Whether it’s the elephants of Thailand, the Komodo dragons of Indonesia, or the tigers of Peninsular Malaysia, Southeast Asia is known for its rich biodiversity and thriving wildlife. Animal attractions are an important part of tourism, something that everyone would want to experience.
Ithaka, a travel planning platform encourages wildlife well being along with good tourism. “Wild animals are best enjoyed in the wild, where, in the comfort of their natural habitats, you see them blossom as healthy, spirited creatures. Witnessing animals in their natural homes is an experience beyond compare, and gives you a great sense of wonder at the world we all live in”, says one of the spokesperson.
Here are some have of ethical wildlife parks you can visit across Southeast Asia to spend time in the wild, without contributing to the ill-treatment of animals.
Elephant Nature Park, Thailand
Thai elephants are world-famous and it would be a shame to not get a close look at these gentle creatures when you’re in Thailand. Many elephant parks in the country are notorious for their appalling treatment of these friendly animals but there are a few others that take excellent care of them. Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand is a sanctuary in the truest sense of the word – it is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of elephants. Every elephant is carefully tended to, while also ensuring they have the freedom to be themselves. Interactions are kept to a minimum in order to protect the elephants as they heal from past traumas.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand
Elephants that suffer abuse can often succumb to injury and sickness. Thanks to places like Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, many of these elephants are now rescued and nurtured back to health. The sanctuary offers brief interactions with the elephants, striking a balance between tourism and ensuring the comfort of the animals. The payoff is that you get to see these fine animals them at their happiest.
Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Malaysia
A forest reserve with semi-wild orangutans roaming free in their natural habitat – this is Semenggoh Nature Reserve. Young, rescued, or orphaned orangutans are cared for and provided proper nutrition to help them grow strong and healthy. No restrictions are placed on the animals. They are usually seen coming by themselves from the nearby forests during the feeding hours. You can visit the Orangutan Gallery and Botanical Research Centre to learn more about these wonderful animals and their habitat. Regular buses ply between Kuching and Semenggoh, and the commute takes around 40 minutes.
Kho Yai National Park, Thailand
Thailand’s oldest National Park, Kho Yai is a pristine rainforest spread over 2,168 sq km with thriving wildlife. Elephants, deer, macaques, gibbons, bears, and jackals are some of the commonly spotted mammals here. A plethora of resident and migratory birds make these jungles even more lively. In fact, it is believed to have the largest population of hornbills in Thailand. You can even spot reptiles like crested lizards, reticulated pythons, Chinese water dragon, and water monitors at Kho Yai. A safe distance is maintained between the animals and the visitors, to ensure the animal isn’t disturbed.
The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia
This rehabilitation centre has been looking after orphaned and injured orangutans since 1964. Young orangutans are provided with the required diet and much-needed care until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild. Their health is monitored while they learn the essential skills required to survive on their own. A visit to this centre is an educative experience, especially for children who can watch baby orangutans feeding and playing at the outdoor nursery. Skandan, the nearest city, has regular buses to Sepilok.
Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Indonesia is home to the legendary Komodo dragon, the heaviest lizard on earth. Komodo island itself is a part of the Lesser Sunda chain in Indonesia and forms the renowned Komodo National Park. These rare lizards inhabit the rugged island along with other animals like deer, boars, water buffaloes, Asian palm civets etc. The island is also known for its flourishing marine life. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The national park is best reached from Labuan Bajo by ferry, and tours can be booked to get to different parts of the island.