10 Best Places to See Wildlife in Asia

It’s true that illegal logging, poachers and globalization are all taking their unfortunate toll on lush Asian terrain and the wildlife it houses. However, many sanctuaries and national parks are doing their part to rehabilitate endangered species and reintroduce them into the wild, as well as to establish eco-tourism adventures. And with so many refuges across Asia, travelers can choose by country, animal or type of adventure for a customized visit to the animal kingdom. To make that choice easier, however, we have collected the ten best places in all of Asia for wildlife watching.

1. Ranthambore National Park, India

The former hunting grounds of the maharajas of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is now one of the largest national parks in northern India. Its main draw is seeing tigers in their natural habitat; however, the park has much more to offer. The 10th-century, 700-foot tall Ranthambore fortress lies within the sanctuary, and visitors can also spot hyenas, wild boar, leopards and a huge variety of local flora and fauna.

2. Woraksan National Park, South Korea

Woraksan sees visitors all year around, yet it’s still a great escape as it never gets too crowded. Steep hikes may be a reason why it’s never teeming with visitors, but making the trip results in spectacular views above the clouds and the chance to climb around the ruins of a 13th-century fortress. The park features thousands of plant, amphibian, mammal, reptile and insect species, 16 of which are endangered. Lucky trekkers will spot the rare antelope that are monitored with radio transmitters.

3. Shaanxi Province, China

Just seeing photos of pandas is enough for an involuntary “aww!” so it may be hard to control yourself when visiting the Foping Nature Reserve, which had a population of 64 giant pandas at last count. Nestled in the bio-diverse Qinling Mountains, the reserve is surrounded by other sanctuaries, like the Zhouzhi Nature Reserve, which is in the foothills of the Qinling Mountains and specializes in rescuing injured animals and protecting endangered species, including giant pandas and golden monkeys.

4. Xe Pian National Protected Area, Laos

Tucked near the Cambodian border, Xe Pian is renowned for its gibbon population and diversity of species, several of which have not been found in any other park in Laos. In addition to the gibbon, visitors can spot Asian elephants, tigers and the so-cute-it-hurts Asian black bear. Dolphins reside in the three rivers that run through the evergreen and deciduous forests and vast flatlands.

5. Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most well-known national parks. It’s most famous for its large numbers of elephants and leopards, which can be seen when on safari. The park covers several ecosystems, including moist and dry monsoon forests and wetlands. Historical and religious sites and ruins add to the must-see list. The park is divided into five blocks, making it easier to plan a trip.

6. Similan Islands, Thailand

This archipelago of nine islands is known as one of the top diving destinations in the world. Whether diving or snorkeling, it’s possible to see spectacular coral reefs, schools of tropical fish, manta rays and sea turtles during the short November-April open season. Mu Ko Similan National Park allows visitors the pleasure of seeing air, land and sea-based wildlife, from birds and sixteen species of bats, to vipers, pythons and lizards, to much friendlier bottlenose dolphins.

7. Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary, The Philippines

Going on an African safari can, in fact, be done on a friendlier budget and possibly closer to home at the Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary, an island off the coast of Busuanga in the Philippines. Established in 1976, the sanctuary took in 104 animals, including zebras, gazelles, giraffes and impalas that were at risk of drought and being affected by war in their native Kenya. The animal population has grown nearly five-fold since its inception. The sanctuary has also been beneficial for local wildlife. Calamian deer, once on the edge of extinction, are now flourishing, and the protected coral reefs have mostly recovered from damaging fishing practices.

8. Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sabah, Malaysia

Spread over nearly 440 square kilometers in lowland rainforest, Danum Valley was unoccupied by humans when it opened. Once in the valley, visitors can take guided walks and drives and nighttime safaris to try and spot the Borneo pygmy elephant, Sumatran rhino, Malay sun bear and more. During durian season, the chances of seeing orangutans increase. The real treat here, however, is the birdwatching, as it’s the only place where the spectacled flowerpecker has been spotted.

9. Bonin Islands, Japan

The Bonin Islands (known as the Ogasawara Islands in Japan) have the distinction of being the most isolated destination on this list, as the only way to get there is by a 25-hour ferry from Tokyo. It’s totally worth it, though, as visitors have an astounding 90% chance of seeing humpback whales from February-April. Visitors can also see sperm whales in the summer and fall, and dolphins all year around. The islands are also unusual in that they were never connected to the Japanese mainland or any other continent, and therefore are home to crabs, insects and birds not found anywhere else in the world.

10. Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia

This national park is home to over 500 species of animals, including nearly 200 types of mammals. Sumatran tigers and flying lemurs, along with clouded leopards, flying frogs and sambar deer are just a sampling of one of the most diverse animal populations in Indonesia. Gunung Leuser also includes a rehabilitation house for orangutans. Situated in the near-pristine Bukit Barisan Mountains, the park’s altitude shoots from zero to 3,381 meters, with the Alas River cutting the park in half.