Earth Day Elevation: Unesco Biosphere Reserves Around Asia

20 April 2023

As something that deserves to be top priority for travel industry companies, sustainability is a year-round focus. Even so, the upcoming Earth Day is a practical way of raising awareness about environmental issues.

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As something that deserves to be top priority for travel industry companies, sustainability is a year-round focus. Even so, the upcoming Earth Day is a practical way of raising awareness about environmental issues. Not only that, but it serves to remind us of the sheer magnificence of our planet, and what we can all do to protect it. In Asia, numerous UNESCO biosphere reserves remain beacons for conservation, research, and sustainable development. Here are some of our favorites.



Aqua Mekong cruising past the lush floodplains of Tonlé Sap during rainy season

Tonlé Sap, Cambodia’s great lake — the largest freshwater expanse in Southeast Asia — is one of the country’s true natural wonders. The lake is unique in that its flow changes direction twice a year, which causes it to expand and contract dramatically. During the dry season, the lake's surface area is about 1,000 mi², but it expands to more than five times its size during the wet season. Its waterways and fertile floodplains were a major driver behind the flourishing Khmer Empire at Angkor. The lake is home to a wide variety of fish and other aquatic life, and it plays a crucial role in the country's economy, providing food, water, and transportation for the local communities. The most luxurious way to experience the lake is on the Aqua Mekong cruise that runs between Siem Reap and all the way down to Saigon. It features expeditions to the serene, flooded mangrove forest and through the stilted villages on the lake.


A Komodo dragon surveys the horizon for prey

Established in 1980 to protect the famous Komodo Dragon – the world’s largest lizard – the Komodo National Park is one of Indonesia’s most precious protected areas. The wildlife is far from the only remarkable thing about travels in this part of the country. Indeed, the seascapes of Komodo National Park are some of Indonesia’s most spectacular. There’s no better place on which to cruise these waters than on one of the beautiful schooners that ply the azure ocean. Guests can lay back and relax or explore islands inhabited by Komodo Dragons and other colorful wildlife. Highlights include snorkeling the coral-rich passage near Gili Lawa Darat and viewings of wild horses, water buffalo, wild boar and, of course, the giant native lizards of Komodo Island. Summer is an excellent time to visit Indonesia and Komodo in particular.


Kayaking Coron Islanda, Palawan 

The Palawan Biosphere Reserve is a cluster of islands composed of one long main island and smaller groups of islands around it. Nature abounds within easy reach of the laid-back capital Puerto Princessa or private transfer from Manila. A firefly-watching tour on the Iwahig River offers an unforgettable light show. Other highlights include the limestone scenery and hiking possibilities at Ugong Rock. Also close to the capital is picturesque Honda Bay, where white-sand beaches await on the islands around the bay. Things are equally spectacular at El Nido, the gateway to the fabulous Bacuit Archipelago, a karst-studded marine wonderland with epic potential for climbing, sailing, kayaking, and other water-bound pursuits. Adrift from Palawan, on its island in the Cuyo Archipelago, is Amanpulo, undoubtedly the most exclusive resort in The Philippines.


The spectacular forestscapes of Yakushima 

Soaring sugi (Japanese cedars) and mountains cloaked in lush primeval forest can be found on Yakushima, a sub-tropical paradise known as “Japan’s Eden”. Rivaling natural attributes such as an ancient cedar forest containing some of the country’s oldest trees are some of Japan’s most palatial properties. Throw into the mix forest bathing in natural springs, secret seaside hot springs only revealed at sunrise and sunset and incredible hiking and it’s easy to see why a destination sometimes nicknamed “medicine island” for its healing properties is such a tonic.


The mirrored pool of Issyk-Kul

The modern world may have encroached elsewhere in Central Asia, but nomadic traditions die hard in Kyrgyzstan. Towering mountains and associated terrains including glaciers, gorges, valleys, and lakes dominate over 90% of the country. In a country not short in natural attractions it takes something special to stand out. And Issyk-Kul — the world’s second-largest Alpine Lake — deserves its reputation as one of the top sights in the country. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the lake deserves its reputation as one of the world’s natural wonders, though kitsch Soviet-style spa resorts also provide a curious post-hike day trip. Issyk-Kul is best enjoyed in the summer months when temperatures average around seventy degrees. 


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