Best Ecotourism Destinations in Asia
Malaysia boasts an abundance of ecological treasures – from watching Proboscis monkeys at Kilas River to learning about Sabah’s 5 ethnic groups at Mari Mari Cultural Village – making Malaysia an ode to biodiversity.
1. Taman Negara
Taman Negara is an idyllic destination for nature enthusiasts, boasting ancient tropical rainforests millions of years old. The park is also famed for featuring one of the longest canopy walks in the world – 45 meters above ground! Additionally, Taman Negara provides opportunities for jungle safaris, hiking and white water rafting adventures.
Though you can explore the park on your own, most visitors prefer guided tours as this provides them with access to all necessary equipment as well as expert knowledge of local plants and animals. A guide can also share insights into local history.
Birdwatching enthusiasts will also find much to admire here; several hides exist throughout the park for optimal birding experiences. To maximize animal activity, visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon when animals tend to be most active.
One of the best ways to experience the park’s many rivers is with a river cruise on either Tembeling River or Gunung Palas. Both offer the chance to spot wildlife like water buffaloes and monitor lizards during dry months from February-October.
2. Mount Kinabalu
Southeast Asia’s rainforests are home to an abundance of wildlife and natural splendour, and ecotourism has emerged as an innovative way of witnessing its splendour while supporting local communities. Some examples include solar-powered lodges in Borneo or conservation-oriented tours to Sukau Rainforest; among many other activities being developed across Southeast Asia.
Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia’s version of Mount Kilimanjaro and is an idyllic hiking destination, known for its mist-shrouded peak and varied fauna. Situated within Sabah’s Kinabalu National Park and home to an array of lowland dipterocarp forests as well as lush montane zones full of mosses-laden montane zones teeming with wildlife like Rhododendron (with over 1,200 species!) and Heliconias.
The park is also famed for its breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, with Southeast Asia’s highest peak providing breathtaking vistas. There is accommodation within the park itself such as hotels, chalets or lodges available; however it will cost more than staying in Kundasang or Ranau; this is done to limit visitor numbers in order to protect its World Heritage status. There are also multiple other options outside the park itself that suit various budgets.
3. Sukau Rainforest
Sukau Rainforest in Malaysia is an idyllic ecotourism destination, located along Kinabatangan River and renowned for being home to Borneo’s “Big Five”, including Proboscis Monkeys, Estuarine Crocodiles, Pygmy Elephants and an abundance of birdlife. Recognized as a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World by National Geographic Magazine; Sukau Rainforest offers guests an immersive rainforest experience while adhering to strict sustainability standards and providing comfort and luxury accommodations while upholding strict sustainability measures.
Sukau is unique among logging resorts in that it strives to preserve local wildlife without disturbing it. Guests staying in raised boardwalk chalets provide guests with breathtaking vantage points of its chocolate-coloured river and can spot animals either independently or on guided nature walks; you can even take a relaxing river cruise at nighttime for even greater wildlife viewing!
Visitors to Dahican Beach from January through June can witness female pawikan (green sea turtles) returning to lay eggs, before these protected nests are transferred to the lodge’s hatchery for nurturing before release into the wild. Visitors can witness this remarkable natural event while supporting conservation efforts locally – guests contributing one dollar per international adult guest contributed directly towards wildlife rehabilitation and tree planting initiatives! The lodge also raises funds through guests contributing one dollar per international adult guest towards conservation projects!
4. Luang Namtha
Southeast Asia is fast-becoming an ecotourism hot spot, drawing travellers who want to see beautiful nature while encountering friendly locals. There is an array of attractions here sure to please any visitor – national parks, elephant sanctuaries and community tourism projects provide plenty of entertainment and discovery opportunities.
Luang Namtha in Laos’ northern province stands out as an ecotourism hotspot due to its pristine forests and ethnic diversity, hosting Nam Ha National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area as well as offering trekking adventures and homestays in local villages.
Villagers at these villages benefit greatly from tourism; tourists provide financial support by paying accommodation fees and participating in activities such as rafting and wildlife safaris, among others. Their presence sends a strong signal to locals that it is better to keep forests uncut than to clear them for agriculture or other uses.
Elephant Conservation Centre (ECC) provides visitors with an unforgettable and eco-friendly experience. Unlike traditional tourist spots that exploit elephants for entertainment purposes, here they are cared for and prepared to return back into the natural habitat through the ECC’s 6000 hectares of elephant pasture provided.
Southeast Asia is an increasingly popular travel destination, and many visitors may not consider how their presence impacts local culture or environments. There are various ecotourism practices you can implement when visiting Southeast Asia that could benefit both environment and community alike. Ecotourism refers to responsible and sustainable travel that benefits both environments and communities.
Thailand has much to offer ecotourism enthusiasts, from jungle treks to beach getaways. Home to an abundance of flora and fauna as well as national parks, wildlife refuges and even tiger reserves, Thailand provides ecotourism enthusiasts with an unforgettable ecotourism experience.
This country takes great pride in being environmentally-friendly, with the government striving towards going paperless and cutting down plastic consumption. They don’t hesitate to close areas to the public if it will help preserve marine life – such as when Maya Bay became overrun with tourists that caused considerable harm to marine life.
Bhutan is another ecotourism destination that boasts high sustainability standards. Covered in mountain ranges, forests and rivers with so much greenery that carbon emissions are absorbed, it also doesn’t use animals for consumption which helps the environment while decreasing carbon footprint. Thimphu serves as its capital city which boasts picturesque Asian paradise settings that look right out of a postcard!
Philippines ranks amongst 18 Mega Biodiverse countries worldwide, boasting 15.8 Million Ha of Tropical Forest and diverse geography from perfectly shaped volcanoes to emerald green islands. Home to numerous natural wonders – new species being discovered each year! Additionally, various initiatives have been put in place to reduce its ecological footprint; perhaps most notable amongst these initiatives being an ecotourism tracking tool that assesses sustainability in resorts, natural parks and villages.
The Philippines boasts numerous national parks, wildlife refuges, marine life conservation areas, caves and elephant sanctuaries that allow visitors to witness the region’s diverse flora and fauna; tours such as Cleopatra’s Needle offer visitors an opportunity to trek through one of their largest critical habitats as well as spot rare bird species.
Kayaking around some of our nation’s most picturesque lakes and rivers is another wonderful way to take in its scenery while leaving minimal impact on the environment. These activities are especially popular in rainforest areas where tourists can gain an immersive wildlife experience thanks to quiet movements by kayak.
Laos may boast two UNESCO World Heritage sites, an array of temples and numerous natural wonders; but its landlocked status keeps it under the radar for many tourists. That doesn’t mean, however, that ecotourism shouldn’t take place here; visitors will discover countless exciting experiences ranging from trekking in the mountains and spotting endangered wildlife to immersing themselves into local culture and immersing themselves in meaningful experiences – there’s something here for everyone here!
At Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park in northern Laos, visitors can hike through cloud forests with a guide and spot wild orchids if lucky. Or stay at Boat Landing Eco Lodge where a family of French expats have taken community-based tourism one step further by creating 10 riverside bungalows powered by solar energy and reduced waste disposal costs.
Luang Namtha in northern Laos offers visitors who appreciate nature a wide variety of attractions, such as Nam Ha Protected Area and Namtha River. Here, trekking and rafting provide locals with alternative income from their forests while sending a message that uncut forests are more valuable.