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Our newest small-group trips, provided in partnership with G Adventures, blend fun, hands-on exploration with meaningful cultural encounters, as well as more free time and choices.
Head out on game drives to see elephants or leopards in southern Sri Lanka’s national parks. Venture into the UNESCO World Heritage site of Galle Fort, Sri Lanka, and get to know the indigenous peoples of Sumatra’s remote interior. Skim through the jungles of Tanjung Puting National Park on all all-day excursion by local boat, and interact with orangutans and other rare wildlife at the Orangutan Foundation International's rehabilitation center. The district of Hambantota stretches along Sri Lanka’s southern coast, home to wetlands, grasslands, gorgeous beaches, and archaeological sites. As we cross the Indian Ocean, enjoy two days to relax, taking advantage of the ship’s amenities and listening to talks by our expedition team. A string of volcanic isles that split the Bay of Bengal from the Andaman Sea, the Andaman Islands are blanketed by tropical forests and ringed by unspoiled coral reefs and beaches.
After a day of sailing the Andaman Sea, arrive at Pulau We, a rocky island at the western tip of the Indonesian archipelago.
Our passage between Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula brings us to the incomparable city-state of Singapore. Set on a peninsula jutting out from the southern edge of Borneo, Tanjung Puting National Park is a trove of rare species and diverse habitats. Travel on select National Geographic Orion voyages in 2015 and we will cover your bar tab and all tips for the crew. Scuba Diving Requirement: Divers must be certified by an internationally recognized dive association prior to the voyage, and certification cards and logbooks should be brought on board. Born in captivity, these two Bengal tiger youngsters will never be fit for release into the wild. Triggering a remote camera with her movements, a Bengal tiger takes a self-portrait while cooling off in a pool.
In the last century, tiger numbers fell from 100,000 to 3,200 and they now live in only seven percent of their historical range. The king of the African savannah is in serious trouble because of massive conversion of the continent’s remaining wilderness to human land-use, according to a detailed study. Intensely shy and hovering on the edge of extinction, Iranian cheetahs are essentially impossible to see.
Thinking of snow leopards as domesticated—and thus dependent on people for food—may help save the dwindling species, one conservationist claims. Beating Usain Bolt's best, Sarah the "polka-dotted missile" clocked the world's fastest recorded time for a 100-meter run. Mention hamsters and most people recall a fond childhood memory, often of an escaped pet that’s found with its cute little cheeks stuffed full of loot. I hadn’t given hamsters much more thought until recently, when I was asked to research the origins of the popular Syrian hamster—also known as the golden or teddy bear hamster. In fact, there are 26 species of wild hamster that run free in parts of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, including Mesocricetus auratus, the Syrian hamster, which comes from the region surrounding Aleppo, Syria—the city currently under siege amid the Middle Eastern country’s ongoing war. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the burrowing mammal as vulnerable: It has a small range, possibly less than about 1,900 square miles (5,000 square kilometers). The first mention of the Syrian hamster was in 1797, when physician Alexander Russell came across them in the wild and described the rodents (though didn’t give them a name) in a publication called The Natural History of Aleppo. It would be another 40 years or so until George Robert Waterhouse, curator of the London Zoological Society, formally named the species the golden hamster, according to Peter Logsdail, a hamster expert and author of Hamster Lopaedia. Waterhouse described an animal with soft fur and a silk-like gloss, with white feet and a tail and body colors of yellow and lead gray.
That pretty much covers what a modern golden hamster looks like, Logsdail told me, although nowadays there are all kinds of hues, from the chocolate tortoiseshell to the banded cinnamon. Once they were ensconced at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, another five made a jailbreak—leaving Aharoni with just four hamsters, which bred very successfully (the Syrian hamster has the shortest gestation period of any hamster, just 16 days). The offspring were then sent to different universities and institutions, including the London Zoo, in the mid-1930s and into the mid-1940s they had become pets in the U.K. Considering Syrian hamsters are already rare in the wild, scientists don’t know if any remain.
The recently established BallenIsles Wildlife Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization funded by donations and led by dedicated volunteer residents.
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We’re Moving!As of October 22, 2014, Weird & Wild will be hosted on National Geographic's main news site. In Barrow, on the northern coast of Alaska, the sun sets at five o’clock on October 31, and the temperature typically drops into the single digits. Elsewhere in the world people may be composing the polar bear’s epitaph, but in coastal northern Alaska the great white bears are still a part of everyday life. Native hunters still pursue their millennia-old tradition of hunting polar bears for food and fur.
The bears are drawn to bone piles on land, where locals dump the remains of bowhead whales harvested for subsistence. The Arctic may be ice-free every summer in as few as 30 years, experts predict, and when ice re-forms in winter it will be thinner, and there’ll be much less of it. The polar bears’ ability to survive in a blue-water Arctic is still uncertain, but the outlook is certainly bleak.
The natural reaction is to turn to the more immediate—if very much the secondary—conservation challenge for polar bears: people killing them, both for reasons of public safety and for the subsistence harvest. If polar bears face extinction from habitat loss within the century, this thinking goes, doesn’t it make sense to stop all killing of polar bears now?
In the Chukchi Sea in western Alaska, biologists find healthy polar bears producing a bumper crop of cubs. Regehr is fresh ashore from the sea ice himself, where this spring he sedated, examined, and weighed 68 polar bears (including a record-setting 1,390-pounder) before releasing them back into the wild. These add to the growing number of bears studied in the Chukchi Sea since 2008 as part of a multiyear research program to understand the ecology, distribution, and demographics of this population.
Regehr’s data show that polar bears in the Chukchi appear to be as healthy as they were 20 years ago.
While many conservation-minded people in the Lower 48 assume stopping all polar bear harvesting now must be a good idea, shutting down the culturally important subsistence harvest while bears are still abundant—and increasingly visible in some populated areas—would surely backfire, Regehr believes. What’s more, in the vast, roadless, icy vastness, hunting limits would be nearly impossible to enforce.
The approach that will work for both polar bears and polar people, Regehr and others contend, is to use these next few years to lay the groundwork for the challenges ahead.
The key is getting hunters, communities, and regional agencies to accept a harvest quota and to participate in its enforcement. The data show that 58 polar bears a year can be sustainably harvested from the Chukchi population today. FWS and its Native polar bear management partner, the Alaska Nanuuq Commission, are working together to phase in that quota over the next couple of years, building community awareness and mutual trust as they go. Today coastal Alaskan Natives have a cordial and productive relationship with their Chukotkan counterparts. In Russia, all polar bear harvesting has been illegal since 1956, though unofficial reports put the number of bears killed outside the law as high as 100 a year.
Alaska, a beautiful place where I thought residents is totally formed by polar bear, now I got there also lives human beings over there. Less ice=more open water=more photosynthesis= more food for fishes=more fish=more seals=more food for polar bears.
I like polar bear, event we don’t have them in our country but I want to help and see them in wildlife. Polar bears are an icon of the Arctic realm and an indicator of changes taking place there and globally.
On Thin IceThe Arctic is warming so fast that by 2050 it may be largely ice free in summer. National Geographic VideoJoin photographer Florian Schulz as he seeks to capture a dramatic image of a polar bear.
New York Daily News National Geographic: Exotic pets and their owners National Geographic: Exotic pets and their owners Have these pet owners taken their love of animals too far?
Board the National Geographic Orion to explore a kaleidoscope of natural and cultural wonders from Sri Lanka to the Andaman Islands, Sumatra, and Indonesian Borneo. As we enter the harbor, pass under the ramparts of Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site built by Portuguese and Dutch settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The islands are India’s most far-flung state, known in part for their history as a British penal colony, and until recently isolated from foreign visitors. Discover the island’s volcanic landscapes on a walk among steaming fumaroles, and stroll through the friendly colonial town of Sabang.
From here, we head into the hinterlands of Indonesia’s largest island on one of two full-day excursions.

Here in this bustling metropolis, past and future collide and a rich colonial legacy vies with thriving local cultures. Board local boats for a full-day excursion into the forest, gliding on narrow channels on the lookout for hornbills, crocodiles, and perhaps the unusual proboscis monkey. Divers need to have logged 25 dives in total, and have made a dive within the 12 months preceding the voyage.
At three to four months the cubs begin to eat meat but are still too young to hunt, a skill they will learn at 12 to 16 months.
A remotely operated camera captured this tiger that had sustained injuries after feeding on a porcupine. We can thank Israel Aharoni, a zoologist who led a 1930 expedition to look for golden hamsters in Aleppo.
Not surprising to most kids, the babies gnawed their way out of the wooden box, and Aharoni got nine of them back. They found al least three litters and put them in the laboratory with the conditions mostly resembling its natural habitat. They naturally roam far every night and cage life is particularly stressful for them, which is why they can drop down dead from related heart attacks.
And the odd bear strolling through a town or village is a common sight—an increasingly common one, as climate change shrinks summer sea ice. So while the FWS currently is tackling the issue of people killing polar bears, its approach may come as a surprise. Real-world conservation stays firmly rooted in science, but with a clear view of conditions prevailing in polar bear country. Marine Mammal Protection Act recognizes the importance of traditional, subsistence harvest and can only limit it in the direst of circumstances,” Regehr explains. National Geographic Magazine explores the lives of people who share their homes with some unusual guests -- think Burmese pythons, cougars and baby kangaroos -- in its April issue.
Spend time exploring the fort and the charming streets that surround it, where merchants sell local silks and sapphires.
After visiting the city of Port Blair, home to the notorious prison, we’ll make our way to one of the outer islands for a day of exploration both above and below the water.
Poised between the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean, We offers unparalleled snorkeling and diving opportunities. Head to Bukit Lawang, a reserve in the Gunung Leuser National Park, to encounter Sumatran orangutans and other wildlife, or get to know the traditions of the Batak Karo people who make their home in the highlands near Berastagi. We’ll spend the day exploring Chinatown, peering at blooms at the impressive National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and taking a bumboat ride along the Singapore River. Our destination is Camp Leakey, a research station established in 1971 by primatologist Dr.
He enlisted local Sheikh El-Beled to dig up a wheat field, where they found—at a depth of 8 feet (2.4 meters)—a golden hamster and her 11 young. An 80 yr old may be able to give a hamster more time and freedom than a child, but when the inevitable escape comes, good luck getting on all fours to fish under the kitchen cabinets. Visitors might notice a higher level of supervision here, though—armed wildlife agents patrolling on ATVs to keep polar bears from trick-or-treating the kids. If you wish, go on a wildlife river cruise or take an excursion to a tea plantation to learn about one of Sri Lanka’s (formerly Ceylon) most important exports. We’ll spend the afternoon among rainbow-colored coral fans and a mind-boggling array of marine life on one of the reefs offshore. Birute Galdikas, a many-time National Geographic grantee and founder of Orangutan Foundation International (OFI). If this is you, and you’d like to work out of our dynamic office space in Sydney’s Surry Hills, tell us why we should hire you. Galdikas joins us to discuss her efforts to save the orangutan from extinction through rehabilitation and habitat preservation. Our boats bring us to feeding stations throughout the forest, where we can observe these gentle creatures at close range. The following day, visit OFI’s wildlife rehabilitation center to learn how captive and orphaned orangutans are rescued and rehabilitated.

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