Wildlife tours in China
Seeing wildlife simply isn't on the to-do list for most people when they come to China. This is unfortunate, because China actually has a great deal of fascinating wildlife for visitors to see. A huge number of different species call China home. In fact, it is a world leader in terms of biodiversity. This is no surprise considering how many different biomes are present in China. Rainforests in the far south, towering mountains in the west, deserts in the north, steppes along the Mongolian border, and towering forests of pine along the borders with North Korea and Russia are just some of the many landscapes within China. Although China is not traditionally considered a hotspot for seeing wildlife, it is actually a great place to do so. Here are some of the best places to see unusual and exciting animals.
Changbaishan National Nature Reserve
This natural reserve covers over 2000 square kilometres along the border of China and North Korea. Within its boundaries are many ancient forests and rugged peaks. The most famous mountain in the park is the Changbai Mountain. This mountain straddles the border between northeast China and North Korea and is considered sacred in both countries. At over 2,700 meters, it is the highest mountain in North Korea and northeast China. The mountain sits next to a beautifully clean lake known as the Tianchi. This wonderfully blue lake fills the crater of an ancient volcano. Its waters are said to have healing powers and are even rumoured to hold a lake monster.
For those wanting to see other types of wildlife, the park is home to a small population of Siberian tigers. These tigers are isolated from the rest of the Siberian tiger population, which lives in Russia. Only about 20 tigers still live in the nature reserve. However, they can still be dangerous. In 2002, a man was attacked by a tiger on a remote mountain in the area. The Changbaishan Nature Reserve is also home to a bear population. The forests in the nature reserve are home to a variety of trees, including fir, Korean pine, maple, elm and spruce. The area can be difficult to access. The northern gate of the reserve can be reached by bus from the small Chinese town of Baihe, in Jilin province. Baihe itself is accessible by bus from other cities in Jilin province. Take a jacket, as even in the summer the mountains are very cold and windy.
Wolong National Nature Reserve
The stunning Qionglai Mountains are home to this amazing nature reserve. Many peaks in the area tower well over 5,000 meters. Between the peaks, clear blue rivers flow through picturesque valleys. Because of the variety of elevations, the park is home to many different environments. Alpine forests, broad-leaf forests, alpine tundra and snow-bound mountain peaks are all present in this area. Because of this, the area holds an incredible amount of biodiversity. Over 4000 species of plants are present in the area. Over 100 mammals and 200 birds also call the Wolong National Nature Reserve home.
The most famous inhabitants of the reserve are undoubtedly the giant pandas. Before the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the reserve had many wild pandas as well as captive pandas. After the earthquake, the captive pandas were moved to nearby Bifengxia Panda Base. However, some of the wild pandas in the reserve are still roaming around. In addition, the park contains snow leopards, golden monkeys and white-lipped deer. The reserve can be reached by bus from Chengdu. The journey takes about four hours. Bring your hiking boots, as the trails can be quite arduous.
This wild region of northeast China is not an official nature reserve like the other areas mentioned. Rather, it is simply a sparsely populated region where many people practice a traditional way of life. It is also one of the only unprotected regions in China where wildlife flourishes. The rugged peaks of the Greater Hinggan Mountains stretch across the region and are covered in forests. The mountains are home to many deer, bears, elk, hare and wolves.
Outside of the mountains are rolling steppes. Here, you can witness Mongolian herders practicing a traditional way of life. In the summer, the steppes bloom with life and are truly beautiful to behold. The region also holds Lake Hulun, one of the largest lakes in all of China. Migrating birds stop here on their way to and from Siberia. The major cities in the region are Hailar and Manzhouli. Tours can be arranged from either city. Make sure to come during the summer. The winter here lasts from October until May, and temperatures often drop below negative 40 degrees Celsius. A Chinese-English dictionary will be handy, as the area is not developed for tourism, so few people speak English.
Southwest China's Yunnan province has more biodiversity than any other part of China. Its southernmost section, Xishuangbanna, is the most diverse. This area is separated from the rest of China by a mountain range. The mountain range causes a great deal of rainfall, creating mainland China's only tropical rainforests. These rainforests are home to many different monkeys, snakes, insects and birds. Xishuangbanna is also home to China's Dai ethnic minority, who have a distinct culture and language all their own.
The largest animal living in the area is the Asian elephant. Xishuangbanna is home to China's only remaining Asian elephants. Though smaller than African elephants, these gentle giants are still massive, with the largest specimens standing over 3 meters tall and weighing thousands of kilograms. Mengyang Nature Reserve is the only place in China to see this animal in the wild. The nature reserve can be reached by bus from Jinghong, the largest city in the area. For other animals, check out the Forest Park near Jinghong. Visitors can hear monkeys howl as they jump through the trees. The park is a short taxi ride from the city.