Wu Shan Monkey Preserve 烏山獼猴生態保護區
One of my favorite places for a short day trip in Tainan is the Wu Shan Monkey Preserve in Nan Hua Township. Throngs of monkeys roaming free in their natural environment. Last Monday my family and I went on a quick afternoon trip. I’m posting some new monkey photos with an old article for information about the area and how to get there.
Wu Shan Monkey Preserve
Originally Published in the China Post
Text and Photos by Richard Matheson
The Wu Shan Scenic Area( 烏山風景區) near Nan Hua Village(南化村) is a fantastic place to visit. There are several large and active temples, a bee farm, some great hikes, tea and coffee shops perched on the hillside and great views of Tainan County. But don’t miss the main attraction in the area, the Wu Shan Monkey Preserve(烏山獼猴生態保護區).
The Formosan Macaque’s (Macaca Cyclopis) (台灣獼猴) original habitat extended from sea level to 3000m in Tainan, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Hengchun and Taidung counties. Now, due to overcrowding, hunting and pollution, these monkeys are becoming increasingly harder to spot. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Lin(林先生), who started taking care of Formosan Macaque monkeys in 1989, we can still observe them in their natural habitat.
Straddling the Tainan/Kaohsiung border in Nan Hua Township(南化鄉) is Mr. Lins’ legacy–the Wu Shan Monkey Preserve. Following the Number Three Provincial Hwy north towards Yu Jin(玉井), turn right up 176 or 176-2 from Nan Hua Village. Signs along both these roads will lead you to the privately owned monkey area. There is no charge for entering the area but food for feeding monkeys, such as peanuts for 50NT, and refreshments are sold to help support the preserve.
The area consists of a parking lot, a few tin shelters where vendors and an altar are set up and a trail leading up the mountain. The monkeys are usually thronged at the entranceway waiting for food. Go through this area and there is a large paved path heading up the hill. The monkeys can be observed in a more natural environment a little further up the path. There are large rocks that the monkeys sunbathe and relax on and monkeys can be seen resting in branches or swinging through the bamboo and deciduous forests.
Weighing up to 7kg with a maximum body length of 40-65cm and a tail extending a further 35-45cm, the macaque is not particularly large. They are not to be underestimated however, they are wild animals. If feeding the monkeys, it is advisable to hide the bag of food or they will jump up on you and steal the food. Also, keep a hand on your valuables like keys, purses and wallets as the monkeys are very playful and will try to steal interesting things from people. Further, bringing your own food to feed the animals is not permitted as their diet needs to be controlled.
In the area of the preserve there are also some great walks, the most notable being the Wu Shan Health Trail(烏山健康步道), which will take you from the monkey preserve all the way to Hwy 20. Most of this trail is in protected area so, if you are lucky, you will see macaques in their natural habitat. The trail can be found by finding a trail and following it straight up until you are on a ridge. Two of the better marked trails head up from behind the Tz Zhu Temple(紫竹寺) and there is a well marked paved farmer’s road leading to Jin Guang Shan Pagoda(金光山觀景台). From behind the pagoda, walk up the cement stairway and follow the trail until you are on the ridge. The Wu Shan Health Trail follows the Hsue Bi Ya Lake Ridge(霍比亞湖山列) (roughly the tail end of the Alishan Range) and reaches a height of 800m. The portions of trail I have walked have been beautifully marked and followed the ridge giving awesome views of both Tainan County to the west and the Chishan river valley in Kaohsiung to the east. As nice as the trail is, a good dose of common sense is needed as some parts are quite remote and both sides of the trail tend to be very steep. Be prepared and walk carefully if attempting to hike to the South Cross Island Hwy.
Any walks in the area will be rewarded with great views and a good workout. Walking to Jin Guang Shan Pagoda(金光山觀景台) is pleasant and will open up the view to Jing Mian Dam(鏡面水庫) as well as more of the Tainan flatlands. Behind the temple there is an old cave (sometimes called the bat cave) at 700m above sea level that was mined by the Japanese. The cave extends about 30 meters into the mountain. There are also 52 species of birds, 18 butterflies and at least four mammals known to live in the area to gratify the hiker.
There are several large and active temples with great views of the flatlands below. The Tz Zhu Temple is the highest of these and a great place for watching the sunset. The temple has a breakfast and lunch on Saturday’s and Sunday’s which are open to anyone. Payment is by donation. While tasty meals are to be had, if you are looking for peace and quiet, this is not the time to come. Temple followers and tourists looking for a free lunch flock to the area creating a lively atmosphere.
For other food options there are some great tea and coffee shops dotting the road up the hill. In the late afternoon pick one of the quaint tea or coffee shops nestled in the hillside and watch the sun set over Tainan’s moon world — while enjoying dinner or a coffee. A perfect way to end your day in the Wu Shan Scenic Area.