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Top Wildlife Destinations in Southeast Asia

Read all about Southeast Asia's best locations for wildlife



Marketing assistant
Published on

22 Mar 2024

Updated on

16 Apr 2024

Malayan Tiger

Southeast Asia is a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers, offering a diverse array of ecosystems and habitats that are home to some of the world's most fascinating species, including many endangered species. From dense rainforests teeming with primates and exotic birds to pristine coastlines harbouring vibrant marine life, this region promises unforgettable encounters with nature's most captivating creatures.

Each different ecosystem in this unique region of the world is teeming with an astonishing array of flora and fauna, from the iconic orangutans of Borneo, to the majestic elephants of Thailand and Cambodia.

Orangutan eating borneo
Orangutan, Borneo

Immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of ancient rainforests like Taman Negara in Malaysia, one of the oldest rainforests on the planet, where the call of the wild echoes through the dense canopy. Venture into Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve that shelters gibbons, langurs, and an incredible range of bird life.

For aquatic adventures, head to the famed Komodo National Park to witness the legendary Komodo dragon, or dive into the vibrant waters of Sipadan Island for a kaleidoscope of marine life. Whether you're a photographer, birdwatcher or simply seeking a connection with nature, Southeast Asia will leave you in awe of our planet's biodiversity.

Komodo National Park Indonesia
Komodo National Park

Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia

Within the heart of the Malaysian peninsula, Taman Negara National Park is a verdant sanctuary that has remained virtually untouched for millions of years. This ancient rainforest, one of the oldest in the world, is home to a large variety of flora and fauna, including the elusive Malayan tiger and the Asian elephant, both of which still cling to survival within the park's boundaries. As you venture into the park's lush interior, you'll be greeted by the echoes of gibbons calling from the canopy and the rustling of leaves as troops of pig-tailed macaques and langurs move through the undergrowth, while wild buffalo laze by the rivers.

Buffallo Taman Negara Malaysia
Wild Buffalo

Trek along winding trails, keeping your eyes peeled for the vibrant plumage of hornbills like the impressive great hornbill and the distinctive calls of the dusky leaf monkey. Cool off in crystal-clear streams and marvel at the towering tualang trees, some of the tallest in the world, their massive trunks adorned with intricate ferns and orchids.

Use RuMa as your base in Kuala Lumpur to then head to this ancient forest and explore.

Dusky Leaf Monkeys Malaysia
Dusky Leaf Monkeys

Danum Valley Conservation Area, Borneo

For an immersive experience, head to Borneo's ancient rainforests, where the Danum Valley Conservation Area offers a privileged glimpse into one of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems. This protected area is the primary habitat of a host of interesting species, including the enigmatic Bornean pygmy elephant, the orangutan, and the intriguing proboscis monkey. Embark on night safaris and witness the forest come alive with the enchanting calls of frogs and the glowing bioluminescence of fungi. During the day, follow expert guides along winding trails and learn to identify the intricate patterns of butterflies, the distinctive calls of Bornean birds, and the tell-tale signs of larger mammals.

Stay in one of the park's eco-lodges, like the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, where you can fall asleep to the symphony of the rainforest and awaken to the breathtaking sight of mist-shrouded canopies.

Proboscis monkey borneo
Proboscis Monkey

Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Step into the realm of the Komodo dragon, the largest living species of lizard on Earth. Komodo National Park in Indonesia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a breathtaking archipelago in Indonesia where these fearsome yet fascinating creatures roam freely across the arid landscapes. Board a boat and navigate the turquoise waters, stopping at various islands to explore the rugged terrain and catch glimpses of these mighty reptiles basking in the sun, digging for prey, or engaging in their characteristically lethargic activities.

But the Komodo dragons aren't the only stars of this incredible show – the park is also home to a wealth of other terrestrial and marine wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for wild boar, deer, and the striking Timor deer as you hike the islands' trails. The skies are filled with a rainbow of birdlife, including the iconic red-footed booby and the majestic frigatebird.

Komodo Dragon Indonesia
Komodo Dragon

For an up-close look at the marine life, strap on your snorkel or diving gear and explore the park's fringing reefs, where you can encounter schools of iridescent tropical fish, graceful sea turtles, and even blacktip reef sharks patrolling the coral gardens. With luck, you may also spot some of the ocean's larger inhabitants, like the magnificent manta ray or the docile dugong grazing on seagrass beds.

Kinabatangan River, Borneo

The Kinabatangan River, a winding waterway that snakes through the heart of Borneo's lowland rainforests, offers an unparalleled opportunity to encounter some of the island's most iconic species. Embark on a river safari and keep your eyes peeled for the proboscis monkey, with its distinctive pot-bellied appearance and bulbous nose, as it lounges in the branches overhead. Be on the lookout for the elusive Bornean pygmy elephant, a diminutive subspecies that has adapted to life in the dense forests.

Bornean Elephant borneo
Bornean Pygmy Elephants

As you glide along the river, you'll be treated to a dazzling array of birdlife, including the iconic hornbills with their impressive, curved beaks and the striking colours of kingfishers and bee-eaters. With luck, you may even spot the sleek form of an estuarine crocodile basking on the riverbanks. To get a true feel for this area, spend a night or two in Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge, where you can fall asleep to the gentle lapping of the water and the haunting calls of nocturnal creatures.

Rhinoceros hornbill borneo
Rhinoceros Hornbill

Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Nestled in the southern reaches of Vietnam, Cat Tien National Park is a lush oasis that offers a glimpse into the region's rich biodiversity. This UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve encompasses a mosaic of habitats, including lowland and semi-evergreen forests, wetlands, and grasslands, providing a haven for a diverse array of wildlife.

One of the park's highlights is the opportunity to spot the endangered yellow-cheeked crested gibbon, a striking primate species known for its distinctive facial markings and melodious calls. Keep your eyes trained on the canopy, where these acrobatic apes can often be seen swinging from branch to branch.

Yellow Cheeked Gibbon Vietnam
Yellow-cheeked Crested Gibbon

Cat Tien is also home to other fascinating primate species, such as the Indochinese silvered langur and the pig-tailed macaque, as well as the elusive Siamese fireback pheasant, a brilliantly colored bird that struts through the forest undergrowth.

Embark on guided treks through the park's verdant forests and wetlands, keeping your senses attuned to the distinctive calls of hornbills and the rustling of small mammals like the yellow-throated marten or the leopard cat. For birders, Cat Tien is a paradise, with over 300 species recorded within its boundaries, including the endangered green peafowl and the striking lesser adjutant stork.

Ho Chi Minh City can be used as an amazing base to explore this park and its wonderful wildlife.

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

Elephants Khao Yai Thailand
Asian Elephants, Thailand

Tucked away in the lush mountains of central Thailand, Khao Yai National Park is a verdant oasis that offers a glimpse into the region's rich biodiversity. As you explore the park's dense rainforests and misty valleys, keep your eyes peeled for the Asian elephant, which roams freely within the park's boundaries. With patience and a bit of luck, you may even catch a glimpse of the critically endangered Indochinese tiger, one of the rarest subspecies of tiger in the world.

Indochinese Tiger Thailand
Indochinese Tiger

Khao Yai is also a paradise for birdwatchers, home as it is to a stunning number of avian species including the vibrant green pitta and the striking Asian fairy bluebird. Embark on a night safari and witness the nocturnal world come alive, with the chance to spot the evasive Asian palm civet or the iconic green pit viper coiled among the branches.

Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo

Nestled in the heart of Borneo's Kalimantan region, Tanjung Puting National Park is a true sanctuary for one of the world's most iconic species: the Bornean orangutan. This protected area is home to a significant population of these intelligent primates, and a visit here offers the chance to observe their remarkable behaviours in their natural habitat. Board a traditional klotok boat and navigate the park's winding waterways, keeping your eyes peeled for the distinctive orange fur of the orangutans as they move through the canopy or forage for food on the riverbanks.

Orangutan Borneo

Along the way, you may also encounter other fascinating wildlife, such as the proboscis monkey, the endangered clouded leopard, and a variety of colourful bird species. To get an even closer experience, consider an overnight stay at one of the park's eco-camps, where you can fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the rainforest and awaken to the mesmerising sight of wild orangutans in their natural habitat.

Cloud leopard borneo
Clouded Leopard

Sipadan Island, Malaysia

Just off the northeastern coast of Borneo lies the pristine island of Sipadan, an excellent location for underwater explorers and marine life enthusiasts. This small, uninhabited island is part of a larger reef system that boasts some of the most diverse and vibrant marine ecosystems in the world. Don your snorkel or scuba gear and prepare to be dazzled by the polychromatic display of colours that unfold beneath the surface.

Whale shark south east asia
Whale Shark

Swim alongside schools of barracuda and trevally, and keep your eyes peeled for the graceful movements of manta rays and the elusive but magnificent whale shark, the largest fish species on the planet. Explore the island's stunning coral gardens, teeming with a dazzling array of reef fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional reef shark. For those seeking a more relaxed experience, simply bask on the island's idyllic beaches and marvel at the crystal-clear waters that have made Sipadan a true diver's paradise.

Coral Sipadan Island Malaysia
Coral off Sipadan Island

Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra

Spanning the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, Gunung Leuser National Park is a verdant jewel that showcases the incredible biodiversity of this Indonesian island. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a true haven for wildlife, sheltering an array of rare and endemic species found nowhere else on Earth. The dense jungles of Gunung Leuser provide a critical last refuge for the iconic Sumatran tiger. While sightings require immense luck and patience, this national park represents one of the few remaining hopes for catching a rare glimpse of this critically endangered subspecies in its natural habitat.

Sumatran Tiger Sumatra
Sumatran Tiger

Gunung Leuser is also a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 320 species of avifauna calling the park home, including the striking helmeted hornbill and the Sumatran ground-cuckoo. Explore the park's network of winding rivers and streams, where you may spot the distinctive webbed feet of the Sumatran striped rabbit or the shy movements of the Malayan sun bear as it forages for food.

Malaysian Sun Bear
Malayan Sun Bear

Mondulkiri Protected Forest, Cambodia

Tucked away in the eastern highlands of Cambodia, Mondulkiri Protected Forest is a verdant sanctuary that shelters some of the region's most endangered species. This vast protected area, blanketed in semi-evergreen and deciduous forests, is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. As you explore the park's winding trails and rolling hills, keep your senses attuned to the myriad sounds and movements of the forest's inhabitants.

Mondulkiri is also one of the last remaining strongholds for the Asian elephant in Cambodia and is home to the largest population of leopards in Cambodia

Asian Elephant Cambodia
Asian Elephants, Cambodia

In addition, Mondulkiri boasts an incredible diversity of birdlife, including the endangered green peafowl, the giant ibis, and the striking crested argus pheasant. With over 430 species recorded within the park's boundaries, it's a paradise for avid birdwatchers and wildlife photographers alike. Keep your camera ready to capture the vibrant hues of a red-breasted parakeet or the graceful movements of a great hornbill in flight.

Green Pea fowl South East Asia
Green Peafowl


From the misty rainforests of Borneo to the sun-drenched islands of Indonesia, a wildlife adventure through Southeast Asia promises to leave an indelible mark on your soul. This region, a true treasure trove of natural wonders, offers a tapestry of experiences that will forever change your perception of the natural world.

As you reflect on your journey, memories will flood back – the haunting calls of gibbons echoing through the ancient canopy of Taman Negara, the awe-inspiring sight of a Komodo dragon basking in the sun, or the gentle rustling of leaves as an elusive orangutan moves through the branches overhead. Perhaps you'll reminisce about the thrill of spotting a rare Indochinese tiger in Thailand's Khao Yai National Park or the serenity of paddling along the Kinabatangan River, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of birdlife.

White handed Gibbon South East Asia
White-handed Gibbon

Beyond the unforgettable wildlife encounters, a deeper appreciation for the region's rich biodiversity and the vital conservation efforts to protect it will likely take root. You'll carry with you a newfound respect for the delicate balance of these ecosystems and the local communities that serve as their guardians.

As you bid farewell to Southeast Asia's natural wonders, a part of the wild will forever remain etched in your heart, a constant reminder of the majesty and fragility of our planet's incredible diversity. This transformative experience will inspire you to become an ambassador for conservation, encouraging others to explore and protect these precious natural treasures for generations to come.

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  • Alistair


    Africa Specialist

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