Everyone knows of the sandy white beaches, turquoise sea, and green rice fields of our favourite touristic region, Southeast Asia. But this corner of the map offers so much more. It is so rich with natural diversities, wildlife and landscapes. We have chosen twelve places, that stand out for their exclusive and unique appearance.
1. Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
One of our favourites! In the Khao Sok National Park, you can enjoy unspoilt nature and wildlife. Rest in the tree house, take a long walk along the stunning Cheow Lan Lake and enjoy the sheer beauty of this area. The lake is surrounded by huge limestone rock formations and dense jungle. From your boat, you can see monkeys swinging in the trees. With a fishing boat, bamboo raft or kayak, explore the shores and the lake. For the most beautiful view of the lake, you need to climb the Ratchaprabha Dam.
2. Phong Nha-Ke Bàng National Park, Vietnam
Designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, this cave system consists of more than 300 caves and is 40 miles long. Phong Nha consists of almost-unrealistic caves and underground rivers, unique flora and fauna and is larger than 300 square miles. Karst mountains in the park are the oldest in Asia, formed 400 million years ago. The whole place is Heaven on Earth for nature lovers, especially speleologists.
3. Ang Thong National Marine Park, Thailand
A two-hour boat ride from the Thai island of Koh Samui – next to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan – and you get to Ang Thong. Ang Thong is an island group that was designated a National Marine Park. In other words, a protected piece of nature on the water. Ang Thong consists of a total of 42 islands, features towering limestone cliffs, dense green jungle, white sand beaches and hidden lakes. The area of 40 square miles is ideal for snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, diving and relaxing.
4. Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand
This national park near Chiang Mai is named after Thailand’s highest peak; Doi Inthanon. The park itself is also high altitude, and the temperature during the day is only 10 to 12 degrees. This gives you the opportunity for a solid hike without getting too hot. You’ll see two beautiful temples at Phra Mahathat Napha Methanidon and Phra Mahathat Naphaphon Bhumisiri, several beautiful waterfalls active whole year round, and gorgeous views from the summit of Mt Doi Itanon. If you´re lucky, you will encounter some of over 350 bird species living in this park.
5. Bromo National Park, Indonesia
Bromo (Tengger Semeru) National Park is located south-east of Surabaya. Out of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, Bromo on Java island is the most famous. Bromo is set amidst four volcanoes and together they form an almost alien landscape. A visit to Mount Bromo is a memorable sight and should not be missed. Bromo is 2393 meters high and the crater has a diameter of 10 kilometres. Here, you can also visit the highest mountain in Indonesia, Mount Semeru, and park´s 50 rivers and four lakes.
6. Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia
Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia is the oldest rainforest in the world. The jungle here is 130 million years old and covers more than 1,500 square miles of the area. In the vast, humid park you´ll take unforgettable trips on the water and through the jungle. Some of the outdoor activities here are fishing, caving, mount climbing, observing wildlife and much more. A visit to Malaysia is simply not complete without a visit to this beautiful rainforest!
7. Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia
Listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site from the year 2000. Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysia is a unique place. It is known for its limestone karst formations. Sarawak Chamber, world’s largest cave room or chamber, can accommodate 40 Boeings 747 planes, without overlapping of their wings. Clearwater Cave is believed to be the largest and is 8th longest cave in the world. Sandstone mountain Mulu is 2376m high. Park is a home of some endemic species of flora and fauna. The downside is that the park is remote, and you can get there by plane only from the Mulu airport.
8. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Komodo volcanic archipelago was named after its famous inhabitant, the Komodo dragon. It is the largest lizard species in the world that can grow 3 meters long and can weigh over 80kg. They look scary and are infamous for occasionally attacking humans. Park consists of 3 large islands and 26 smaller ones. It is a part of the Coral Triangle, home to the richest marine biodiversity on the face of the planet. Komodo islands are wonderful for diving and snorkelling. It has been voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
9. Kinabalu National Park, Borneo
Borneo‘s highest peak with its 4,095 meters is in the centre of this park that has for climate zones that cover 300 square miles. It is Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than 4,000 species of plants and animals live here, some of them endemic. It is among the most important biological sites in the world and a protected area. The mountain is famous for the abundance of orchid species, and several carnivorous plants.
10. Pha Taem National Park, Thailand
3,000-year-old cave and rock art, that shows what life here was like in that day and age, can be found on the cliff overlooking the Mekong river. Artist used palm leaves to apply bright natural colours. Sao Chaliang, mushroom-shaped rock foundations are scattered around the plateau. A multitude of plant species, such as ancient dipterocarp trees with roots called the “giant reacher”, orchids and insect-eating carnivorous honey-dew flower. You can also see Saeng Chan, or Moonlight waterfall, as they call it in Thailand, with its water falling through a hole in an overhanging rock. The transport to the park is solely by your own vehicle, cause the public transport does not run all the way to the park.
11. Sabangau National Park, Indonesia
Sabangau National Park is a national park in Central Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. The Sabangau River runs through the centre of the park, through the jungle Sabangau of over 1,500 square miles. This is the home to the largest population orangutans in the world (almost 7,000). Also to thousands of Gibbon monkeys, rare birds and many other rare animals. Ultimate jungle adventure in Borneo!
12. Ream National Park, Cambodia
The Ream National Park is one of seven national parks of Cambodia and is close to the coastal town of Sihanoukville. Take a safari or a boat trip to see the beautiful mangroves of the Gulf of Thailand. Rich with birds, small mammals and a lot of waterfalls. The original inhabitants were allowed to continue living in the region of Ream when it was designated as a protected ecosystem. Watch out for snakes on the trails!