There is more to Southeast Asia than warm tropical climate, Buddhism, and colorful festivals that range from dragon boat races to the ever-popular Chinese New Year. If you go beyond the pristine beaches and bustling weekend markets, you will find some of the best national parks on the continent, chock full of rare mammals and bird species. Squeeze in a weekend of trekking in one of the five known national parks below.
1. Khao Yai National Park (Thailand)
A well-preserved national park that is also a UNESCO Heritage Site, Khao Yai is one of the world’s largest monsoon forests that is still remarkably intact. You can get a rental and drive your way through the park, stopping now and then to swim into one of its many waterfalls or explore its gorges and caves. It is recommended though to hire an experienced guide who can point you to the right trails and if you’re lucky, come across elephants, along with gibbons, monitor lizards, hornbills, and any one of the more than 300 bird species native to the region.
2. Tanjung Puting National Park (Indonesia)
Experience a genuine Borneo jungle complete with swampy coastal terrain punctuated by black water rivers with an overnight stay at the Tanjung Putting National Park. There is a sheer quantity of biodiversity in the park’s flora and fauna, but what sets the park apart are the orangutans that call this stunning Asian jungle home. There is something blissful about riding a slow klotok up the river and hearing the sighs and chatters of the jungle around you.
3. Taman Negara National Park (Malaysia)
Two main things you can do while at the Taman Negara National Park: Go on a boat ride from Kuala Tembeling to Kuala Tahan and if you’re the adventurous type, attempt to go white water rafting and face the treacherous waters of Lata Berkoh. If you prefer to trek through this pristine rain forest, don’t miss doing the canopy walk and a night safari is definitely in order.
4. Cat Tien National Park (Vietnam)
Considered a Vietnamese national treasure, the Cat Tien National Park is a uniquely bio-diverse area of lowland tropical rainforest. Best known for hiking, mountain biking, and bird watching, the park is only about 3-4 hours drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Aside from the rare golden-cheeked gibbon, rare bird species abound in the place that of the Orange-Necked Partridge and the Siamese Fireback.
5. Balinsasayao Twin Lakes National Park (Philippines)
Boat rides, hiking, fishing, and kayaking – are just a few of the activities waiting for you at the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes National Park. Named aptly for its two crater lakes separated by a narrow mountain ridge, the park is home to an expansive ecosystem. Located deep in the Southern Negros mountains, its verdant cloud forest is teeming with wildlife and is a paradise for those who are keen on bird watching. An uphill trek toward a lone watchtower will allow you to view the breathtaking landscape, which is the perfect way to end your trip to the park.