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Nature & Wildlife

Lying on the equator, Southeast Asia is home to some of the world's oldest rainforests, unaffected by any ice age. And as the planet's largest archipelago, the region plays host to an awesomely rich biodiversity of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles that have grown up in isolation, cut off by the seas surrounding their individual islands.

Under the water, the coral reefs are undisputedly the richest on earth, nourished by the ebb and flow of tides from the giant Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Alfred Wallace, arguably the co-founder of Darwin's theory of evolution, conducted most of his field studies in Borneo, Sulawesi and West Papua, sending his discoveries back to Darwin in London for his mentor's evaluation.

Among the most famous endemic species that can only be found in this region are the orangutan, proboscis monkey and Komodo Dragon, while the islands of New Guinea and the Moluccas are home to a dazzling array of "birds of paradise." There is, however, much, much more for the nature lover to discover, some of it relatively accessible, and some of it requiring determination, patience and a spirit of adventure.

As the forests become increasingly threatened by human encroachment and exploitation, Symbiosis is working together with conservation NGOs to develop "ecotourism" as an alternative and more sustainable use of the region's natural resources, providing incomes for local people while promoting respect for the natural environment and its wildlife.