A part of the world recognized for outstanding cultural treasures and layers of intriguing history, Asia also offers unique encounters with some of the planet’s most rare and endangered wildlife. Observe giant Komodo Dragons, orangutans, and sun bears in their natural habitats, and be in the optimal position to spot dugongs in Okinawa and red-crowned cranes in Hokkaido. In exquisite undersea worlds, snorkel amidst sea turtles and giant clams, sea fans and parrotfish.
Meet the Orangutans of Borneo and Sumatra
Orangutans share nearly 97 percent of our genes and exhibit many human characteristics. At Borneo’s Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, which has been rescuing, caring for, and returning these great apes into the wild since 1964, we have the rare and delightful opportunity to observe these endangered fuzzy orange primates in their natural environment. Walk on purpose-built boardwalks to spot the adults in trees and stand on observation platforms to see the orphaned babies in the nursery.
See Orangutans on:
Wonders of the Western Pacific: Orangutans, Sun Bears and the Coral Triangle >
Dive into the Coral Triangle
An epicenter of sea life, Raja Ampat’s reef system is carpeted in a tapestry of more than 500 types of corals which harbor an astonishing 1,500 species of vibrant tropical fish. Encounter clouds of chromis, carousels of manta rays, seven kinds of giant clams, and much more. Find blue water mangroves and shallow corals patrolled by walking sharks; and as Raja Ampat is a designated sea turtle sanctuary, look out for hawksbill, green, leatherback and olive ridley turtles, which all nest in the region.
Snorkel or Dive Raja Ampat on:
Exploring Indonesia: Bali, Raja Ampat and Papua New Guinea >
Discover the Captivating Blue Cave
On the western coast of Okinawa Island, a promontory called Cape Maeda is dotted by partially submerged caves, and one has a secret that sets it apart. Known as the Blue Cave for the vivid blue hue the translucent water emits in sunshine, this 130-foot grotto swirls with marine life. Only about 15 feet deep and perfect for beginner snorkelers, the cave and the waters around it are home to corals that draw lobsters and other crustaceans, skinny pipefish, clown fish, triggerfish, and even turtles and tuna. Discover this enchanting marine world and float in silence, bathed in ethereal blue light.
See Komodo Dragons in the Wild
It’s a thrill to encounter the world’s largest lizards in their spectacular tropical island home, the only place on earth to see Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. Walk the trails of Komodo National Park with an expert local guide on the lookout for some of the island’s approximately 2,500 rare and prehistoric creatures. We might see these intimidating carnivores–they can reach 10 feet in length and weigh more than 150 pounds–moving through the forest underbrush, on the savanna, or perhaps climbing trees or swimming.
Visit a Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center
Half the size of the American black bear, the endearing sun bear is reclusive and arboreal, and surprisingly nests in trees. We will walk through the large forest enclosures of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, the only sun bear conservation center in the world, to observe these agile bears in their natural habitat. Only found in the wild in Southeast Asia, they are vulnerable due to deforestation and popularity as pets. We will watch the smallest of the eight bear species in action and learn how the center rescues displaced and formerly captive bears and facilitates their rehabilitation back into the wild.
Seek Out the Elusive Okinawa Dugong
Although 13 feet and 1,000 pounds, dugongs are gentle sea cows, relatives of manatees. With a fluked tail and downturned snout, dugongs float on the surface of the bays and mangrove channels of the Okinawa islands foraging for sea grass. Once prevalent, the Okinawa dugong is endangered after years of hunting and military activity that encroached on its habitat. As we explore Japan’s idyllic tropical islands in the East China Sea snorkeling and in kayaks, we will keep our eyes peeled for these loveable and elusive behemoths.
Commune with Sacred Red-Crowned Cranes in Japan
In the wetlands of Kushiro Shitsugen National Park on the island of Hokkaido lives Japan’s one resident breeding population of the graceful and iconic red-crowned crane. Once nearly extinct, these exceptional birds stand five feet tall and have an eight-foot wingspan. Considered sacred by the local Ainu people who refer to them as the gods of the marshes, they display a mating dance with elongated necks, unfolded wings, gentle leaps, and small steps reminiscent of a real life “Swan Lake.”
Swim in the Thriving Bunaken Marine Reserve
The Coral Triangle—called the “Amazon of the Seas” for its remarkable biodiversity—spans numerous countries connected by an astonishing reef system. Off of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, Bunaken Marine Preserve is part of the Coral Triangle. It protects rare and threatened species such as large numbers of hawksbill and green sea turtles, which return year after year to lay their eggs. Snorkel here in an incredible undersea world with bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasses, sea fans and giant sponges, and large and beautiful mollusks like nautiluses and horned helmets.