Book Review - By TIM ROCK
Dive Into Taiwan
By Simon Pridmore
Leave it to veteran Asian dive journalist Simon Pridmore and his wife Sofie Hostyn to explore a place (Taiwan) that is known well and has been well explored and still provide a fascinating new look in his latest book. The island country is known worldwide for active night markets, expansive mountain views, hot springs, amazing food (including chou dou fu - “stinky tofu”), Taipei 101 - the world’s second tallest building, stunning sunsets and pristine beaches. In this book, Pridmore takes the reader beyond the beaches and into the waters of six regions of excellent and exciting diving and snorkeling. Taiwanese have enjoyed for decades but the rest of the world hasn’t had much of a clue.
The beauty of using this book as the author intends is that it will be an immersive experience in more ways than one. Thus, it is aptly titled. He really wants you to dive into not only the waters, but the people, the food, the lifestyle… the entire Taiwan experience. A talented linguist, Pridmore lays out some basic phrases and also a fine pronunciation guide that can immediately open a few doors.
A nice array of images of the people, customs, sites and countryside further prompt the reader to not just scuba dive and go back to the hotel for a nap, but to shower up and then experience Taiwan’s people and culture. One is really tempted to see Taiwan as he and Sofie saw it for their first time and experience the warmth and history of this diverse country that is rich in history and natural wonders. To wander the towns and islands near the diving areas is as rewarding as the dive exploration.
The book is peppered with excellent underwater photos by Taiwan’s Kyo Liu. He shoots the amazing marine life both large and small as well as adding stunning seascapes and haunting shipwreck images. But the book also sports images from Liu and the authors for a look at the towns, the temples, the daily life and the eateries that make dive trips to new places so much fun.
As far as the diving goes, Taiwan, which is just 100 miles south of the famed Okinawa islands, is also blessed in being bathed by the Kuroshio Current, a flow of water that brings warmth, nutrients and diversity into the regions and runs around the famous Green Island and all along the Taiwan costs and all the up through Japan’s waters past Mikura Jima and other isles in the Izu chain.
This gives Taiwan a great deal of marine diversity. Divers can see big schools of barracuda and even schooling hammerheads. Even the occasional whale shark or ocean sunfish is possible. But other oddities like schooling pufferfish or tiny ghost pipefish thrill divers and underwater photographers. Taiwan has five recorded pygmy seahorse species and a treasure trove of colorful nudibranchs… the stuff macrophotographers love.
There is a lot of beach diving in Taiwan and looking for “bear traps” is part of life here. But, the book is quick to point out the various boat diving operations that may favor the visitor. Divers can enjoy marine protected areas loaded with fish and amazing terrains. Some are studded with eye-popping basalt formations above and below the sea. On Orchid Island, for instance, isolation has favored some of the marine life and also favored the Tao people, who have retained a unique culture.
This book is entertaining and full of great information and images. But better yet, the author challenges the reader to come to Taiwan and get immersed. Sounds like a challenge I am up for! I think many others will find they are as well. Following this refreshing format, this book could well be the first in a series of entertaining and informational dive guides.
Dive into Taiwan by Simon Pridmore
Available in Print and Kindle Versions on Amazon.com at:
Photos © Kyo Liu and Simon Pridmore