During my work, I have been to many temples, and often to the same ones repeatedly; so I tend not to visit them on my own time. I felt I needed to see Angkor Wat, as I was in Cambodia and staying in Siem Reap, which is very close.
The name Angkor Wat refers to a specific temple, the one that I visited, and the most heavily frequented by tourists. However, the name is often used generally to refer to a range of many different temples, some of the same time period, some not, some in restored condition, some not.
If you explore the forest and woodlands in the ground surrounding the complex, you can observe native plants and animals. I was there in the late afternoon, and I can't say I saw a lot. The most common animal around the temples are of course the ubiquitous Long-tailed Macaques. Many are fat from eating handouts.
For me, the highlight is the other common mammal in the area; the Variable Squirrel. As the name suggests, this squirrel comes in an amazing range of colours and patterns.
Access is pretty straightforward. Many companies actually fly direct to Siem Reap from various Asian cities. Once in Siem Reap, it is a half hour and cheap tuk-tuk drive to the temples.
The lodge grounds are nice and big, with the chalets, a dam, grassy areas, and the edge of the forest at the restaurant. The latter is probably the best place for birding and wildlife.
The rooms are nice and very good value. The food is good, and there is always plunger coffee available for free!
The restaurant is is where a lot of the action is. The fruit feeding stations start attracting great birds from early on in the morning (when the light is not so great for photography), till late in the morning.
The restaurant staff also put out worms for some of the other birds. This attracts Laughing Thrush. And the main attraction, the Blue-winged Pitta (in summer). During the summer season the Blue-winged Pitta can easily be seen from the restaurant. When it gets quiet, it even comes quite close and gets in behind the kitchen. Even the lodge's cat (with a bell) doesn't bother the Pitta.
and mammals such a tree shrews also visit the worm bowl.
If you can tear yourself away from the restaurant, you might see other things around the property.
If you go spotlighting at night, you might see an owl (I didn't), but of course there is the same problem that plagues all over the local area, dogs that start barking and carrying on, which scares everything away and really mucks up the ambience. That is 'muck' with an F.
It might also be worth visiting the fruit feeder station; fruit-piercing moths visit at night.
Bako National Park is located on the island of Borneo, within the state of Sarawak, part of Malaysia. It is the oldest national park in Sarawak. Bako is only a small national park, but it has a good variety of walks that explore a variety of habitats, from mangroves, through lowland rainforest, to open woodland. There is accommodation and a cafeteria at the National Park centre.
It is a great place to see several species of 'Pitcher Plants'. Species that are easy to see here in Bako National Park include the smaller ground-dwelling Nepenthes ampullaris, the common & plain green hanging Nepenthes gracilis, and the strikingly coloured 'Raffles Pitcher Plant'.
While the walks are great to see plants, the best place to see animals is actually right at the National Parks Visitor Centre. Here in the afternoon is it common to see Proboscis Monkeys, Long-tailed Macaques, Silvered Leaf Monkeys.
I mainly visited this park with Orion Expedition, but unfortunately that company no longer exists. I doubt there are many expedition ships that plan to do this as a regular landing, as it was quite a long way to anchorage and a tricky landing to co-ordinate.
It is probably a better option visiting by land anyway. You can access the park via day trips from the city of Kuching. You can also stay overnight (a much better option). There is accomodation at the park centre, as well as a cafeteria.
Bali Barat, or west Bali National Park, has a range of habitats, including monsoon forest, mangroves, and coral reefs. It is best known as the place to see the Bali Starling.
Bali Barat was set up by the Dutch in the 1940's to protect wild populations of Bali Starling and also Bali Banteng. This national park protects a peninsula in the west of Bali, and although it is not as big as it once was, it is quite mountainous, and includes a range of habitats. The Bali north coast road cuts right through the middle of the park. This allows access to walking trails on either side of the road (some of which are cemented, so they are very easy to walk on), as well as the Ranger station and boat hire at Labuhan Lalang. Last time I was there, local ranger guides were required.
The Bali Starling is also known as the Bali Mynah or Rosthchild's Starling. It is one of the rarest birds in the wild. It is estimated there may be less than a 100 individuals in the world. They have had various releases around Bali, mostly unsuccessful over time. However, you can see some of these remaining individuals quite easily where the local boats leave the ranger station at Labuhan Lalang. Here, there appears to be a soft release programme, with feeding boxes on the local trees.
Because you will have a guide, they should be able to point out various species of wildlife. More common and easily seen species the ubiquitous Long-tailed Macaque.
The guides took us into the woodlands to look for Giant Black Squirrels. In some parts of tropical Asia, they are almost all black, however many populations have various amounts of cream and orange colours on their body. Their most distinctive feature is their size!
There are some 175 species of plants recorded in Bali Barat national park.
There are various nice accommodations just outside of Bali Barat National Park on the access road to the east that goes along the north coast of Bali. The most accessible town is on the western side of the park; Gilimanuk, where people cross by ferry to get to Java. And because this national park is in the extreme west of Bali, it can also be reached from Java.