Like the tortoises of Galápagos or the penguins of Antarctica, many of the creatures in Indonesia and its neighboring nations are rare and near impossible to see anywhere else in the world. Our five itineraries, which span the stunning Indonesian archipelago and beyond, bring curious travelers into the heart of this remote region for some truly exceptional wildlife experiences. Join us in 2023 to observe the world’s smallest bear, living dinosaurs, foxes that fly, and fish that walk, and to dive into a dazzling undersea world that has to be seen to be believed.
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Endangered and found only in the wild in Borneo and Sumatra, orangutans capture hearts with their fuzzy orange fur and human-like expressions. At Borneo’s Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, you'll have the rare and delightful opportunity to see these engaging primates who share nearly 97 percent of our genes The first of its kind, this rehab center has been rescuing, caring for, and returning these great apes into the wild since 1964. Since orangutans spend most of their time in trees, guests navigate purpose-built boardwalks to spot the approximately 70 adults living in the reserve and stand on elevated viewing platforms to observe the approximately 25 orphaned babies in the nursery.
Meet the World’s Smallest Bear
Half the size of the American black bear, the endearing sun bear is reclusive and arboreal, often found nesting in trees and removing bark from high branches to find insects and sap. Walk through the large forest enclosures of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center, the only one of its kind in the world, to see these agile bears in their natural habitat. Found exclusively in the wild in Southeast Asia, they are vulnerable due to deforestation and their popularity as pets. At the visitor center, watch the smallest of the eight bear species in action from the boardwalk and observation platform and learn how the center rescues displaced and formerly captive bears and facilitates their rehabilitation back into the wild.
Swim with Stingless Jellies
If you’ve ever been transfixed by the fluid motions and graceful beauty of jellies in an aquarium and wondered what it would be like to float among them, Palau should be your next great adventure. Sail into turquoise water through scores of small, forested islands to Eil Malk, whose center holds a wonder of the world. After walking through the jungle to the island’s internal marine lake, prepare for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to snorkel with thousands of transparent, peach-colored jellies. Evolved to rely on algae and photosynthesis (look for them congregating in the sunny parts of the lake) instead of prey, the jellies of Jellyfish Lake have lost their ability to sting so you can relax and immerse yourself in the serene yet thrilling moment.
Walk Among Dragons
Komodo National Park is the only place on Earth where you can encounter the legendary Komodo dragon in its natural habitat. Walk the trails of Komodo Island as an expert local guide helps us safely observe some of the island’s approximately 2,500 unique, eponymous creatures. Rare and prehistoric, the world’s largest lizards can reach 10 feet in length and weigh more than 150 pounds. These intimidating carnivores are thrilling to see in the wild, moving through the forest underbrush and on the savanna—we might even spot them climbing trees or swimming in a spectacular tropical island setting.
Spot the Red Bird of Paradise
The remote Indonesian islands we explore are bursting with rare and beautiful birds like the Sulawesi hanging parrot, red breasted parakeet, and Asian Fairy bluebird. However, the exotic stunner that many birders are most eager to check off their lists is the Cendrawasih, also known as the Bird of Paradise. Only found in this region, it is about foot long, and males are adorned with elaborate vibrant yellow, brilliant green, and rusty red plumage. Long hunted for their feathers, they are now protected, and so the possibility of glimpsing their colorful plumage has increased on a number of the islands we visit. Naturalists will lead optional forays to specifically search for them in known habitats that include Raja Ampat and the forested Sepik River.
Snorkel with Sharks, Turtles, Rays and More
From giant clams to whale sharks, dugongs, and nearly every species of sea turtle, an astonishing array of life thrives in the robust marine ecosystems surrounding Indonesia. It is possible to encounter harmless epaulette sharks in Cendrawasih Bay; blue spotted stingrays, moray eels, turtles, and whale sharks in the Anambas archipelago; and in the Banda Islands, blue, humpback, and pilot whales are common sights in water four miles deep. Don't forget the delightfully bizarre mudskippers of Papua New Guinea, fish who walk on their fins when the tide is low. The list of undersea discoveries is infinite: Each island will reveal new dazzling denizens in kaleidoscopic worlds full of surprises.