Being surrounded by the walls of a concrete jungle, you may find your basic instincts being challenged, the kind that compels you to create a man-shaped hole through these walls and make a run for Mother Nature. Ouch! I don’t recommend that you do that, but I feel like I can relate in some way – so here are 8 places that you can (temporarily) escape to, where humans and animals can exist hand-in-paw.
1. Kanha National Park, India
Credit: Indraneel Biswas on Flickr
Step foot here and you’ll feel as if you’re walking through the pages of a storybook. And little wonder, because Kanha National Park was the inspiration behind The Jungle Book! Hop on a jeep and experience the world as Mowgli knew it, with all its lush and vivid splendour.
Cross paths with a diversity of animal species such as the swamp deer and Indian tiger. You may even catch a glimpse of the lovable Sloth Bear (Baloo from the stories), the only bear species to carry its young on its back!
Accommodation is available, with a whopping 28 resorts nestled within this extensive park, each catering to the bare necessities you may require to make your stay more comfortable!
Best time to visit: October to June
Address: Madhya Pradesh, India
2. Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
Credit: Finnur Malmquist on Flickr
Arguably one of the most breath-taking wildlife locations in the world, Khao Sok National Park is certainly bang-for-your-buck. Besides its backdrop of magnificent limestone cliffs and waterfalls, it is also home to numerous mammal, bird, bat, reptile and insect species!
Credit: Rushen on Flickr
Trek along the tropical rainforest, and you could encounter a snow leopard and colourful bird species. Canoe, kayak, or bamboo raft on Khao Sok’s glassy waters, and you could meet kingfishers and herons!
Credit: Jan Hazevoet on Flickr
Get up close with an Asian Elephant with the unique Elephant Experience. If you’re worried it may harm the elephants, don’t fret as this is the park’s ethical answer to elephant riding and trekking. You’ll get to feed and wash these gentle giants, as well as watch them splash about in their mud baths! That sounds even cooler than making butt imprints on an elephant’s back, I think!
Best time to visit: November to February (for trekking), June to October (for water activities)
Entrance fee: 300 THB (SGD11.80) for adults, 150 THB (SGD5.90) for children
Address: Khlong Sok, Phanom District, Surat Thani 84250, Thailand
3. Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam
Credit: Vũ Sơn Tùng on Flickr
Vietnam’s first national park covers 222 square kilometres and features extraordinary wildlife and over 2,000 tree species. While it’s abundant in natural beauty, it also has historical significance, as ancient tools and tombs have been discovered in its caves!
The park is home to some truly rare wildlife, such as the cloud leopard, langur and civet.
Credit: @dang_to_anh on Instagram
There are two animal reserves within the park. At a small fee of 30,000 VND (SGD1.80), you can visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre, which houses 150 primates in large enclosures. The centre aims to rehabilitate the animals before releasing them back to the wild.
Credit: Chris Goldberg on Flickr
Up to 19 species of turtles that had been rescued from poachers now live here at the Turtle Conservation Centre. It’s free to enter, but donations are welcome to keep the facility going.
Credit: pululante on Flickr
Best time to visit: November to February
Entrance fee: 40,000 VND (SGD 2.40)
Address: Ho Chi Minh, Quang Binh, Cuc Phuong, Nho Quan, Ninh Binh, Vietnam
4. Similan Islands National Park, Thailand
Credit: Del Adams on Flickr
Familiar with divers everywhere, Similan Islands is synonymous with its awe-inspiring dives. Its name comes from the Malay word ‘sembilan’, which means ‘nine’, and refers to the original number of islands in the park before two more islands were added.
Similan Islands is such an iconic diving destination, that on September 1st 2016, Google switched its logo to commemorate the park’s 34th anniversary!
Besides its charming white sands and crystal-clear sea, Similan Islands National Park boasts of a rich underwater wildlife. You’ll be able to find cuttlefish, puffer fish, and seahorses, just to name a few!
Credit:Fred von Lohmann on Flickr
Can’t bear to part with the sea and its wildlife so soon? The park is one of the cheaper places for live-aboard scuba diving – where you can stay on a boat for a few days and do absolutely nothing but dive and dine. Water great plan!
Credit: Paul Nendick on Flickr
Best time to visit: December to March
Entrance fee: 500 THB (SGD19.60) for adults, 300 THB (SGD11.90) for children, an additional 200 THB (SGD7.90) for divers
Address: Lam Kaen, Thai Mueang District, Phang Nga, Thailand
5. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Credit: Richard Wasserman on Flickr
Also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and a little closer to home is the Komodo National Park. As you may guess from its name, it aims to protect the formidable Komodo Dragon and its lifestyle.
Credit: Richard Wasserman on Flickr
Choose from 50 diving spots and feast your eyes on the vibrant corals and beautiful water wildlife! Komodo Dragons may be the kings on land, but the park is also internationally renowned for its diverse marine life, and the creatures that rule underwater are the reason behind it.
Credit: Yuxuan Wang on Flickr
Credit: David Elwood on Flickr
Best time to visit: April to December
Entrance fee: Starting from 55,000 rp (SGD5.70)
Address: Komodo National Park, Indonesia
6. Menjangan Island, Indonesia
Credit: Bart Speelman on Flickr
Menjangan Island provides the kind of magical experience that brochures about Bali promise, but tourists wouldn’t be able to discover until they visit this place!
The island sits along Pemuteran Bay, and while Pemuteran’s reef was once damaged from dynamite fishing, corals now grow more than five times the normal rate with an award-winning local community project. Divers and snorkelers will find corals and sponges of a kaleidoscope of colours, shapes and sizes!
Credit: @wandecrzyfxd on Instagram
Things are going swimmingly down here in Underwater Pemuteran, where Clownfish and parrotfish are aplenty!
Credit: jeff~ on Flickr
You can even explore the remnants of of Anker Wreck, a wooden cargo ship from the 19th century.
Best time to visit: June to September
Address: Sumber Klampok, Gerokgak, Buleleng Regency, Bali, Indonesia
7. Zao Fox Village, Japan
Credit: @trijammer on Instagram
The cutest place on this list would have to be the Fox Village in Japan! Foxes are popular creatures in Japanese folktales, which makes this village even more magical than it already looks.
Credit: @chiiiboooo on Instagram
These fluffy critters roam around freely in this preserve and there are not one, not two, but six species of ‘em!
Credit: @echeveria522 on Instagram
You can purchase a packet of food for the foxes at 100 yen (SGD1.30). Keep in mind to toss the food, rather than feed the foxes by hand.
And if foxes aren’t enough to fix your cravings for cuteness, there’s a petting zoo with bunnies, goats, and even miniature horses!
Credit: @pipi46pu on Instagram
Best time to visit: All year round
Entrance fee: 700 JPY (SGD9.20) for adults, 400 JPY (SGD5.20) for children
Address: Kawarago-11-3 Fukuokayatsumiya, Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture 989-0733
8. Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
Credit: Kent MacElwee on Flickr
Two hours away from bustling Bangkok lies one of Thailand’s favourite national parks. For its reputation, you would expect hordes of tourists to crowd this park, but it’s actually pretty secluded. This is one of it’s appeals – it’s so peaceful, you’ll forget how fast-paced life is back at home!
Visiting without a guide is quite easy, as most of the staff at the visitor centre can speak English.
Filled with bountiful flora and fauna, Khao Yai National Park’s residents include elephants, tigers, leopards, and barking deer.
Credit: tontantravel on Flickr
Some of Thailand’s greatest populations of hornbills live here, including the great hornbill. Its wings span over 2 metres wide!
Credit: sfitzgerald86 on Flickr
As the peaceful park is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is unscathed by modern developments, so rest assured you’ll be one and alone with nature!
Best time to visit: October to February
Entrance fee: 400 THB (SGD15.70) for adults, 200 THB (SGD7.90) for children
Address: Hin Tung, Mueang Nakhon Nayok District, Nakhon Nayok, Thailand
BONUS: Ningaloo Reef, Australia
Credit: Brian Barnard on Flickr
Everyone has heard of the Great Barrier Reef and all its wonders, but head up west and you can find a reef system with even greater wildlife and fish!
There are many chillaxing spots on the surrounding beaches for when you’re feeling lazy, but be sure to take a short swim up to the reef when you’re ready.
Credit: Tasha Metamorfosis on Flickr
Because you wouldn’t want to miss swimming alongside the loveable turtles, which are a more common sight over here than at the Great Barrier Reef
Credit: Sharon Mckellar on Flickr
Whale sharks are regularly seen at Ningaloo Reef, and you may also be able to spot manta rays and different species of whales and dolphins!
Credit: Andy Tyler on Flickr
Manta rays do not sting, so they’re very safe to swim with!
Credit: Jurriaan Persyn on Flickr
Best time to visit: March to November
Address: Ningaloo, Western Australia 6701, Australia
So there you go. If your idea of wildlife to this point has consisted of stray cats at void decks, it’s time to start packing and get trekking! Go forth, dear explorers!