A wildlife encounter is one of the most sought after experiences that you can enjoy when you go hiking in Southeast Asia. Aside from the sweeping views and the opportunity to marvel at the sunrise or sunset, the opportunity to see wildlife is going to make your hiking adventure unforgettable. If you have book a hiking trip in Southeast Asia, you are in luck because there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings in the region.

Are you specifically seeking out wildlife during your hiking trip to Southeast Asia? If so, make sure to plan your trip well to ensure that you can spot wildlife and that you won’t be disappointed. From Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, to Vietnam, this is the ultimate guide for the creature lover like you. 

These are the best places to hike and watch wildflife at the same time.

Malayan sun bear

1.  Cardamom Mountain, Cambodia

The Cardamom Mountains is a mountain range that is located southwest of Cambodia and in Eastern Thailand. With an elevation of 1,831 meters, it is one of the sought-after hiking destinations for adventure enthusiasts who come to Cambodia. This mountain range boasts of a large and rich eco-rainforest system. As such, it is home to a variety of wildlife species that are unique to this region of Cambodia. As one of the densest rainforests in Asia, it is no surprise why many wildlife species call it home.

This mountain range, and along with the national park that it is a part of, is known as the largest tract of unbroken rainforest in the region. Over the years, it has been threatened by poaching and deforestation, which can pose a threat to the wildlife that call this forest home. Thankfully, a portion of this mountain range has been declared as part of the national park in an effort to preserve and protect the rainforest.

For years, the misty jungles of Cambodia have attracted intrepid adventurers. Along with the forgotten tribes that once lived here, the Cardamom Mountains have seen a growing number of wildlife species that have made it their home. In fact, it is known as a biodiversity hotspot wherein there is a significant amount of rare wildlife species. most of which are included in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.

What wildlife is in Cardamon Mountain?

The vast protected area spans a total of 4,010 square kilometers that you can explore on day hiking tours or camping. As an important wildlife spot, you can find a number of wildlife species including the Indochinese tigers, Malayan sun bears, Asiatic black bears, Siamese crocodiles, clouded leopards, Asian elephants, Irrawaddy dolphins, and so much more.

If you want to spot the aforementioned wildlife species, you need to plan your visit to the Cardamom Mountains. The best time to visit this mountain range is from April to October. It is always recommended to check the local weather forecast before you go to ensure that the conditions are safe.

Sambar Deer

 2.  Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia

Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia is known as one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It is also recognized as the biggest national park in Malaysia. It is known as the first protected region in Malaysia. Just like the Cardamom mountain range in Cambodia, this national park is known as a biodiversity hotspot because it is home to a wide range of wildlife species, including 40 bird species and primate species. When you visit the park, you will get the unique opportunity to see the native birds that have formed their natural habitat within the protected area of the park.

It is clear that Taman Negara National Park is a wildlife hotspot. It is one of the best places to go to if you want to do some wildlife spotting. But in order to maximize the wildlife spotting opportunities, you need to know when the ideal time to visit is. The peak season is from May to August. This is the best time to go if you want to see as much wildlife as you can in the region. It is also the time of the year that experiences the best weather conditions ideal for spotting wildlife. The only downside is that you have to deal with the crowd.

What Wildlife is in Taman Negara?

Among the rare wildlife species that you can find in the Taman Negara National Park include rhinoceros, clouded leopards, Asian elephants, wild pigs, sun bear, sambar deer, Malaysian gaur, and more.

The hornbill is a colorful bird species that is among those that can be found when you explore the grounds of the Taman Negara National Park. It boasts of an impressive color and size. But more importantly, the hornbill plays a vital role in the culture and rituals of the local tribes that once lived on the region. Aside from the hornbill, another notable bird species that can be found in this national park is the chestnut breasted Malkah. This is a bright cuckoo bird that builds its own nest and hatches its egg.

Black headed Ibis

 3.  Prek Toal Biosphere, Cambodia

The Prek Toal Biosphere reserve in Cambodia is one of the must-visit spots if you are into wildlife spotting. This is a bird sanctuary and Ramsar site, which is part of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve. It is located northwest of the Tonle Sap lake and community. This area is popular among tourists for its bird watching opportunities. It is also known for its rich biodiversity and for the rare waterbirds that can be spotted here.

If you are planning to visit Prek Toal Biosphere, you can do so during the months of December to May. During this time of the year, you will be able to see as many birds as possible because this is the time when the migratory birds arrive in Prek Toal. As the water level recedes on the lake, there will also be an increase in the number of birds that can be found at the biosphere reserve. But since boat is the main mode of transportation used for touring these sites, it would be difficult to get to the viewing spots.

What wildlife is in Prek Toal Biosphere?

Among the rare bird species that can be found in the area include the painted stork, black-headed Ibis, milky stork, grey-headed fish eagle, spot-billed pelican, and greater and lesser adjuncts. You can expect there will be more rare bird species aside from the ones mentioned above, so it will be fun to discover what you find during your visit.

If you are a keen bird watcher, you can also book tours that enable you to get on smaller boats. This will give you the opportunity to get as close to the birds as possible – include see where they are nesting.

There are plenty of tours that are available wherein you will be accompanied by a guide. They will provide you with a detailed insight into the wildlife that can be found on this protected area. Most importantly, you get the chance to get an inside look at the breeding grounds for many species of water birds in Southeast Asia.

Chinese pangolin (Image by Wikipedia)

 4.   Ba Be National Park, Vietnam

The Ba Be National Park in Vietnam is another favorite spot for wildlife lovers in Southeast Asia. This natural reserve is part of the Bac Kan Province within the northeastern portion of the country. This national park is developed around the Ba Be Lake. It spans a total land area of 23,000 hectares. Within the park is a variety of landscape formations such as towering peaks, deep valleys, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, caves, and so much more. Thus, you will have plenty to explore when you visit this national park.

The area within the national park is also home to a wide range of ethnic minority communities. They have kept their homes close to the lake because it has provided them with a source of food and livelihood.

The Ba Be National Park is also a popular destination for tourists, particularly those who want to experience rare wildlife. The surface of the Ba Be Lake is always calm and navigating your way through this river offers a calming experience. But once you set foot on the jungle, you will have the opportunity to see wildlife species that can only be found among this particular rainforest.

What wildlife is in Ba Be National Park?

There is an estimated 65 animal species that live within the Ba Be National Park. In particular, the caves within the national park are home to a strong population of bats. Other animal species that can be found in this national park in Vietnam include Chinese pangolins, red giant flying squirrels, macaques, slow loris, and langurs.

Philippine Tarsier

 5.  Bohol, Philippines

Bohol is an island within the region of Visayas in the Philippines. This island is a popular tourist destination as it is home to some of the most beautiful beaches you will find in the archipelago. From pristine white sand beaches to hiking destinations, you will be spoiled for options if you are seeking outdoor adventures in Bohol!

But there is one more thing that you should add to your list of things to do in Bohol is this – wildlife spotting. This island is home to a rich array of animal species that you get to know more of. The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary in Corella, Bohol is the base of the non-profit organization. This is where you can learn about the tarsier, which is native to the island. You will also have the chance to explore a portion of the tarsier sanctuary so you can get up-close to the tarsiers that live and reproduce freely in this natural habitat.

Other wildlife in Bohol

The Loboc Wildlife & Nature Park is another tourist attraction to go to in Bohol if you want to see the best wildlife in the region. This is a new attraction that is designed to the preservation and care of the endemic species that live in Bohol. This property boasts of a wide array of animal species including the Mariana deer, crocodiles, snakes (particularly the Burmese python), crowned pigeons, wild ducks, parrots, peacocks, and a lion.

In an effort to preserve the wildlife that inhabit the forests and natural areas of Bohol, the province has imposed a strict policy against hunting, collecting, killing, or harvesting of wildlife species.

Komodo Dragon

 6.   Komodo National Park, Indonesia

This is the only place on earth where you can have a close encounter with the legendary Komodo Dragons. The park is in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the island of Sumbawa and Flores. The park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986.

Komodo National Park includes three major islands: Komodo, Rinca and Padar, and some smaller islands. Just as being home to the Komodo dragons, the Park provides refuge for many other notable terrestrial species such as the orange-footed scrub fowl, an endemic rat, and the Timor deer. Moreover, the Park includes one of the richest marine environments including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, seamounts, and semi-enclosed bays. These habitats harbor more than 1,000 species of fish, some 260 species of reef-building coral, and 70 species of sponges. Dugong, sharks, manta rays, at least 14 species of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.

There has been a plan by the Indonesian Government to close the park due to decline in population of the dragons. However, after deliberation, the East of Nusa Tenggara and central government has agreed that the park remain open, but numbers of visitors will be limited.

If you plan to visit the park, be prepared to pay $1,000 as “membership fee”. Otherwise, you can still visit Flores and Rinca, where dragons also live.

Resting komodo dragon

Final Note

When you go to Southeast Asia to watch the wildlife, you might be filled with excitement at the idea of spotting animals that can only be found here. But you need to be extra cautious when you experience a wildlife encounter. Some hikers in Southeast Asia get too excited to spot animals that are endemic to the area that they risk their own safety. While you might be thrilled to spot the wildlife, you should never put your own safety at risk. Always keep your distance. If possible, never stray away from your group and let others know where you are.

You have to remember that you are invading the wildlife’s natural habitat. If you pose a threat to them, you can get hurt. Never startle the animals. And avoid touching them, by all means. As an animal lover, you should always put the animals’ safety in mind at all times.

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