clothes and gadgets. You can sleep in almost any position even curled-up or on your front. You can't fall out of them. They're easy and fast to string-up and take-down, and very light weight. I'm sure you'll find them more comfortable and easy to use than you think.

  • What camera kit should I bring?

    I'd like to say you won't require a really long (500-800mm) prime, as these are not a lot of use in the mountains, but they'd be very useful in the wetlands of the south, so I'll leave that open to you. Certainly a long lens that is hand-holdable like a 400mm. An array of focal lengths will always benefit the Taiwan photographer. A wide angle lens (24-70) and a longer zoom (70-200) will be ideal to cover most eventualities. A flash gun for the owls. It's best to not to weigh yourself down, so why not bring an airport style bag for all your kit and a smaller day bag, which you can decant equipment into throughout the day.

  • What about the food?

    For the most part we will eat traditional Chinese food in roadside restaurants (Chinese food is not the same as in the UK), vegetarian restaurants are common and we can choose where we want to eat. We will also carry boil-in-the-bag meals to be eaten when in wilderness areas.

  • Suitable clothing?

    Ensure you bring good quality footwear. I use a combination of walking shoes for driving and everyday use alongside strap-on sandals for other times. Day time temperatures can be as high as 35°C, but being a tropical island the humidity can be as high as 90% which can make it a very uncomfortable heat. Nights in the mountains can be cold and you should bring some warm clothes for when heeded. Bring one of those down-filled puffy jackets. It rains frequently in the mountains and the downpours can be torrential. Light clothing that is quick-drying is most suitable. An umbrella would be useful but don't bring plastic raincoats you will be wetter under the raincoat than if you didn't wear it. You'll need a change of clothes when camping out, typically you'll get wet through precipitation and perspiration when hiking through the rain-forest, it's nice to have fresh clothes to sleep in in the hammocks. All Nature Expeditions' clients are entitled to 15% discount at Cotswold Outdoor & Snow+Rock.

  • Collecting seeds and spore?

    For those of you who want to go plant hunting - If you want to collect seeds and spore then you'll need to let me know in advance so that collecting permits can be arranged. Some species you will not be allowed to collect.

Price: £2,720.00 (GBP) per. person
Single supplement: £250
Current Exchange rate guide:
£2,720 GBP = $3,513 USD or €2,420 EUR

Fri 26 Apr 2019 - Wed 08 May 2019
(13 days) (5 places left)

  • Duration
    • 13 days, 12 nights (5 in hammocks).
  • Location
    • All over Taiwan mainland + Lanyu Island.
  • Accommodation
    • Mostly (7) comfortable accommodations and (5) interspersed nights in hammocks in the wilderness.
  • Included
    • Hotel accommodation + breakfast.
    • All main meals.
    • All vehicle & ferry transportation.
    • Use of an insect-proof hammock tent.
    • All admissions & tolls.
    • Tips or gratuities.
  • Excluded
    • International flights.
    • Pre- and post- expedition travel arrangements.
    • Use of sleeping bag/quilt for hammock sleeping.
    • Items of a personal nature such as laundry charges.
    • Baggage, cancellation and personal insurance (which is mandatory).
  • Max Group Number
    • 6 people.
  • Fitness Level
    • Moderate. Easy walking for the most part. 1 or 2 optional steep hikes.
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  • The best Taiwan books to buy:
    Birds of East Asia
    Lonely Planet Taiwan Travel Guide
    Taiwan books at the Book Depository