Wildlife viewing specialist Wild Planet Adventures recommends eight of the world’s most extraordinary yet little-known wildlife parks for nature lovers’ bucket lists.
“These parks are in some instances as endangered as the animals and flora/fauna they harbor,” said Josh Cohen, company director. His company, founded in 1991, supports wild and remote places where travelers can fulfill lifetime dreams of seeing rare and endangered species in natural habitats.
Here are eight little-known but extraordinary parks Cohen recommends:
1) Bokeo Nature Preserve, Laos (pictured) – Accessible only by an exhilarating network of zip-lines, this is among the few places in the world where lodging is in a tree-house 200 feet high in the rainforest canopy. Here gibbons sing love duets each morning as the mist burns off the rainforest. Bokeo can be combined with Thailand’s little-known parks, Kaeng Krachan and Klong Seang Wildlife Sanctuary for tracking wild elephants, clouded leopards, flying fox and more. Thailand & Laos Ultimate Wildlife Eco-Tour
2) Manu Biosphere Reserve, Peru – For biodiversity, this is the #1 park in the world, with an astounding 200 species of mammals. Its 13 species of primates include the pygmy marmoset, the world’s smallest primate, and the exotic mustachioed Emperor Tamarin. Fewer than 3,000 visitors annually enter the coveted Reserved Zone, one of the most pristine rainforests on earth.
Peru Ultimate Wildlife Adventure
3) Kafue National Park, Zambia – This country’s “secret” park holds possibly the greatest diversity of wildlife of any national park in Africa, according to Zambia’s tourism board. Prides of lions 20 strong and cheetah are among 158 species of animals in a region four times the size of nearby South Luangwa N.P. yet with less than 10 percent of the tourism. For the most comprehensive, crowd-free safari anywhere in Africa see Zambia Ultimate Wildlife Safari.
4) Manas and Kaziranga National Parks, Assam, India – Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India’s least visited region between Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Tibet and China. Kaziranga offers a safari experience unparalleled outside of Africa, said Cohen. “Imagine 40 rhinos, a few herds of wild elephants, a tiger and hundreds of deer and other large mammals, all in your field of vision all at once.” Manas, with breathtaking views of the Himalayas, offers a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve. Fewer than 6,000 foreigners come to Kaziranga annually. India Ultimate Wildlife Eco-Tour
5) Danum Valley Conservation Area, Borneo – While much of Borneo is loosing the battle against encroaching palm plantations, Danum Valley’s rainforest is so thick it has never been populated by humans. Known for its extreme biodiversity, the valley is home to the full range of Sabah’s lowland fauna sheltering the rare Sumatran Rhinoceros, Pygmy Elephants, Clouded Leopards, and Orang Utans. Borneo Weird and Wonderful Wildlife
6) Kaeng Krachan National Park and Klong Seang Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand – Kaeng Krachan is Thailand’s largest and least visited park with only one road in, usually on foot and 4WD for spotting wild elephant and more. The lakeside wildlife sanctuary of Klong Seang features hundreds of inlets and coves best explored through a combination of long-tail boat and silent kayaking, offered exclusively Wild Planet Adventures, the only US operator in the park. Sumatran tigers have been sighted here; Wild Planet’s guests have seen the extremely rare Clouded Leopard here. Unknown and nearly inaccessible, a new floating aqua-lodge on the lake makes an ideal base near breathtaking limestone karst formations. Hidden Thailand
7) Coiba Island Marine Wildlife Sanctuary – An archipelago of 38 islands three hours off Panama’s Pacific Coast offers a barrier reef considered among the top 10 dive spots in the world, the largest protected marine wildlife sanctuary in the Americas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Encounters with four species of whales and others are both common and spectacular. Coiba also has its own endemic sub-species of scarlet macaws, and its beaches are a regular nesting site for green turtles. Panama – Coiba Island Diving
8) Taiama Ecological Preserve – Located on an island in Brazil’s Pantanal, one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands, the Preserve is a virtually unknown alternative to the controversial jaguar tourism in the Porto Joffre area that has the highest density of jaguars in the world. It is a federally protected area not open to the public and no tour operator is permitted to take tourists onto the reserve itself. However, it is possible to circumnavigate the reserve (an 8-10 hour boat ride) in search of jaguars. By utilizing biologist guides with strict sustainable protocols (including no radio contact with other boats), Wild Planet averages about 1.5 jaguar sightings a day in this area, often at close distance, for long periods of time, with no other boats around. Pantanal to Amazon – Jaguar’s Trail.
To review current trips, schedules and itineraries log onto: http://www.wildplanetadventures.com/.