Although about two thirds of Taiwan is too steep to build on, there are only about six spots on the island open to the paraglider as most of the island’s airspace is controlled by the military. Add to this the fact that there are power lines nearly everywhere spoiling what would otherwise be excellent spots for soaring. The five main locations open at present are Fei Tsui Wan, near Keelung on the North coast, Hualien and Taitung on the East (Pacific) coast, Saichia near Pingtung in the South, and Puli near Taiwan’s geographic center. There is another site near Chunan in Hsinchu county, but it sounds scary (very short takeoff).
I lived in Central Taiwan for almost 20 years and used to fly at Puli most regularly. The damage it got in the earthquake of ’99 kept it closed for a couple of seasons, but it’s up and going again now. Winters are best at Saichia as it has the best XC flying at that time of year.
There are some new sites around the Taitung area, check that page for details.
Although Taiwan is a small island, its weather and thus the flying season is quite different on the opposite coasts, and north/south. Add to this the seasonal influence of low pressure systems from the Pacific in summer, and the high pressure systems from Siberia vis China in the winter. You’ll find the drier weather and mild southerlies are good to the coastal sites of Keelung and Ilan in the summer months (May through September). Hualien and Taitung are very much at the mercy of the typhoons during the summer, but good flying can be had when it’s not raining and the south wind blows up the Huatung valley. High temps and humidity bring huge instability which makes flying in central and southern Taiwan a very dodgy proposition during the summer months, thunderstorms are almost a daily fixture. Fall brings a prevailing northerly and this is usually strong enough to ground the paragliders in the north, though the hangies may get a flap in once in a while. The drier air and bigger differences in night and day temperatures bring the sites in the center and south to life. High bases and big mountains draw pilots from Korea and Japan, though the numbers are lower now than they used to be.
Although you are not required to join a club to fly most sites as a visitor, or pay any fees, please be sure to contact someone before going to fly any sites. The situation at Saichia changes on a weekly basis, or so it seems. Check before buying a ticket!
For your own safety, you should seek a competent local to act as your site guide.
Please note that the busier sites face serious garbage problems. Most clubs have low budgets and rely on volunteer efforts to keep their sites clean. It is usually the spectators that foul up the sites and the pilots that clean them. If you are hanging around at launch or LZ waiting for a cycle or a ride, please help out by picking up some trash, and set a good example by not leaving any. Thank you.
Another problem you’re likely to face is the on-site behavior of spectators. Onlookers here will want to inspect your gear, often with a cigarette in hand! They will allow their children to walk over your canopy and lines, throw stones at it, fill the cells up with dogshit and discarded paper cups of betelnut juice. As most folk don’t think of a large nylon bag and some string as an expensive high-tech flying machine, it may be hard to persuade them that a burn hole or a stray dog inside a cell might be a detriment to your aircraft. Try to stay calm, use gentle dissuasion. I’m looking at buying a cattleprod and will rent it at very reasonable rates 😉
Larger crowds get bolder and will compete for the best vantage point for the entertainment about to unfold, which may well be right in front of you as you’re trying to launch, and this has led to accidents. If this bothers you, try to fly during the week and avoid holiday weekends.
Download Taiwan flying waypoints for your GPS here.
We’ll post something about the other sites as we fly them.