Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Taiwan, September 2010

When we went to live in Asia, Taiwan was not one of the destinations we had in mind to visit but we heard so many great things about it from people who'd lived there or visited on holiday, that we decided to see for ourselves. We were not disappointed!

satellite map of Taiwan, looking west

We flew from Seoul to the capital, Taipei. This is Taipei's famous 101 Tower, until recently the tallest building in the world:

Same building by night:

This Taoist temple dates from the early 19th century:

Boa-an Temple

Boa-an temple roof decoration

We also visited the National Museum which is one of the largest in the world, and contains many ancient Chinese treasures brought over from mainland China in the late 1940s. 

National Museum, Taipei

We spent three nights/two days in Taipei, then headed down the east coast to Taitung, where we caught a ferry to Green Island (off Taiwan's south east coast) to go scuba-diving. Lonely Planet calls the ferry the "Green Island vomit barge". Our trip over was effectively rather stomach-churning as there had just been a cyclone, but the return journey was smooth.

one of the Taitung-Green Island ferries

Green island is notable as it possesses one of only three salt water hot springs in the world. (The two others are in Japan and Sicily) :

on Green Island

The 33m-high lighthouse is in the island's north-west, and was originally built in 1937 by the Japanese.

lighthouse, Green Island

our accommodation

Sign by the roadside on Green Island :

After travelling back to Taitung we headed up the coast to Hualien where we spent a night and then visited Taroko Gorge, which reminded us a lot of Reunion Island.

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge

Sausage ice-cream?  Hualien beach

My 'artistic' creation on Hualien beach :

This is called a coffin sandwich in Taiwan (death by sandwich ?)

Suggested reading:

Lonely Planet Taiwan (Country Travel Guide)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Reunion Island inscribed as UNESCO natural site

Part of Reunion is now a UNESCO World Heritage (Patrimoine Mondial) site

Réunion Island was inscribed last month by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee as a natural site.

island map showing inscribed property in red,
yellow is buffer zone

Here are some excerpts detailing why Reunion was inscribed:

"... The property covers more than 100 000 ha or 40% of La Réunion ... Dominated by two towering volcanic peaks, massive walls and three cliff-rimmed cirques, the property includes a great variety of rugged terrain and impressive escarpments, forested gorges and basins creating a visually striking landscape. It is the natural habitat for a wide diversity of plants, presenting a high level of endemism. There are subtropical rainforests, cloud forests and heaths creating a remarkable and visually appealing mosaic of ecosystems and landscape features.

Trou de fer (picture © Hervé Douris via UNESCO)

... The property harbours the most valuable natural habitats and the species assemblages they support remaining on the Mascarene Island group. It protects key parts of a recognized global centre of plant diversity and features a remarkably high level of endemism across many taxa. Thereby, Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island is the most significant and important contribution to the conservation of the terrestrial biodiversity of the Mascarene Islands.

Criterion (vii): The combination of volcanism, tectonic landslide events, heavy rainfall and stream erosion have formed a rugged and dramatic landscape of striking beauty, dominated by two towering volcanoes, the dormant Piton de Neiges and the highly active Piton de la Fournaise. Other major landscape features include "remparts" - steep rock walls of varying geological age and character, and so-called "cirques", which can be described as massive natural amphitheatres with an imposing height and verticality. 

example of a rempart on Réunion (photo Wikipedia)

There are deep, partly forested gorges and escarpments, with subtropical rainforests, cloud forests and heaths creating a remarkable and visually appealing mosaic of ecosystems and landscape features.

Criterion (x): The property is a global centre of plant diversity with a high degree of endemism. It contains the most significant remaining natural habitats for the conservation of the terrestrial biodiversity of the Mascarene Islands, including a range of rare forest types. Given the major and partly irreversible human impacts on the environment in the Mascarene archipelago, the property serves as the last refuge for the survival of a large number of endemic, threatened and endangered species.

Building upon earlier forest and nature conservation efforts, La Réunion National Park was established in 2007. This status provides an adequate legal framework to ensure the protection of the property, whose boundaries coincide with that of the national park. The boundaries of the property encompass the exceptional features of the natural landscape, as well as almost the entire remaining natural or close-to natural ecosystems remaining on La Réunion and thus the key biodiversity values.
The integrity of the property is subject to a range of threats. Despite ongoing management efforts, invasive alien species are a permanent management challenge posing a very real threat to the biodiversity values of the property. Evidence of past losses of many native species on La Réunion and on other islands of the Mascarene archipelago underlines the severity of this threat..."

Fournaise volcano (picture © Hervé Douris via UNESCO)

Links are mine.

To find out more about Réunion, please follow this link.