Wild Asia: Luxury Travel for the Nature Lover

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ASIA Luxury Travel for


Nature Lover




Contact C O N TA Cyour T YO Upreferred R P R E F E R R E travel D T R AV Eadvisor L A D V I S Oor R O call R CA Remote L L R E M OT Lands E LAND on S O+1 N + (212) 1 ( 2 1 2 518-1618 ) 5 1 8 -1 61 8





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Hokkaido’s Great Outdoors in Winter

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Among Giants - Bird Watching in Sri Lanka

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Wild Asia

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Wild Langkawi

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3 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Wildlife in Bali

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Sir Bani Yas - Staying in Style in the UAE’s Safari Paradise

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The Adorable Wildlife of the Philippines

This great Japanese island is an unspolied natural wonderland for nature lovers Even beginners can capture the perfect shots when up close and personal with Sri Lanka’s wildlife A spotlight on ten of Asia’s most spectacular locations for getting aquainted with fascinating fauna Eagles and monkeys and sharks, oh my! The most spectacular spot in Malaysia is more than its gorgeous beaches Indonesia’s island with everything is perfect for accessible wildlife for the whole family

Arabian desert fantasies await on this decadent adventure Award-winning beaches teem with life and untouched forests host the cutest furry friends

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Editor’s Letter . . . The natural world has had a chance to heal, and many destinations in Asia are better for it. Whether it’s the leopards of Yala in Sri Lanka or the manta rays of Indonesia, many areas of Asia are emerging in the new year recuperated and reenergized. As we anticipate a different world, we most look forward to getting a little bit wild.

Remote Lands Co-founder, CEO

Catherine Heald

Remote Lands Co-founder, COO

Jay Tindall


Tyler Roney


Phoebe Storm

Cover Photo

Charles Ryan


Jay Tindall, Jay McMahon, Jenna Bucien

Director of Product

Trinity Nguyen

Digital Marketing

Liam Vickers

Director of Business Development

Melisa Novick

Head Offices

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The Creative Partnership david@creativethailand.com +66 (0) 2 285 4721


EXCLUSIVELY ASIA With Remote Lands you’ll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure.

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As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you’ll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.

DEEP KNOWLEDGE Whether you’re seeking tranquillity or transformational activity (or something in between), your Asian journey springs from the deep understanding we develop of your wishes and expectations, and from our own experience as discerning, demanding travellers.

A journey that flows at your pace and follows your path, effortlessly accommodating any diversion with the aid of 24/7 on-ground support across the continent. A journey that is delivered to the very highest standard of service wherever that path takes you.



Great Outdoors in Winter

Story and Photography by Jenna Bucien



apan is a land of complex food, luxe hotels, and unique cultures, but the country’s wild heart sits in the great white north of Hokkaido, the northernmost and second largest of Japan’s four main islands. Until the mid-fifteenth century, only the hunter-gatherer indigenous Ainu people lived on this rugged terrain of volcanic mountains, marshlands, and pine forests surrounded on all sides by icy seas. The legacy of the Ainu peoples’ keen respect for nature endures today, as Hokkaido largely remains an unspoiled natural wonderland with many opportunities for outdoor winter adventure.


KUSHIRO for the Akan International Crane Center The marshes surrounding Hokkaido’s eastern city of Kushiro is a paradise for any bird watcher or wildlife enthusiast. From November through March, travelers head to the Akan International Crane Center to see wild red-crowned cranes in their natural environment. Named after the iconic patch of red bare skin on its head, the elegant red-crowned crane (also

known as the tancho crane) was brought back from the brink of extinction in the mid-twentieth century due to coordinated winter feeding efforts and local support. Now, about 1,200 red-crowned cranes call Hokkaido home, with many regularly stopping at Akan International Crane Center’s grounds to feed. Those willing to brave an early wakeup and frigid

Shooting crowned cranes in their natural environment


temperatures will be rewarded with a view from Otawabashi Bridge of the tancho cranes roosting in the Setsurigawa River. As the dawn sun rises, it illuminates the mist coming off the water that partially shrouds the flocks of sleeping cranes. The birds take flight and soar across the lake and welcome the new day with their distinctive calls.

LAKE AKAN for ski-shoeing

Ski-shoeing in Hokkaido

If physical activity is more your style, the quaint resort town next to Lake Akan features a large caldera lake nestled in a primeval forest. In the winter, the lake freezes over, allowing visitors to enjoy family-fun activities such as ice skating, snowmobiling, and even ice fishing. The real highlight, however, is the chance to take a guided mud volcano forest snow walk with Tsuruga Adventure Base SIRI. A hybrid of snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing, ski-shoeing is perfect for beginners and those looking to try something new. Travelers glide across the snow-covered woods seeking bokke, patches of bubbling volcanic mud that release dramatic waves of steam. Along the way, you can stop by a hidden shrine marked by its brilliant vermillion torii gate and have the chance to see foxes, deer, and rabbits going about their day. Visitors glide back to the resort for a much-needed soak in the mineral-rich waters of your hotel’s onsen and then emerge from the woods to venture directly onto the virgin snow covering the far side of Lake Akan.

TESHIKAGA for Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, & Mount Io For postcard-perfect landscape scenery, there is Teshikaga’s Akan Mashu National Park. The first stop should be the legendary Lake Mashu, one of Japan’s deepest caldera lakes and known by the Ainu as the “Lake of the Gods.” Often shrouded in a dense mist, those lucky enough to see the lake on a sunny day will be treated to views of its blue waters perfectly reflecting the mountains surrounding the steep crater walls. After enjoying Lake Mashu’s tranquil beauty either from the observation deck or the hiking trail along its rim, travelers can take a short drive to Mount Io (Iozan), an active volcano known for its 1,500 fumaroles constantly spewing steam and sulfur dioxide hundreds of feet into the air. Visitors can venture close to the mountain’s otherworldly yellow sulfur deposits and boiling water bubbling from the earth just beneath their feet. Be sure to snack on an egg cooked by the mountain’s natural heat before departing for nearby Lake Kussharo, the largest caldera lake in Japan. Each winter, over 300 large whooper swans migrate to Hokkaido from Siberia, resting near Lake Kussharo’s sandy Sunayu beach. Here, geothermal spring water seeps into the frigid lake, creating a comfortable warmth for the birds. Bobbing languidly amongst floating chunks of ice or nestling on the shore’s naturally-heated sand, the whooper swans wait for the arrival of spring.

Sulfur on Mount Iozan

Swans on Lake Kussharo


KAWAYU AND NOTSUKE PENINSULA for winter canoeing, foxes, & deer Hokkaido’s vast wilderness can make you feel as if civilization has fallen away, leaving you as the only person left in the world. For those who revel in this tranquil feeling, winter canoeing is a perfect activity. After being fitted with a dry suit, waterproof boots, and a life jacket, begin at the head of the Kushiro River, where it flows east from Lake Kussharo. Then float effortlessly downstream, hearing nothing except the trickling water and chirping birds.

From the canoe, pebbles at the shallow river bottom are visible; tree branches bowed over from the weight of ice and snow line the river’s banks, sparkling in the mid-morning sunlight. A short break on the river bank to enjoy fresh coffee prepared on the canoe’s stove completes this unique experience. Continue your meditation in nature with a trip to the narrow Notsuke Peninsula, where the frozen Odaito Bay meets the Nemuro Strait.

The barren trees within the salt marshes, the snow-capped rusted fishing boats and abandoned houses, the expansive blue sea from which the Kuril Islands — contested territories between Japan and Russia — are visible and create a stark yet beautiful landscape. Here, where nature has truly taken over, vast herds of Sika deer graze while solitary Ezo red fox scavenge for the discarded oysters left behind by the eagles soaring above.

Ezo red fox

Winter canoeing in Hokkaido 12

Drift ice at Shiretoko’s shore

Steller’s sea eagle

RAUSU AND SHIRETOKO for eagles & drift ice walking To top off your outdoors adventure, travel to the Shiretoko Peninsula in the northernmost part of eastern Hokkaido. Each winter, the Steller’s sea eagle — the heaviest species of eagle in the world — crosses the Sea of Okhotsk into Hokkaido from Russia. With the sun rising over Rausu’s harbor, witness this majestic rare bird compete with its cousin, the white-tailed eagle, for breakfast. The eagles will swoop from the cliffs and skim across the water, skillfully catching fish in their sharp talons mid flight. When

the boat stops next to a sea wall, see the eagles devour their prey up close, leaving nothing but meager scraps for the crowding gulls. After deboarding the ship, head to Shiretoko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its rugged mountains, steep cliffs, and roaming grizzly bears. Each winter, masses of ice from Russia’s Amur River float across the sea, reaching the Shiretoko’s rocky shores by early February. Experience this unique icy landscape first hand by walking out

onto the “drift ice” itself. Following an experienced guide, feel like a child again as you hop from one ice chunk another. While some patches will be as firm as solid ground, others may bob precipitously in the icy water. However, fear not — taking an icy plunge is half of the fun, as you will be fully protected from the elements with a colorful drysuit. Here, at this special place the Ainu call the “edge of the earth,” watch as the sun gradually sets, tinging the drift ice vibrant hues of pink, orange and gold.





Story and photography by Jay Tindall

There is no need for a 600mm lens or to follow a kingfisher around for hours. No, this land is alive with colorful birds that can be well shot by any run-and-gun photographer. 15


’m not a birdwatcher. I wouldn’t consider myself a wildlife photographer — certainly not a “twitcher”. I’ve shot all over the world, but my main interest is in portraits, particularly of indigenous groups in Southeast Asia. However, that is what is so spectacular about Sri Lanka. There is no need for a 600mm lens or to follow a kingfisher around for hours. No, this land is alive with colorful aviary that can be well shot by any run-and-gun photographer and it is well worth the effort. These birds are, for most, a decoration to the more popular wildlife experiences at the main national parks in Sri Lanka: Wilpattu, Udawalawe, Yala, and more. Between these bird shots are leopards, marmots, hares, elephants, and crocodiles. Geographically and ecologically, Sri Lanka is unique. The tropical island’s intemperate, highly-seasonal monsoons off the southern tip of India have given

rise to particularly rich bird life, with more than 500 species recorded and the island used as a breeding ground for a number of migratory species. Sri Lanka is most famous for its national parks and the wildlife therein. Each park is different — Udawalawe famous for its elephants, Yala for its leopards, Wilpattu for its sloth bears — but the birds are a constant, reliable ornament. One of the most incredible sights is to see wildlife communing together, especially when it seems like such a dichotomy: the most fearsome reptilian monster on the planet next to the odd, awkward movements of a Great thick-knee. Sri Lanka features both the common mugger and saltwater crocs, both of which bask near still waters, an ideal place to photograph them with some of the braver aviary species. The first safari bird of which you’ll want to be aware might seem a little prosaic, but it is endemic to Sri Lanka

Spot-billed pelican

White-necked kingfisher


and quite colorful: the Sri Lanka junglefowl, or Ceylon junglefowl (Gallus lafayettii). Now, this may well look just like a chicken to you, but straighten your back and salute, soldier, for this is the national bird of Sri Lanka. Found all over the forests of Sri Lanka, these birds can be tough to spot sometimes because they enjoy the forest cover; however, keep an ear out for the “kreeu, kreeu, kreeuu” of the male and you’re sure to spot one. There are two other ground birds of note, one being the rather rare Ceylon spurfowl, which you’re unlikely to see, and the other is so flamboyant you might have trouble avoiding it: the peacock. These are the original stomping grounds of the peacock — this, of course, and neighboring India. Though they are famed (and farmed) the world over, these peacocks, the blue peacock (Pavo cristatus), originally come from India and Sri Lanka, and are in fact India’s national bird.

Blue-tailed bee-eater

Painted storks

Crested serpent-eagle on the prowl

Male blue peacock, native to India and Sri Lanka

Great bittern

Spotting them in the wild can be very special, especially when you can watch one of the large males take to the air. Watch for one perched on a log or outcrop; their plumage makes it difficult to fly, so they’re quite careful about it — and surprisingly graceful. Sri Lanka is home to graceful birds of prey, including eagles and falcons, as well as curious species such as the funny-looking frogmouth. But, with the exception of the friendly serpent eagle and its cousins, these can be difficult to spot from the back of a loud land rover. Still the odd Brahminy kite is pleased to groom its feathers for the camera. More friendly birds can be found in the grey heron, for example: very active, and extremely photogenic stalking their prey through the shallows — as well as being more than a meter tall — next to gigantic elephants. Similarly, there are a number of species

of pelican that make up some of the largest birds to be found on the islands. The spot-billed pelican can often be seen clomping its jaws shut and making a loud noise. Due to their large size, the drama of their feeding, and their young, pelicans can make for some easy birdwatching pickings while on safari. These pelicans can also nest en masse with painted storks, also a very large and friendly species to be found on the tracts of Sri Lanka’s national parks — usually found around standing water. These are not the most attractive birds, but their size, friendliness, and long legs make for excellent video when they are active. Similarly, though, even the small birds in Sri Lanka can be friendly enough for those without a long lens. Kingfishers can be standoffish but the bee eaters are happy to bring their colorful plumage within meters of a safari jeep. Fascinatingly, the blue-tailed bee eaters

Gray heron

of Sri Lanka make their nests in the sand, which is why you so often see them next to dirt roads. Colorful parrots, hornbills, and orioles are also to be found throughout the national parks, though often difficult to spot. And, there are three species of paradise flycatcher, including the endemic Ceylon paradise flycatcher. For those who’ve seen these in the wild, it is a real treat; as with the Indian and Himalayan varieties, their extremely long tails make them a prize of amateur bird photographers. You don’t have to be a “birder” to appreciate the varied, dynamic avian life of Sri Lanka. But, noticing them puts an entirely new filter on your lens. Birds might not be high on the agenda, but understanding them is the key to understanding the forces that shape the ecology that gives life to some of the richest forests in Asia.



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redatory beasts of claw and fang stalking through the undergrowth, dragons lurking on paradise islands, one-horned beasts marching in the shadow of the Himalayas, wise red apes swinging from primeval forests — this is Asia. Asia encompasses the planet’s highest snow-

capped peaks and clear underwater wonders, and some of Earth’s most fascinating creatures have evolved in these peculiar niches. Pandas play in the mountains of Sichuan, brown bears gorge themselves on salmon in volcanic Russia, leopards prowl the island of Sri Lanka — all these animals found their home in the

forests and parks of Asia. Recent years have given nature a chance to rebound, a way for the animals of the world to recover. Now the revitalized natural world is prepared for visitors once again. Whether it’s by tropical river boat, jeep safari, or on foot, Remote Lands is ready to show you Asia’s wildest places. 21

Sri Lanka A

fter a respite from tourists, Sri Lanka national parks — featuring some of the best safari destinations in all of Asia — are refreshed and ready for travelers once again. From the sloth bears of Wilpattu to the elephants of Udawalawe, it is always a good time for a safari in Sri Lanka. The most sought after sighting is that of the leopards, best found in Yala National Park. Yala is vital to the conservation of Sri Lankan wildlife and boasts some of the highest densities of leopards in the world. The Sri Lankan leopard subspecies is native to the island and is the largest type of leopard. This powerful hunter is a wiry mass of lean muscle and sinew, covered in a tawny-colored fur, patterned with dark brown spots and two-toned markings known as rosettes. While this is definitely the most famous of


Sri Lanka’s parks, it can also be the busiest, easily reached from beach destinations and luxury hotels in the south. “As an apex predator, the leopards are seen all day, often just crossing a road or hanging in a tree,” says Arshad Nihaz of Leopard Trails, explaining how this beast of tooth and claw is not that different from a big kitty cat. “When it gets cold, they find a spot with direct sunlight to heat themselves, lazing around to regulate their body temperature.” On the other side of the country is Wilpattu. Here, too, travelers will find elephants and leopards, but it’s also home to sloth bears. The sloth bear looks like it just got out of bed; it lopes around Sri Lanka’s dry wooded areas in a shaggy coat in search of food. The bear’s ears are tufted, its snout is hairless, and it’s often seen curling its unique lips and making faces; though it’s hardly the most

majestic animal in a forest teaming with leopards and elephants, the sloth bear has character. May to June is the best time to look for slot bears in Wilpattu, especially as they look for the palu tree berry. The sweetness and fermentation of the forest causes the bears to wander the forests as if drunk. Lovers of macrofauna will be keen for a look at Sri Lanka’s most macro of them all, the Asian elephant. These can be spotted in most national parks, but can be found in particular densities in Udawalawe and Minneriya. The elephant gathering at the Minneriya reservoir features the largest collection of Asian elephants in the world. Travelers can take a Jeep to the banks of the reservoir while watching from a safe distance. As the sun sinks in the sky, elephants infiltrate from all directions in one of Sri Lanka’s most awe-inspiring natural sights – and romantic to say the least.

Leopard in Yala National Park Elephants in Udawalawe

Sloth bear in Wilpattu


One-horned rhinoceros in Chitwan

Gharial croc in the Rapti River

Spotted deer in the Chitwan forests


Chitwan C

hitwan is perhaps the greatest wildlife destination in Nepal — perhaps all of South Asia. For most, Nepal conjures to mind the snowcapped Himalayas and the colorful culture of Kathmandu, but in Chitwan tigers, rhinos, deer, and leopards wander the warm forest mornings. If you’re on foot and you smell buttered popcorn, you may be coming up on some tiger droppings, but rhinos are the much more likely quarry. The rhino is the prize of Chitwan. When travelers land at sparse Bharatpur airport, they’ll see a mother and calf statue at the entrance. Once, this area was a hunting ground for the Nepali and foreign elite, where they would kill tigers, bears, and rhinos by the dozen. Today the land is protected. Poaching is no longer an issue. The rhinos of Chitwan are the one-horned variety, Rhinoceros unicornis, and around 600 of the only 2,000 in the world can be found in Chitwan. Other than Assam in India, Chitwan is one of

the best places in Asia to spot these animals. The animal’s thick skin maintains its imposing white hue up close, but it moves mechanically as the animal feeds, it’s plate-like armor shifting around its body. The beast seems almost like a clockwork creature. The rhino is placid – aware but unconcerned. When you weigh 2,000 kilograms, there are few animals in the forest that can frighten you, least of all a 4×4 filled with squishy humans. The ideal way to see the park is by safari jeep, bouncing through the wellkept paths of Nepal’s most famous wildlife park. For those hoping to see Chitwan by foot, one word should matter more than others: early. Wake up with the sunrise for the best views and the most comfortable experience. In the cool morning air, the animals are all at their most active — herds of deer in the dewy forest, bathing rhinos, and chattering monkeys in the canopy. There are a few other large animals of which travelers

should be made aware. The sloth bears, another large predator of note in the park, are extremely difficult to spot, though their shabby dens can be found throughout. There are some less cute fauna worth a visit in Chitwan, namely, the crocs. Frequent world travelers will be familiar with the look of the common mugger crocodile, but the curious snout of the gharial might be a new experience. In fact, there is a gharial crocodile breeding center where travelers can see these very strange creatures in every stage of their growth. Only one luxury hotel is worthy of the title in Chitwan, Taj Meghauli Serai. The peaceful jungle lodge, perched on the edge of the East Rapti River rapids, is in the heart of the action. Wildlife can often be seen from the deck of the infinity pool or while enjoying a fine dining dinner. For sunset, travelers can walk to take a boat for a champagne sundowner on the Rapti, where visiting rhinos compliment the orange skies of the Terai.


Kamchatka K

amchatka is the ultimate adventure destination for nature lovers. Here, travelers traverse the eastern edges of Siberia via helicopter to visit with bears and fly over active volcanoes in Russia’s wildest landscape. If you’re planning for spring, Kamchatka is most well-known for its large brown bears and whale watching. First, though, travelers should understand just how off-the-grid they will be. The remote Kamchatsky peninsula is a wilderness roughly the size of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland put together, and is today one of the world’s last and largest nature sanctuaries. After the 10-hour flight from Moscow, the reward is otherworldly scenery in the form of huge snow-capped volcanoes, bubbling hot springs, and dense, untouched wildlife.


There is one bear for every 30 humans on Kamchatka. Standing almost 10 feet on their back legs, visitors can observe these powerful creatures in the late summers when Kamchatka’s rivers run abundant with salmon racing upstream. An estimated 20,000 brown bears gather to enjoy the river’s salmon smorgasbord. The salmon themselves are something of a natural wonder, returning to the waters whence they were born to spawn, drawing all manner of life to the bountiful feast. It’s not just what the bears are, it’s where they are — volcano valleys filled with geysers, foraging in yellow seasonal grasses, splashing in springs. The bears here are healthy and active, snatching spawning fish from streams. Boasting around 300 volcanoes, 100,000 lakes and rivers, and abundant deer,

moose, and wolves, the best way — and in many cases the only way — to get to the best spots of Kamchatka is by helicopter. More adventurous travelers might want to take to the untouched trails for some middle-of-nowhere volcano hiking. For wildlife on land spring and summer are a must in what becomes a frozen, impassable land in winter. However, off the coast, travelers might still catch glimpses of fur seals, walruses, and sea otters, and the ocean is home to many whale species including grey, minke, beluga, bowhead, and humpback. For the ultimate adventure, however, combine the chopper travel with your skis for heliskiing. Those dropped on the Mutnovsky Volcano will pass a glacier and several geysers on their way into the crater. The Bakening Volcano run leads directly to thermal springs.

Anadyr foxes

Mountain valley in the volcanic landscape of Kamchatka

Brown bear family hunting salmon


Camels in Salalah

Hatchling green turtle in Ras Al Jinz

Al-Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve


Oman O

man is an underrated wildlife destination — it’s just underrated, period. This is a land rich in both natural and manmade attractions; from the gleaming mosques and boisterous souqs of the capital, Muscat, to the ancient fort ruins running along the palm tree-fringed coastlines. But, there is wilderness here as well, accompanying barren dunes throughout the Empty Quarter in the south. There are a number of well-established snorkeling and diving destinations that every traveler in Oman will want to see — well-developed and perfect for families. First are the Daymaniyat Islands. Found just 18 kilometers off the Barka coast and less than an hour from Muscat, the Al-Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve is composed of nine idyllic islands. Overall, there are more than 22 diving and snorkeling sites. White sands and blue waters give this Middle Eastern destination a tropical tinge. For something a little more academic — and a little more adorable — there

is Ras al Jinz, a Remote Lands favorite. Among the sea turtle sanctuaries of the world, Ras al Jinz is unique. Surrounded by desert and mountain greens, this area is the nesting place of the endangered green turtle – a place where a select few can watch these gigantic sea creatures lay, nest, and escape to the safety of the sea, best experienced at night or in the early morning. The 120-square kilometer protected area and 45-kilometer coastline of Ras al Jinz is also home to 6,000-year-old archaeological sites. Few visitors are permitted in this pristine sanctuary, so it is extremely important for travelers to book ahead, the best season being from May to September. Even near the capital, travelers are never far from wildlife, where visitors can take a cruise to see the playful dolphins. Muscat and Musandam are most famous for their dolphin watching, with pods of several dozen appearing at once. So rich are the seas around Oman that dolphin watching can be seen everywhere from Dhofar to

Khasab, perhaps seen from the comfort of a luxury dhow. But, what is on most travelers’ minds when they think of Oman is the desert, a natural, imposing adventure playground. Inland, one of the finest options is Desert Nights Camp. Rising like a mirage out of the colorful Wahiba Sands, Desert Nights Camp is an exclusive five-star desert camping experience, complete with Bedouin-style tents under a blanket of Arabian stars. The romantic red dunes are an ornament to quad biking, dune-bashing, and camel safaris. For a greener nature experience in Oman, turn to Salalah. Apart from being home to the Tomb of Job and the luxurious Al Baleed Resort, every fall the desert quite literally turns green. Khareef means autumn in Arabic, but refers to the dense fog and monsoon clouds from India that cover Salalah, the capital of the Dhofar region, from late June to late September. During these months, the brown countryside is completely transformed into a green, subtropical city — a booming, camel-filled Eden.


Borneo G

iant red apes swing from trees. Mysterious pygmy elephants stomp through the thick jungle. Nowhere in the world’s imagination more represents the wildlife of Asia more than Borneo. There are many highlights of a nature adventure through Borneo but only one true star: the orangutan. There are a number of sights travelers can see along the Kinabatangan River and beyond where visitors can enjoy the distinctive orange fur and gentle broad face of this incredible creature both in the wild and at rehabilitation centers. Set up by French conservationists, Dr. Isabelle Lackman and Dr. Marc Ancrenaz, the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project was developed in 1998 and the staff of 40 members work with NGOs and the local government to search for


ways to protect the vulnerable “red ape” of Borneo. The Kinabatangan River, the second longest river in Malaysia, is dense with remarkable wildlife: proboscis monkeys, langurs, and wild cats. Travelers can experience this primeval world with nature guides on river safaris and jungle treks. Avid adventurers and photographers come to this section of Borneo to look for saltwater crocodiles and keep an eagle-eye out for the colorful Birds of Paradise that made Borneo so famous in the 19th century. South of the river, the Danum Valley Conservation Area is one of the world’s most biodiverse and ecologically important regions, consisting of lowland rainforest over around 400 square kilometers (240 miles). Before becoming a park in 1990, no humans lived here, no mining or logging — a

truly untouched ecosystem. The 130-million-year-old primeval rainforest is a dream destination for any nature enthusiast, equipped with trails to vantage points, canopy walks, and a field center with a world-class research facility. On nature walks through the lowlands, travelers can catch a glimpse othe the jungle in the raw, reveling in both the large and the small fauna, such as the Wallace flying frog. It might not seem like much at first, but this little amphibian is named for Alfred Russel Wallace whose work in animals in Borneo helped form Darwin’s theory of evolution. Despite rampant deforestation over the last few decades, Borneo boasts three nations, dozens of tribes, and some of the densest biodiversity on planet Earth. There has never been a better — or more important — time to go.

Pygmy elephant in Borneo Winding, life-filled Kinabatangan River

Wild baby orangutan


Sparring Komodo dragons

Picturesque Padar Island

Manta ray in Komodo waters


Komodo O

ld maps would declare, hic sunt dracones, translated to “Here be dragons.” This meant that you were entering an unexplored area of the map. Komodo isn’t unexplored. It just actually has dragons. Beloved by both nature lovers and grade schoolers, the Komodo dragon is surrounded in myth and mystery: a bacteria-laden mouth full of serrated teeth, 4 million year old species, and the world’s largest lizard weighing more than 150 pounds. Seeing these creatures both captive and in the wild is on the bucket list for so many wildlife enthusiasts, and the very lucky might even find them hunting or the males competing in a brutal contest of strength. On land, travelers to Komodo National Park will find the ubiquitous crab-eating macaque, Timor deer, palm civets, and water buffalo; all of these amazing creatures can be found on walks through the mountains and valleys of the many islands of Komodo. Rinca,

though, is where visitors will see dragons in the raw, often coming right down to the beach and to other inhabited areas on a journey through the virtually uninhabited island. Off Komodo Island itself, one treat Instagram-happy travelers will want to see is Pink Beach, a tiny stretch of white sand sprinkled with red coral, causing the sand to look candy floss pink. However, for many, the real treat is underwater: dragons above, gentle beasts below. The fish, sharks, and reptiles of the waters around Komodo National Park are too many to mention, but one facet is a year-round traveler favorite: manta rays. Dwarfing their scaly neighbors on land, the mantas can grow to more than five meters (18 feet) and can, at first, seem a little intimidating as a diving partner, but these creatures are placid and friendly. The best diving conditions for Komodo National Park are found from March to October, and visitors will want to keep an eye out for turtles. Komodo isn’t just

Komodo; it’s Rinca, Padar, and a whole host of other islands. Everywhere the island-hopping traveler goes, there’s something to see. Giant rays? Sure. Pink beaches? Certainly. Dragons? Of course. But the one thing you won’t find is a truly luxury hotel with easy access to all of these treasures. When it comes to seeing Komodo, you need a private schooner. The ideal tour of Komodo passes through Loh Liang Bay. The private schooner should visit Rinca and Padar and will even allow travelers to do some hiking to see deer and buffalo. Of course, travelers shouldn’t miss the obligatory stop to see Komodo dragons within the park, but what matters most is how visitors spend their time after venturing through Komodo. Remote Lands recommends traveling east to the Riung Islands and perhaps even all the way to Mount Kelimutu. But the great thing about having your own private schooner, after all, is getting to chart your own course.


Cardamom Mountains M

onkeys, elephants, and the thrill of a tropical jungle — the forests here are one-of-a-kind in Southeast Asia. The Cardamom National Forest is the proper rainforest safari experience, done with care and in style. Patrolling with the armed Wildlife Alliance looking for poachers, setting camera traps with a resident naturalist, taking a comfortable expedition boat down the Srey Ambel Estuary, and your very own “Adventure Butler” — this destination offers a chance to get into the thick of wildlife appreciation and conservation. Chances of seeing a tiger or clouded leopard in this thicket are pretty slim, but the main reason to put this on your gonow list is simple: Shinta Mani Wild. Designed by star designer and architect Bill Bensley, the Shinta Mani Wild allows guests to mix their love of nature with their love of luxury travel in a fun, sustainable way. “We have a big problem in the Cardamom National Forest


of illegal poaching and illegal logging. My presence in the south of that park also supports the Wildlife Alliance rangers. Those rangers go on very long walks and bike rides with AK-47s – always traveling in a group of four – to do some very serious conservation work,” architect and designer Bill Bensley tells Remote Lands. Found nestled into 1.5 kilometers of rivers and waterfalls, this is Bill Bensley’s masterpiece, a tented camp carefully designed to evoke a luxury safari with Jacky O’. There is around one tent for every 40 acres of land, all tucked into the Tmor Rung River. Isolated it may be, but it’s not rustic; travelers will have every imaginable amenity and luxury while at the Shinta Mani Wild, from world-class cuisine at The Headquarters to a cocktail at The Landing Zone Bar. Most of this forest is completely inaccessible, and that is what makes it such an important destination for naturalists and sybarites alike.

“In my 30 years years of constructing 200 plus hotels, the Shinta Mani Wild is the piece de resistance. I bought a piece of land there and it’s about the size of Central Park with the intent of teaching the Cambodian people that conservation is much more important and smarter than extraction,” says Bill Bensley. Twitchers will find the Southeast Asia birds of paradise a constant fascination and during the migratory season when birds are making bi-annual pilgrimages to the wetlands drawing colorful, exciting species not normally seen. Beyond the wildlifecentric activities, travelers can go Tenkara fishing, hiking, kayaking, ziplining, and picnic on the ground’s waterfalls. The jungle on the ground is impassable, so to really get a feel for the expansive Cardamom National Park, charter a private helicopter to the base of the Cardamom Mountains before settling into your plush safari camp.

Comfortable expedition boat on the Srey Ambel Estuary

Hornbill in the Cardamom Mountains

Tenkara fishing with Shinta Mani Wild


Giant panda in a tree in Chengdu

Leshan Giant Buddha Red panda at the Chengdu Research Base


Chengdu A

sprawling city in central Sichuan, Chengdu is known for many things: its food, thousands of years of history, its Buddhist temples and monasteries. But, most of all, Chengdu is know for Ailuropoda melanoleuca, the giant panda. A symbol both of the Chinese nation and of wildlife conservation, few species are as unique as the panda — or as adorable. The bamboo-munching creature is a friendly, mysterious resident that occupies only a sliver of the Qinling Mountains. Travelers can visit the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center and meet privately with the scientists responsible for developing the center’s advanced panda reproduction program. For an unforgettable bucket list experience, visitors can even get to hold a baby panda. Exploring the grounds of the Chengdu Giant Panda

Breeding and Research Center is a thoroughly pleasant experience, clean and beautifully landscaped over 92 acres, filled with well-kept paths and bamboo forests. Baby pandas are quite exceptional and they can climb trees in as little as five months. Learning to fend for themselves is quite important at a young age, as these creatures need to spend 10 to 16 hours a day feeding on the nutrient poor bamboo. Fascinatingly, pandas still have the digestive system of a carnivore, and this allday feeding makes them one of the most satisfying bears to watch as they shimmy up trees, play, and do handstands to mark their scent. For a more hands-on adventure, travelers can play panda keeper at a sanctuary, where you can learn all about how these animals live, from making “panda cakes” and feeding them by hand to mucking out their quarters and learning from

people who work with these adorable little critters every day. But Chengdu isn’t just about pandas. Less than two hours outside of the city stands one of the most impressive Buddha statues in the world, the Leshan Buddha. Found in the Emei Mountain region, a Unesco World Heritage Site in its own right, the Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71-metre (233 ft) stone statue carved out of a cliff face of red sandstone, built in the eighth century and the largest of its type in the world. Chengdu, as a modern city, hosts quite a number of luxury hotels. Named for nearby Daci temple, The Temple House, blending the traditional with the modern just like the city itself, is a masterclass in elegant design. Guests enter through the lovingly-restored courtyard, dating back to the Qing dynasty, and the historic style is integrated into many of the building’s features.


Sipadan S

ipadan, a massive limestone column rising from the floor of the Celebes Sea, is considered one of the top diving spots in the world. The area’s turquoise waters are home to an amazing variety of marine life, including dolphins, giant turtles, sharks and a technicolor array of tropical fish. It’s not just the diverse species; fish are also present in huge numbers. Divers are likely to encounter gigantic schools of predator fish like barracuda, jackfish, and trevally mulling around with sunlight lightly reflecting off of their silvery scales. Even the bumphead parrotfish, capable of reaching 1.3 meters in length, can be seen in massive schools here. Strong currents around the island bring in larger pelagic animals for cleaning, hunting and mating. Whale sharks, devil rays, leopard and thresher sharks,


manta rays, and schools of hammerheads can sometimes be seen swimming among the tropical reef fish. The smaller life around Sipadan is equally exciting, with baby-faced frog fish, spotted harlequin shrimp, the highlytoxic blue-ring octopus, and colorful nudibranchs. Sipadan’s diving spots are also home to cleaning stations, where small fish and shrimp clean the shells, teeth, and bodies of larger animals. Wildlife enthusiasts may have likely seen one of Sipadan’s cleaning stations on Blue Planet II, featuring competing turtles looking for the best spot. The cleaning stations provide divers the opportunity to wait around and observe the behavior of the marine life instead of just swimming around looking for critters to tick off their list. Spending the time to watch marine life in this fashion increases divers’ chances of witnessing a

shark feeding frenzy or even mating displays. The reefs and marine life are protected by strict nofishing regulations and only advanced divers or divers with more than 20 dives are permitted. Fewer divers on the reefs means less stress for the coral, making Sipadan a sustainable dive haven. Often experienced via luxury liveaboard, the resorts around Sipadan were removed more than a decade ago to protect the area, but there are onland options available at nearby Mabul. And, perhaps what is best about Sipadan, is that it can be combined with a wildlife holiday exploring one of the best destinations for wildlife above the water: Borneo. As there is no real low season, diving is found year-round with the best conditions between April and December, especially during July and August, when visibility is known to be up to 165 feet.

Sea turtle amongst coral in Sipadan

School of jack fish

Diver and whale shark 39

Tigers in Ranthambore

Glamping with Aman-i-khas

Male chital


Ranthambore R

anthambore is synonymous with tigers. One of the last remaining places to see the Bengal Tiger in its natural environment, Ranthambore National Park features its large, thriving tiger population in the northwestern state of Rajasthan. Ranthambhore is a series of dry savannas, emerald lakes, and patchy forest framed by the peaks of the Aravili and Vindhyan Hills. Travelers explore the more than 60 tigers of Ranthambore via safari, and travel restrictions ensure that the region is never too crowded for the cats to flourish. Sightings are by no means guaranteed, but it’s a good bet. May is the best month for tiger spotting, as the large cats are often seen seeking water and shade. The heat that drives the tigers to the easy viewing spots isn’t exactly easy

on travelers either; the heat can seem off-putting to some, so travelers are advised to bring sunscreen, scarves, and full-sleeved cotton outfits to avoid sunburn. The colder months between October and March are pleasant climate-wise, but catching a glimpse of these elusive cats can be difficult. Nonetheless, the combination of blossoming babul and banyan flowers, as well as the crisp, cool air makes for stunning photo opportunities. In the winter, seeing tigers is rare, but the park is home to a number of other species, including leopards, crocodiles, striped hyenas, sambar deer, jackals, black bucks and Indian flying foxes. Ranthambore is also famed for its diversity of birdlife. On a nature walk with an ornithologist, twitchers can learn about the myriad of migratory and resident birds that call Ranthambore home.

Beyond the tigers, visitors can take an opentop jeep to the old city of Ranthambore, which is located within Ranthambore Fort, a monument within the grounds of the national park. An expert guide will illuminate the old city’s history, starting with its construction between 944 and 1110 AD. Luckily, these wild, historic lands feature the most impressive tented camp in India: Aman-i-khas. As with all Aman properties, this destination is the very essence of luxury. Ten canopy tents, 19-feet tall, surround a marshy lake, each with its own living area opening out to three other rooms for sleeping, bathing, and dressing. The marbled ground-level bathtub compliments the minimalist earthy palette through the tent, and white cotton drapes divide the rooms adding to the holistic setting for a rounded wellness experience.


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angkawi is not a hard sell. Beautiful Malaysian paradise island, endless snorkel-blue waters on the Andaman Sea, mountains, mangroves — you’d be hard pressed to find a more holistic island holiday destination anywhere in Southeast Asia. And, unlike places like Phuket, it’s not overly touristed and crowded. Most of all, though, is Langkawi still hosts a variety of wildlife experiences.

Dusky leaf monkey mother & baby


Brahminy kite eagle

Let’s be honest, a lot of wildlife lovers roll their eyes at bird watching. Oh, a plume crested warbling blue tit? How interesting. No, in addition to the usual tropical hornbills and kingfishers, Langkawi is home to mighty birds of prey. Chief among these are the eagles, a sight to behold and a symbol for Langkawi. The brahminy kite, or brown eagle, is one of the most common and indeed you’ll find statues of this bird all over the island — the same might be said for the more common whitebellied eagle. So numerous are these birds that you can pretty much count on seeing one if you take the time to journey into the wetland parts of Langkawi or bother taking time in the mountains. They swoop down from the cloudy skies into green inland waters and, a treat for the lucky photographer, snatch fish from the placid mangroves. More importantly, these birds are so numerous that you can see them hunting in groups, particularly in the Kilim mangrove area. More astute twitchers might be interested to know that Pulau Dayang Bunting area is home to swallows who use the nearby caves for homes: Paddyfield Pipit, and brown and tiger shrikes.


Mangroves & Monkeys Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark comprises Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, and Kubang Badak BioGeo Trail, and these areas can be explored on foot or by boat. The SkyBridge is one of the most popular spots, but the real adventure is down in the mangroves. At Skeleton Beach, travelers can board kayaks for a journey up the Kubang Badak River to kayak along the mangrove forests or hike through laid paths. The waters around the mangroves are extremely rich in biodiversity, and travelers might take a break to look at some estuary crocs or even a few stingrays maintained by local fishermen. Throughout the journey travelers should keep an eye out for a number of small simians. The crab eating macaque is (quite unfortunately) ubiquitous throughout Southeast and South Asia. They are, well, rude, to put it mildly. But, Langkawi is also home to the much more rare and friendly dusky leaf monkeys, or dusky langurs. These are beloved among photographers for their bright yellow babies. The big find, however, are the flying lemurs, colugo; these are very rare and hard to spot during the day, but if you see one in flight, count yourself lucky. Similarly, travelers are most likely to be able to spot the famously cute slow loris at night.

Blacktip reef shark

Rare colugo

Dusky leaf monkey

Insect-eating bats

Sharks Caves You can combine a trip through the mangroves with a trip to Gua Kelawark cave in Kisap Forest Reserve, named for the insect-eating bats clinging to the ceiling of its main chamber. Be warned, though, that travelers should keep noise to a minimum and flash photography to zero. Visitors are not in any danger from these bats — unless you like to look up with your mouth open — but these creatures are extremely sensitive to light and sound.

Lastly, let’s talk sharks — specifically, black-tip reef sharks. Now, snorkeling and diving is going to be a theme of any trip to Langkawi. You’ll find the usual Andaman Sea suspects: giant groupers, moray eels, and barracudas among the living coral reefs. It’s also notable that (and there is very little chance of spotting them) that there are Bryde’s whales and dolphins. But, one easy way to experience macrofauna of the sea without diving into the depths is a short trip over to Pulau Payar where, depending on the tides, everyone from young kids to adults can join in the clear blue waters. Some people — who are jerks — may want to stand on the docks where they can throw meat to the largely harmless black-tip reef sharks to spark a minor feeding frenzy.


3 FUN WAYS to teach your kids about wildlife in


here’s nowhere in Southeast Asia quite like Bali – the resorts, the food, surfing – but for parents wanting to take the opportunity to educate their kids, the beaches and nightlife aren’t much of a classroom. Getting away from the white sand at Seminyak, parents will find wildlife galore in Bali that can be experienced in safe, educational environments.



Ubud Monkey Forest The monkeys in Ubud Monkey Forest are Balinese long-tailed monkeys – active and always hungry. There are more than 600 monkeys that call this sacred forest home, and while conflicts are inevitable among monkeys, this is a safe family destination to get up close and personal with these adorable little macaques. The temples and trees give this sanctuary a calm, spiritual feel, but the monkeys manage to keep it playful. There are 115 species of tree in this area; of particular interest is the Pule Bandak, used by monks to make masks from living trees. The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary isn’t just a tourist attraction. The temples here are sacred, and with a distinctly Hindu approach to conservation, the three temples in the area – Pura Dalem Agung, Prua Beji, and Prajapati – make a pleasant, spiritual addition to the wildlife. Visitors should remember that they shouldn’t display their bananas willy-nilly because monkeys aren’t all that bothered about stealing, and if travelers offer food, remember not to pull it back. Also, guests should wear attire suitable for the temples.


Bali Bird Park & Bird Village of Petulu For more avian learning, parents can head to the more centrally located Bali Bird Park. Of course featuring the birds of paradise and interesting birds from Southeast Asia, the Bali Bird Park is a collection of friendly birds for parents to explain to their kids – be it the curious Bali starling or the cassowary, which is a demon bird straight out of dinosaur’s nightmare. Parents can let their kids walk among the pelicans, and parrots will use them as a perch at Guyu Guyu Corner. Kids can check out the Bali Rainforest flight show every day, featuring macaws, storks, cockatoos, and other birds in flight. Shows and experiences abound in the Bali Bird Park, including viewings – for some reason – of a Komodo dragon. For something a little more peaceful, there’s the Bird Village of Petulu in Ubud. Every evening, starting around 5pm, 20,000 herons fly from from Ubud a few kilometers away to perch and squabble in this small bird village. One of the most interesting times to visit the Bird Village of Petulu is in March, when the fledglings begin to take flight.


Photo courtesy of the Bali Zoo

Breakfast with Orangutans There is much to enjoy at the Bali zoo: animal performances, jungle dinners, and even a spa. But one very unique feature of the Bali zoo is their famous “Breakfast with Orangutans,” and, yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Normally found far from Bali in Borneo, the Bali Zoo features a unique Breakfast with Orangutan experience. At the Gayo Restaurant at Kampung Sumatra, orangutans play in the playground with other large fauna, including elephants and cockatoos. As one might expect, the breakfast begins with assorted tropical fruits or fruit juice, followed by freshly baked bread, and optional choices of main course. To drink there is Balinese coffee and tea.







isiting Sir Bani Yas Island, the United Arab Emirates desert island wildlife preserve, blends what should be experiences from far flung parts of the planet into one place. Visitors can take a wildlife safari through a manmade savannah where giraffes graze among Arabiaan oryx at daybreak. Enjoy some kayaking and snorkeling in crystal clear waters among dolphins and sea turtles in the afternoon. Then finish the day by mountain biking through a moonscape of salt domes to a mangrove forest in the

evening without ever being too far from three distinctly themed luxury resorts. Named for the tribe of the same name Sir Bani Yas is one of eight islands which collectively make up the UAE desert islands, the Bani Yas tribe occupied the barren island which has no natural source of freshwater or indigenous vegetation nor animal life for an estimated 7,000 years before finally abandoning it more than a century ago for the mainland. The tribe imported everything they needed to live on the island except for salt –

which they had in abundance – and used to barter for all else they needed. The Bani Yas left their history behind in 36 archeological sites scattered over the island included early Islamic structures as well as the remnants of a 600 a old Nestorian church. It was in 1971 that the UAE’s first President Sheik Zayed made the island his personal retreat. By 1977 an official program of greening the island was begun first by developing a 73 square kilometer irrigation system and then planting fields of grasses and millions of trees.

The Arabian oryx


Desert island dining with Anantara

Private pool villa at Anantara 52

Cheetah at Sir Bani Yas

A mangrove forest was established along the east coast of the island which continues to grow as thousands of trees are added every year. The goal was to create the first Arabian wildlife preserve by introducing animals from Africa and around the Middle East. Today the island is home to the world’s largest herd of arabian oryx which shares the man made savana with gazelle, oryx, llama, rehea, and giraffes as well as scavenging striped Hyena and predatory sudanese cheetahs. Sixteen thousand animals were introduced to the island in order to fulfill President Zayed’s vision that a country isn’t measured by its size, but instead by its heritage and culture. Mammals aren’t the only animals that can be seen in the preserve which is visited by hundreds of species of birds over the course of a year. One of which

makes a spectacle of itself, the island draws flocks of flamingos to its shoreline and salty lakes where they strut as they feed flaunting their bright pink plumage. It’s possible to visit the island as a day trip from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi but the long travel time would limit taking advantage of the islands’ diversity and as there are three unique luxury resorts, all part the Anantara Group, a stay becomes integral to the overall experience. “Our family-friendly Desert Islands Resort & Spa was styled with Arabian touches and antiquities to echo the UAE’s culture and history. Al Yamm Villa Resort is located on the Eastern beach of the island, the lay out is reminiscent of an ancient pearl fishing village while Al Sahel Villa Resort is nestled within the Arabian Wildlife Park, so was

designed with an African lodge-like ambience,” says As Ms. Corryanne Draper from Anantara. It’s possible to visit the island as a day trip from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi but the long travel time would limit taking advantage of the islands’ diversity and as there are three unique luxury resorts, all part the Anantara Group, a stay becomes integral to the overall experience. “Our family-friendly Desert Islands Resort & Spa was styled with Arabian touches and antiquities to echo the UAE’s culture and history. Al Yamm Villa Resort is located on the Eastern beach of the island, the lay out is reminiscent of an ancient pearl fishing village while Al Sahel Villa Resort is nestled within the Arabian Wildlife Park, so was designed with an African lodge-like ambience,” says As Ms. Corryanne Draper from Anantara.


It may be difficult to choose which accommodation is the best fit; luckily it’s not necessary as all three can work in conjunction. A holiday that rotates resorts can be made to stay, dine, and take part in each location’s specific activities. The Desert Islands Resort & Spa is surrounded by endless rolling sand a and sits at the edge of the Persian Gulf’s turquoise waters.The resort offers a choice of 64 rooms, suites and palatial villas just steps from the infinity pool. In the interior of the island it’s possible to watch the free roaming wildlife across the lush savannah from a personal, temperature controlled plunge pool sunken into the wooden veranda at one of Al Sahel Resort’s 30 villas. Peacocks strut and gazelles graze throughout the resort that adheres to the exotic atmosphere of African grasslands while providing simple luxury from the well appointed living room and four poster bed


with mosquito netting to the hand hammered copper, double tub in the bathroom. For a more intimate, secluded stay Al Yamm has 30 villas that offer either beachfront or mangrove lagoon views. Like heritage dwellings of old from the outside the villas are furnished to make their guests feel pampered as they take in the wading flamingos along the tide line or look out at the mangrove forest which is forever growing as a mangrove is added to mark every visitor to the island. Guests staying at any of the three resorts can take part in wildlife adventures on the island. Ananatara has created morning and evening drives and hikes to bring guests up close and intimate with the flora and fauna of the island. Mountain biking, land sailing, kayaking trips are all available for the enthusiastic, while strolls along the beach and long afternoons in any of the resorts

pools are available at all times. As guests of Ananatara can choose from the three resorts so can they choose from five different eateries which like the resorts offer distinct and unique experiences influenced by the island. Italian, Middle Eastern and North African cuisine is on offer as well as a dedicated seafood grill. Visitors have highlighted dishes from each including Peri Peri chicken from the Savannah Grill, fresh gorgonzola and pear ravioli from Olio and the fresh seafood mixed grill. “Ananatara has been graced with the opportunity to be part of the great Sheik Zayed’s vision of Arabia’s first and still only wildlife preserve. Our goal to bring luxury accommodation, gourmet cuisine and tailored adventures to this unique destination in the world has been a great challenge, and from what our guests say about us a great success,” Draper says.

Arabian oryx on safari with Anantara

Snorkeling in the Arabian Gulf

Nature and luxury at Anantara


The Adorable Wildlife of The

PHILIPPINES Above & Below the Water


ravelers go to Palawan for the beaches and resorts, but they miss the giant sea cows. They go to Bohol for the chocolate drop mountains and don’t see one



of the cutest animals on the planet. Holidaymakers go all the way to Cebu and fail to cash in on the singularly magical experience of swimming with the biggest fish on Earth. The Philippines

has no end of exciting experiences, but those who want to get up close with some of the most adorable animals in Asia should take some time to get a look at all this wild cuteness.

Topping the charts of can’t-miss wild animals are the engaging and endangered dugongs. Few sea mammals come off as cuddly, but dugongs are a special case. Their large bubbleshaped heads, downward jaw and tiny thoughtful eyes make them one of the most loveable marine mammals in the ocean. The most important group caring for and watching out for these cuddly beasts are found at the Dugong Dive Center in North Busuanga, Palawan. Their trip takes divers on a fullday excursion to several feeding grounds along the Busuanga coast line. Dive centers specializing in dugong sightings won’t guarantee spotting one, but the journey is well worth it as it takes divers along beaches and diving grounds for turtles and other marine animals for which Palawan is so famous. Their color is soft and bluish cream-colored and their manner is friendly, but slightly cautious. Living primarily on sea grasses, the dugong is quite endangered off the coasts of the Philippines, so every care should be taken in preserving it.

PHILIPPINES TARSIER These little critters are less than seven inches tall and have long digits, hence the name which refers to their tarsal bones. Native to the Philippines, they are mostly found in Bohol, but can be seen in Mindanao, Leyte, Samar, and some outlying areas. They have very unusual fixed socket eyes – making them about as cute as the fictional mogwai before it got all gremlin-y. Very shy and nocturnal, they are difficult to spot, but the Philippines tarsier Sanctuary is a sure bet. Their padded “fingers”’ allow them to easily cling to the trees looking for insects, their primary diet of choice, and at the sanctuary travelers can get an unusually close look. The Philippines tarsier is a threatened animal, preyed upon by large birds and feral cats, and the rapid destruction of their varied habitats is a serious factor in their survival. A recommended lodging nearby Bohol is the Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa on Panglao Island.

TURTLE HATCHING On Pamalican Island, the Amanpulo is a beautiful place for turtle spotting and is known as one of the top luxury resorts in the Philippines. In truth, different types of turtles can be found from El Nido to Bohol, so travelers only need check their calendars for the right seasons. On Turtle Bay, it’s possible to see hatchlings on a recurring basis as they mature every seven to eight weeks. From December to May, travelers have a chance to spot turtles at the isolated and underrated Port Barton on Palawan.


Whale Sharks These massive creatures are highly popular with visitors to the north area of the country and are best seen between the months of March to September. They are passive mammals with wide, gaping mouths and spotted hides that lure avid underwater photographers. Obviously, Oslob is the most reliable whale shark spotting area, albeit quite crowded. Fishermen have feeding sessions in the morning that bring out the whale sharks, and boats are plentiful to either observe or get up-close and personal right beside them and swim.

Small-Clawed Otter Yes, there are otters on Palawan. Of all the otters in the world, this Asian species of otter found in Palawan is the smallest. Known locally as the ‘fisher dog’ they are playfully active creatures, nocturnal, and subsist mainly on crustaceans and shellfish. Unfortunately, popular to capture as pets even though their care is costly and difficult and prone to predation by other animals and humans who prize their skin and fur, these animals have experienced a dwindling population. Visitors can contribute to their health and safety by donating to local organizations which support their preservation. The all-inclusive El Nido Resort brand on Palawan Island offer luxury lodgings for those looking for the elusive small-clawed otter.


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