Enjoy Extraordinary Wildlife Experiences on Asia Tours

Asia

Elephants having fun in Chitwan National Park, Nepal cropped

Most continents can offer some kind of interesting wildlife. Asia is no different and, in fact, has an abundance of fascinating animals all available for your viewing on Asia tours.

India

The first animal that comes to mind when visiting India is the tiger. There are as many as 48 tiger reserves in India, all of which are governed by Project Tiger, which is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Tigers are a precious commodity today and their numbers continue to diminish as a result of habitat loss, poaching, and other human-related factors. The following are just 3 of the many. There is no guarantee that you will automatically get to see one on India tours as these creatures can be elusive, but chances are usually pretty good.

Corbett National Park, located in the foothills of the Himalayas, is one of the best places to view tigers. It is the oldest established tiger sanctuary in India. You can undertake a wildlife safari riding in a jeep or on the back of an elephant. The best time is between mid-November and June. There are many other species of animals which can be viewed here including deer, sloth Himalayan black bears, mongoose, and otters. If you enjoy bird watching, there are over 650 different species of birds. Other activities you can undertake here include trekking, hiking, and mountain biking. For accommodation, there are several upscale lodges to choose from within the park.

Bengal tiger crossing a river in Corbett National Park, India
Bengal tiger crossing a river in Corbett National Park, India

Ranthambore National Park is the largest in northern India and is around 160 kilometres/100 miles from Jaipur. Tiger sightings are fairly common here. Because it is a popular place for travellers to visit on Asia tours to India, these animals have grown use to humans and do not feel threatened. If you are fortunate enough, you might see a “kill” first-hand. A jeep safari is the best way to see wildlife up close. The best times are in the morning or the evening. Besides tigers, the park contains leopards, hyenas, deer, jackals, sloth bears, and wild boar, plus a number of other animals. There is no accommodation in the park itself but several lodges are situated close to the entrance.

Bandhavgarh National Park is a little off the beaten path, the nearest airport being in Khajuraho, 210 kilometres/130 miles away. However, it is home to over 100 Bengal tigers. Again, you can go on safari on the back of an elephant and the chances of seeing a tiger are quite good. 4 wheel safari vehicles are also available. Other species of animals in the park include leopards, deer, wild boar, jackals, hyenas, rhesus monkeys, foxes, and scores of bird species. There are several lodges within the park.

Bengal tiger walking towards 2 jeeps full of tourists in Bandhavgarh National Park, India
Bengal tiger walking towards two jeeps of tourists in Bandhavgarh National Park, India

Malaysia

Malaysia is an excellent destination to view animal life for a variety of reasons. Let’s start with orangutans, a species of apes, native to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, where they live in rainforest reserves. However, the best places to see them on Malaysia vacations are at rehabilitation centres and sanctuaries. Two excellent centres are in Malaysian Borneo, the Semenggoh Orangutan Centre, which is easily reached from the city of Kuching, and the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the largest of its kind in the world, located about 25 kilometres/15 miles west of Sandakan in the state of Sabah. These are sanctuaries for semi-wild orangutans which have been injured, orphaned, or kept illegally as pets. They are rehabilitated and then later sent back into their natural habitat. This can take as long as seven years. On Asia tours to Malaysia, you can see them best at feeding times and as they swing through the trees and play with each other.

Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Semenggoh Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

In Peninsular Malaysia, Taman Negara is the world’s oldest rainforest (over 130 million years old). Here, you can take a night jungle walk when you can observe and discover the nocturnal creatures in Taman Negara. Among those always being spotted are reindeer, tapir, and wild boar. Activities here on Malaysia vacations include river rapid shooting and rafting, staying overnight at a wildlife observation hideout, and taking a canopy walk. This huge park covers 3 individual states in Peninsular Malaysia.

Danum Valley Conservation Area in Borneo is home to the rare Sumatran rhinoceros, orangutans, and the beautiful clouded leopard. Some 270 species of birds have been recorded in the area.

For turtle viewing, Malaysia is the place to go as there are several locations to see them. One is the Pulau Redang Marine Park in Borneo, a tropical paradise offering beautiful coral reefs, crystal clear waters, and secluded coves located 45 kilometres/28 miles north-east of Kuala Terengganu. There are three species of turtles that come to Pulau Redang to nest – the Green Turtle, Olive Ridley, and Hawksbill. Turtle Island Park in Sandakan, Sabah consists of several islands where the turtles come ashore after nightfall. Tioman Island, off the coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is not only a gorgeous paradise but is where you can see baby turtles hatch on the beach.

Turtle on Selingan Island, Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
Turtle on Selingan Island, Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia

China

I believe pandas are unique to China and mainly in Sichuan Province. So, in order to see them on Asia tours, a good place to head to is the Wolong Nature Reserve, 120 kilometres/75 miles west of Chengdu. There are around 30 pandas here. It is the largest and best-known panda reserve in China. With its warm and humid climate, which is favourable to the growth of bamboo – the pandas’ favourite food – it is an ideal place for the survival and reproduction of giant pandas. In the reserve, there is a Baby Panda Zone, Grown-up Panda Zone, Breeding Zone, and Wildness Training Zone. On a China vacation, you may see them walking around slowly, eating bamboo, and climbing up the trees to give visitors a show. Snow leopards, red pandas, golden monkeys, and white-lipped deer can also be seen at this centre.

Giant panda at Wolong Nature Reserve, Chengdu, China
Giant panda at Wolong Nature Reserve, Chengdu, China

Indonesia

If you want to see Komodo dragons, the place I recommend to view them is Komodo Island, in the province of East Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Komodo National Park was established in 1980. No, these are not fire-breathing creatures. However, they are a very dangerous animal. They are, in essence, very large lizards, carnivorous reptiles, which can be as long as 3 metres/10 feet in length, and weigh as much as 150 kilograms/330 pounds. In the wild, they can live up to 30 years. As carnivores, they eat large prey such as water buffalo, deer, pigs, and even human beings. There are only around 6000 total Komodo dragons left in existence. Although best known for its conservation of Komodo dragons, the park also has wildlife such as buffalo, civets, cockatoos, macaques, deer, wild horses, boars, as well as a variety of marine wildlife. Visitors on Asia tours to Indonesia must be accompanied by park rangers who use forked wooden sticks to fend off any approaching dragons. They also provide information about the islands and the wildlife here.

Komodo dragon in Komodo National Park, Kimodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo dragon in Komodo National Park, Kimodo Island, Indonesia

Nepal

You might think that safaris are something that you only find in Africa. Well, there is a large amount of wildlife in Asia, and Nepal has its fair share. The Chitwan National Park is the perfect place to enjoy a safari while on a Nepal vacation. It was established in 1973, has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status and is considered one of the best wildlife viewing parks in Asia. It is located roughly in the middle of the country in the lowland plains.  The type of animals that call it home include rhinoceros, leopards, wild elephants, sloth bears, hyenas, wild dogs, mongoose, deer, monkeys, and the Royal Bengal tiger. In total, there are around 70 different species of animals. The park also boasts over 500 different bird species. There is no accommodation inside the park itself but there are luxury lodges just outside the park boundaries and there are also less expensive accommodations a little further away.

Indian rhino In Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Indian rhino in Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Thailand

Let’s turn our attention to elephants. It is recognized that trained elephants have been abused in many instances and subject to workloads that are totally unnatural. The best ethical places to see them on Asia tours are at one of the several elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. Here is a short summary of some of them. There is the Elephant Nature Park, just outside Chiang Mai, where you can not only view them but also see them bathe and feed them. There is Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary at Sukhothai, where you can spend time with rescued elephants going through rehabilitation. In Phuket, the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary focuses on at-risk elephants. Again you can feed them. Another is the Wildlife Friends Foundation in Petchaburi, not far from Hua Hin. Here, you can learn about the conservation issues threatening elephants before taking some of them for their daily walk and bathing.

Feeding an elephant at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Feeding an elephant at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Maldives

There are two aspects of enjoying wildlife on a Maldives vacation. One is whale watching and the other is swimming with whale sharks, the latter appealing to a select market, I think. Whale sharks can be found year-round but tend to prefer the western side from May to December, then head to the east side until April. For an outstanding whale watching experience on Asia tours, take a Dhoni, a Maldivian-style boat. Twenty three species of whales and dolphins have been recorded in the Maldives, and is probably the best place in the world to see most of these species. Although whale sharks are harmless creatures, it helps to be a skilled swimmer or diver when it comes to keeping up with the creatures, as the experience takes place in open water.

Divers photographing a whale shark, Maldives
Divers photographing a whale shark, Maldives

Singapore

Jurong Bird Park is a very special attraction on Asia tours to Singapore. This bird park is very extensive and is Asia’s largest bird sanctuary, with a collection of over 5000 birds with 400 different species. The Waterfall Aviary contains 600 birds and a 30 metre/100 foot high waterfall. Flamingo Lake and Pelican Cove contain lots of flamingos and pelicans naturally. In one corner of the zoo, there is a section full of flightless birds such as ostriches, emus, rheas, and cassowaries. The Park contains 5 species of penguins including king penguins. The World of Darkness houses 60 birds who live in perpetual darkness, being nocturnal. There is a bird show with the highest number of performing birds in the world, with some imitating the sounds of other types of bird.

Sun conure parakeets in Jurong Bird Park, Singapore
Sun conure parakeets in Jurong Bird Park, Singapore