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.
[Also see our travel article “The World’s Best Places to See Wildlife“]
10. Ranthambore National Park, India
[Also see our travel article “Visiting Ranthambore National Park and the Last Tigers of Rajasthan“]
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.
9. 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.
8. 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.
7. 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.
6. 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.