Located in Kaohsiung district, Mt. Maolin is home to Rukai indigenous tribe, roughly estimated 2,000 population in the area. The neighboring tribes in the area are Siasanshe Rukai, West Rukai, and Sandimen, Paiwan, and the Bunun and Tsou. If you are lucky, you can witness a tribal wedding and celebrations in Maolin town.
In the Purple Butterfly Valley, swarms of butterflies flutter wings, envelope you, as taking you into a fairy world. There are just too many butterflies that if you open you mouth they could fly into it or worse, you might stamp on it just by walking carelessly.
The relentless conservation effort from the Butterfly Conservation Society of Taiwan to revive the nickname “the Kingdom of Butterflies”, what was once a nickname for Taiwan. The Purple Butterfly Valley was first visited by conservationist, Chan Chia-Lung in the 1990s. He observed the declination in the butterfly population who overwintering in Maolin. This is a result of changing habitats. The recreation of Maolin tourism has also contributed to the cause.
The Purple Butterfly Valley
The purple crow butterfly is also called the milkweed butterfly. This is one of the two groups of butterflies in the world migrate for overwintering, the other is in the monarch valleys, Mexico. Milkweed butterfly is commonly found around the world. Out of 13 species in Taiwan, only 4 species in Genus Euploea migrate from South to North. The other species are in the other path crossing the islands between Japan and Taiwan.
A few Millions of purple crow butterflies leave the highlands in northern and central Taiwan in November to overwintering in Maolin’s valleys, others take different paths to the southern Taiwan cities. Maolin’s valleys are strategically protected by gorges that create a perfect environment for the butterflies. The lifespan of the butterflies is between 6 to 8 months and generally breed 3 – 4 times a year.
320 Kilometers Journey
From March to mid-April, the new generation of butterfly flocks embarks on their first journey to the north. Yunlin County of Taichung’s Metropolitan Park is the mid-stop for the butterflies. Milkweed plants are the main food source. The first wave of migration can seem in Linnei, Dawu in Taitung county.
They finally reach their destination Jhunan, Miaoli. From October to Mid-November, the newborn and parents begin their overwintering journey to Maolin. The purple crow butterfly formed a concentrated migration trail that researchers able to track. The total distance of the migration trail is 320 kilometers, about 4 hours drive.
The trail cut-cross a highly busy number 3 highway in southern Taiwan. Researchers found in a peak an average of 300 butterflies crosses the highway every minute. 1080 meters of “Butterfly Corridors” installed to create a safe passage and the trail is not disturbed for the butterflies.
The Maolin National Scenic Area Tour
Morning the best time to visit the Butterfly Valley between 8:30 to 11:30. As sunlight slowly moves into the corner, you will see the Double-branded Black Crow, Dwarf Crow, the Euploea Eunice, and the Striped Blue Crow are fluttering wings. The dots on the wings become a sky blue
Without individual transportation, Maolin is difficult to get around. Between November to February, free tours and guides are available at the entrance to Purple Butterfly Valley. The free tour includes tour buses to and from other sightseeing places, like Duonagao Suspension Bridge.
Free tours are including tour buses to and from other distance sightseeing destinations. It’s very convenient to go around.
2 to 4 Days
Where to Stay?
得恩谷生態民宿 (Deengorge Guesthouse) NT$ 2500 Double Room +886-989579751
Owned and managed by a local family. The coffee shop and dining hall are in the public area and there’s a camping ground. The night tour is free for all visitors and is worth looking forward to. No shops or restaurants around this guesthouse. The nearest town is 4 km. The dinner buffet cost NT$ 400 pp. For budget travelers, buy noodles and meals from Maolin town.
How to Get to The Maolin National Scenic Area?
Take a bus from Pingtung. Locals usually visit by car. If you have an international driver’s license, scooter rental in Pingtung is the best option and viable. Scooter rentals in Pingtung did not accept my non-Taiwan driver’s license.
Option 1 Kaohsiung to Duona Village, Maolin (Medical Care Bus H31 )
Qishan Bus Terminal (旗山轉運站), Kaohsiung City to Maolin District Office nearest place to Purple Butterfly Valley. 1 hour.
On normal days only three buses operate at 8:50; 13:45; and 17:20.
*No bus on holidays except Butterfly festival – 6 bus operates to Maolin.) schedule
Option 2: Pingtung to Maolin
Kaohsiung to Pingtung
There are frequent trains and buses between these two cities all day long. 20 minutes.
Pingtung to Maolin (Dajin Town, bus #8216)
Outside of Pingtung Bus Station, take bus 8216 to Dajin township (大津). Dajin township is the nearest town to the Maolin Scenic park entrance.
You can book a taxi through the guesthouse (NT$500) or take the bus H31 from Kaohsiung at the park entrance. schedule
Getting Around the Park
Hitch-hiking and walking are the only options for independent travelers without cars. During the Butterfly festival, many families visit the park. They are nice and willing to offer travelers rides. Even the locals would offer you a ride.