From the islands of the Sunda Shelf to the tropical rainforests of Thailand, Southeast Asia is a region of extraordinary biodiversity. The boom in nature tourism over the past decade bears ample testimony to the fact that humans are flocking to national parks and reserves in growing numbers in their quest for adventure and seeking other natural treasures, mainly in this part of the world.
We have therefore handpicked some of the best wildlife destinations in South East Asia for you to visit, which you might not be lucky enough to see should you pass them off for another day.
Top Wildlife Destinations in South East Asia
Even though South East Asia is not as popular for big cat sightings and tours, it is a mecca for small wild cats, spectacular birdlife, primates, and unadulterated beauty.
Bako National Park – Sarawak, Malaysia
Covering an area of around 2742 hectares, Bako is the oldest national park of Sarawak. A well-maintained network of trekking trails offers visitors the perfect introduction to a rainforest environment, complete with thick vegetation, abundant wildlife, pristine beaches, and exotic birdlife.
Located just 37 km away from Kuching, getting access to the park by boat over the South China Sea is an attraction in itself. The major draw at Bako is the unique faced Proboscis monkey, which is endemic to Borneo.
Kui Buri National Park – Thailand
The vast Kuri Buri National Park is located in Southern Thailand and is known for its dense forests, limestone cliffs, hidden lakes, and deep valleys. This pristine habitat holds an array of diverse wildlife ranging from, Asian elephant, leopard, golden jackal, and the Langur primates. The park also holds a healthy population of wild cattle which includes the largest bovine species the gaur bison and the banteng.
Ba Be National Park – Vietnam
Located in the province of Bac Kan, roughly 240 km north of Hanoi, the Ba Be National Park got its name from the Ba Be freshwater lake which lies within its boundaries. The scenic lake is the largest of its kind in the country and is surrounded by lowland forests. More than 65 species of mammals have made this park their home, among them being the Asian black bear, Chinese pangolin, slow loris and as many as 28 different kinds of bats. A staggering 350 species of butterflies and more than 200 bird types like, the Oriental Honey Buzzard and the majestic Crested Serpent Eagle can be found here.
Kinabalu National Park – Borneo
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the first and premier National Park of Malaysia, Kinabalu has got its origin from the 4095 m high Mt. Kinabalu, the highest peak in Borneo. The park holds an astounding 4500 species of flora and fauna ( with a majority of them being endemic), thereby making it a virtual mecca for nature lovers. The park area forms the prime habitat of the most sought after Proboscis monkey and the Bornean orangutan. Other primates which can be spotted here are tarsiers and gibbons. This important biological site, has four distinct climate zones, covering an area of 754 square kilometers.
Nakai Nam Theun National Biodiversity Area – Laos
Out of all the twenty-one protected areas in Laos, Nakai Nam has attracted the most attention. This massive zone of pristine wilderness covers a major part of the Annamite mountain range as well as the Nakai plateau. There are a wide variety of mammals which can be found here but the stars of the park are the rainbow headed snake and the blue spotted cave gecko which were only discovered as late as 2015. Other wildlife which dwells in the park are the highly endangered Indochinese tigers, Javan rhinoceros, saola, and the giant muntjac.
Komodo National Park – Indonesia
Home to the world’s largest lizard, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Komodo National Park needs no introduction to wildlife enthusiasts the world over. Also referred to as the Komodo dragons, these gigantic reptiles can only be found on the island of Flores, Rinca, and Padar apart from Komodo itself. These scaly creatures can measure up to three meters and weigh as much as 70 kg and are the major showpiece of the park. Marine life which can also be seen here are manta rays, sea horses, sharks, dolphins, and turtles. The park is spread over an area of 1733 square kilometers, covering the islands of Komodo, Padar, and Rinca. If you happen to visit Komodo, also check out other fun things to do in Labuan Bajo.
Cardamom Mountains – Cambodia
Thanks to the efforts of the Cambodian Government, more than four and a half million hectares of prime rainforest region was protected to create an ultimate wildlife corridor in 2016. The formation of the Southern Cardamom National Park, today serves as an excellent habitat for the Asian elephant, apart from many other endangered species. Other animals to be found here include the Indochinese tiger, Malayan sun bears, clouded leopards, and Asiatic black bear. The region still holds thousands of yet undiscovered flora and fauna which may disappear from the face of the planet if conservation efforts are not made in real earnest.
Taman Negara National Park – Malaysia
This spectacular National Park was formed due to the constant efforts of the Government to preserve the prized wildlife of the country. Taman Negara, is the biggest National Park of Malaysia and is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. While wildlife spotting in this untouched primary region is not easy, visitors visit here in large numbers in an attempt to spot the Asian elephant, clouded leopard, rhinoceros or the elusive tiger. The park is also the setting for the longest canopy walkway in the world. Getting a glimpse of primates is rather easier, with frequent sightings of the funny looking dusky leaf monkey and the spectacled langur. The 4345 square kilometers park has a wide range of bird life, with the great hornbill occupying the pride of place not only in tribal rituals but for birding enthusiasts as well.
Tarsier Sanctuary – Corella, Philippines
The palm-sized tarsiers are considered to be the tiniest of all primates to be found anywhere else in the world. Often targeted as pets because of their cuteness, the tarsiers are now deemed vulnerable and get protection from the local government. Tarsiers can be easily located with the assistance of guides and rangers in this sanctuary as they favor certain positions and spots on the trees. The sight of them clinging to the branches with their huge fingers and their stares with the bulging eyes is a sight to behold. So if you want a great photo with these adorable creatures, the Tarsier sanctuary on the island of Bohol is the place to find them.
Southeast Asia is home to some of the densest rainforests, teeming with a variety of wildlife. Most of this rich habitat consists of the last remaining abodes for a number of vulnerable animals which include the Indochinese tiger, clouded leopard, and the Asian elephant. Scientific studies have revealed that the forests of Southeast Asia are home to, a yet to be discovered, thousands of species of flora and fauna. Despite valiant conservation efforts, there is every chance that these important discoveries may never see the light of the day. Most of the wildlife destinations in South East Asia cover a diverse type of landscape which harbors wildlife in abundance. The ones selected here, stand apart from the others, due to their environment and uniqueness.