A short distance off Taiwan’s northeastern corner, there’s a hilly island that can be seen for miles around. Look out towards the Pacific from any spot along this stretch of coastline, and your eyes can’t help being drawn to it. This is Guishan Island, a piece of land whose name in English means “Turtle Mountain Island”. And though its area is just short of 3 km square, there is a lot about it to attract the attention. It’s the site of Taiwan’s only active volcano. It’s biologically rich, a place where species from different climate zones meet, and some species that can never be found in Taiwan itself regularly appear. Also, the island beautiful. There are eight vantage points in particular, it’s said, that will stop visitors in their tracks.
But as intriguing and scenic as the island might be, it’s a place that even many people living nearby have never seen up close. As a nature preserve, the island is only open for part of the year, with visitor numbers capped in order to keep it pristine. Since 2000, the island has been under the stewardship of the Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area, and over two programs, the scenic area’s secretary-general, Chin Pao-liang, will be here to give us an exclusive tour. We’ll start off this week with a look at the island’s geology and the many species that call it home.