Nature places in Asia
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The Proboscis monkey is the largest monkey in the world and is a seriously threatened species that only live in Borneo. There are an estimated 20.000 left and, surprisingly, Brunei is the home to half of them, where they live along the banks of Brunei River. The males are easily recognisable with their potbellies, big blobby noses, and permanently erected penis (we kid you not). They are quite shy and keep to the shadow during the heat of the day, so the best time to observe them is at dusk along the river bank.
Panda Research Centre
Chengdu, Sichuan Province
Normally, we don't do zoos here at GlobeSpots, but this is one of a kind (especially in China, where animal wellness concern is as rare as the Panda). They only do pandas here, where the Giant is the main attraction (the other one is the smaller and less famous Red Panda). The pandas are enclosed based on age and the younger ones are clearly the most active. In the nursery (officially named the Jungle Gym), it's possible in autumn to see the newly born and they are not just cute, but super cute. Throughout the garden, well-meant signs state odd slogans such as "Wildlife is not food". But it's all part of the Panda experience.
Near Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Apart from touring the ancient temples of the city, there's not much else to do in Khajuraho. But around 20 km outside the town, there is a special waterfall, which water level is completely dependent on the monsoon. This means that there is only a bit of water at the bottom of the approx 30 meters deep fall, when it is outside wet season. The place is still interesting to visit without the water, though - and you can clearly see the different stone types including pink sandstone and black lava rock in the deep rock formations. The waterfall is also surrounded by a national park, where you can take a guided safari tour.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
Ranthambore National Park is one of the largest national parks in North India, and this is where you have the best chances of spotting the endangered tiger. Besides wildlife such as crocodiles, monkeys, various species of deer, wild pigs, jackals, leopards, birds and peacocks, there are also ruins of an old fort in the park. There is a lot of control over how many jeeps are allowed in the park per day – what times they may drive around and what routes jeeps may take. It is therefore a good idea to pre-book space in a vehicle. Safari here is not like going on safari in Africa, where there are large groups of game, so if you do not spot a tiger on a game drive, a safari here can be quite disappointing. But when one of the large animals suddenly appears in the middle of the road, it is very exciting!
Giant flower, Rafflesia
Batang Palupuh, Sumatra
There are a few things in this world you have to see before believing them and the Rafflesia (Rafflesia arnoldii) is one of them. It is the biggest flower on the planet. It is huge, plastic-like and smelly. More than a meter in diameter, it can weigh more than 10 kg, and its perfume resembles the smell of rotten meat. This rare flower only blooms for a few weeks and then it is gone. The season is between August and November and the locals know where to find the blooming ones.
Malanage Mata Air Panas, Flores
Not just a natural spa, but a whole river with steaming hot water flowing through the jungle in the shade of volcano Inerie. The water is hot, as in around 47 degrees, and not suitable to swim in, but downstream, several cold side-rivers flow in and make the temperature more tub-warm. To find the spot, travel on the road from Bena to Naga outside Bajawa. Cross the bridge over the steaming river and follow the trail behind the houses to the right. It is a totally tranquil settings with bamboos and trees hanging over the green bottom river. Locals come down to bathe and do not seem to mind the numbing heat in the unmixed hot water upstream.
Komodo and Rinca islands
The world's biggest lizard is the Komodo Dragon that can grow to over three meters long. It is aggressive, fast, and its bite can be deadly due to the impressive range of bacterias in its mouth. The Komodo dragon lives not only on Komodo Island, but also on Rinca Island which is closer to Flores. On Rinca you actually have a better chance to see the dragons, since the island is smaller and there is less food available – meaning they hang out around the ranger station. To catch sight of a fully grown monster in its natural environment, go to Komodo, but you might risk not seeing any at all. The best option is, of course, to visit both islands.
Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Bukit Lawang, Sumatra
Sumatra and Borneo are the only places in the world to see wild orangutans. The best place in Sumatra is probably Bukit Lawang in the rainforest at the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park. The rehabilitation centre is placed up river on the jungle side from the village. In good Indonesian easy-going-style, nothing is fenced off at the feeding platform, so you will get VERY close to the orangutans, so keep your distance to the big ones. It's also possible to do different treks through the jungle with a local guide to see the same orangutans, and maybe some others, in their natural habitat.
A little rustic bungalow on stilts overhanging crystal clear water and corals is one of the main attractions at Iboih beach on Pulau Weh Island. The only activities here are the quiet island life, lazy hours in the hammock, and the amazing diving and snorkelling which can offer encounters with manta rays, stingrays and whale sharks among others. It's truly a real little getaway.
Kuang Si Waterfall
32 km from Luang Prabang
It's worth the drive out to Kouang Si Waterfall if you are in Luang Prabang for a few days. The crowds do not make the emerald green river any less spectacular. The water is cool and refreshing on a hot day. The big falls are beautiful to sit under, and, if you are lucky, a rainbow will form in the mist. Continue on the trail to the top of the waterfall, and you will be rewarded with a wonderful view overlooking the valley. Keep in mind it is most busy midday, so for a more intimate experience, head out very early or late in the afternoon!