Wildlife in Focus Part 2: The Far East
From the glorious beaches of Thailand to the dense jungles of Borneo, the Far East always carries with it the tinge of the exotic. And its wildlife certainly reflects this feeling of the exotic, with its brightly coloured birds swooping through forest canopies, and elephants lumbering over to refreshing waterholes in the Thai heat.
As part of our Wildlife in Focus series, we’re going to introduce you to some of the most exciting creatures to be found in this part of the world. And what’s really enticing about going on a wildlife-focused holiday here is that destinations like China and Thailand also offer an array of remarkable cultural attractions, giving you the opportunity to have an exciting medley of experiences during your trip.
Turtle Island and Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo
Picture a land of rainforests, beaches that glitter in the streaming sunlight, imposing volcanoes and indigenous tribes – there you have Borneo. This island, which ranks among the largest in the world, is one of the best places to come across orangutans, and plenty else besides.
The hawksbill turtle
Travel to the aptly named Turtle Island during your adventure in Borneo and you can come across a number of the planet’s endangered turtle species. Critically endangered, the hawksbill turtle suffers perilously low numbers – but Turtle Island is one of its few reprieves, with this beautiful species nesting on the shores throughout the year.
That said, the best months to see these animals, which are distinctive due to their pointed beaks and their beautiful shells, are July to October. It’s amazing to think that these creatures are a living link to reptiles that have existed in our seas for 100 million years.
The Borneo orangutan
Borneo is one of the best places on earth to see orangutans up close, and the place to do so is Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, which is actually the largest and oldest sanctuary of its kind in the world. Of the two species of orangutan (Bornean and Sumatran), it is of course the Bornean that you can see here.
With their humanoid bonds and behaviour, these are remarkable creatures that are sadly endangered. The Bornean orangutan is believed to number approximately 41,000, while its Sumatran relatives are even rarer still, with roughly 7,500 left in existence.
When it comes to Chinese wildlife, it’s impossible not to conjure up images of giant pandas chewing great sticks of bamboo – and indeed, this endangered member of the bear family is the highlight of all Chinese animals. The best place to see giant pandas is Chengdu, and rest assured, doing so will be among the most memorable elements of your trip to China.
The giant panda
The endangered giant panda is a creature that never fails to mesmerise those that see it – and nothing quite compares to viewing it in its natural environment in China. What’s more, by visiting the Giant Panda Research Centre in Chengdu, you will have the opportunity to get that little bit closer by volunteering to help out with their day-to-day care.
This peaceful creature is the rarest species in the bear family, and subsists almost entirely on bamboo, which it consumes in vast quantities – between 12kg and 38kg per day. What might surprise you is that, despite their size, pandas are marvellous tree climbers!
Khao Yai National Park and Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand is a destination that really is blessed with varied treasures, from the paradisiacal beaches of its islands to its bustling, culture-filled cities. This variety is mirrored in its diverse wildlife, which you can discover throughout the country.
The great hornbill
Pay a visit to Khao Yai National Park and you can come across a huge array of creatures, including wild boar, gibbon and even tigers. What this reserve is perhaps most remarkable for, though, is its astonishing bird life, with more than 300 species calling it home. Among the most exciting is the great hornbill, a very large, endangered species of bird with striking black plumage and white-striped wings.
Chiang Mai is one of the finest destinations for an elephant encounter. In fact, you can even enjoy an elephant-back safari here, calling in at a hill tribe village along the way – something that allows you to blend wildlife-spotting with a little culture.
The world’s largest land mammal, the elephant consumes a remarkable 150-300kg of food each day, as well as approximately 150l of water. These gentle giants sleep just four hours a night, and can live to 70 years of age.
Sadly, their population is dwindling at an alarming rate, with only an estimated 3,000-4,000 in Thailand today.
See cox & Kings’ wildlife holidays to the Far East here.
Read the other articles in this series – Part 1: Africa, Part 3: India and Part 4: Latin America.