Best wildlife experiences in Asia

Whether you're searching for China's elusive panda or looking for leopards in the mountains of India, Asia has an incredible range of wildlife waiting to be encountered. 

BBC Wildlife Magazine travel supplement, March 2014.

Panda Tracking, China

If you want a measure of just how obsessed the British people are with pandas, then the fuss that was made about Tian Tian's 'ghost pregnancy' at Edinburgh Zoo in 2013 is a good indicator.

Seeing a panda in a zoo is easy, but it's far more fulfilling to visit the bear's real home, the bamboo forests of central China.

Here tracking pandas has become a new source of income for local people, with signs of their presence easy to find in the form of torpedo-shaped dung and bamboo 'clearings' where an animal has sat down on its haunches to feed. An actual sighting is significantly harder to come by, but is worth all the effort when it arrives.

The Qinling Mountains of Shaanzi Province are a good bet, as is Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan.Look out, too, for the fiery golden pheasant and that remarkable oddity the goat-like takin, the source species for the legend of the golden fleece.


Hemis National Park, India

Ladakh's Hemis National Park is described by Snow Leopard Conservancy as the world's snow leopard capital. There's good reason for that - one group of tourists saw 7 cats over a 10-day period here in 2013, a tally that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.

So what happened? According to the organisation, local people now see this most beautiful of felines as an asset not a pest, and there is better protection provided by the state wildlife department.

And while you are travelling here keep your eyes peeled for the leopard's favoured prey, the bharal or blue sheep.


Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, India

On the slopes of India's Western Ghats - renowned as one of the world's biodiversity hotspots - Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is blanketed in a mosaic of moist deciduous forests and rich grasslands.

The increasingly rare Asian elephant is your main target here, but wild gaur oxen, sambar deer and monkeys such as lion-tailed macaques and Nilgiri langurs also call Periyar their home.

There are tigers here too, but considering there's an estimated population of 40 in an area of nearly 800 square kilometres, don't bet your mortgage on seeing one.


Tanjung Puting National Park, Indonesia

As Asia's only great ape, the orangutan is a must-see for many tourists and travellers.

There are plenty of orangutan sanctuaries on both Borneo and Sumatra, but for the primate perfectionist the place to visit has to be Tanjung Puting, the location where one of the trio of 'Leakey's Angels', Dr Birute Galdikas, carried out her pioneering research.

A vast 3,000 square kilometre area of lowland swamp forests and blackwater rivers, Tanjung also offers reliable sightings of the remarkable proboscis monkey. 

Other wildlife here includes gibbons, macaques, sun bears, hornbills and kingfishers.

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