Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

World's Wildest Places V:  The Wilds of Southeast Asia


World’s Wildest Places: Amazing Southeast Asia

Peninsula College

COURSE #N775 C-SF 006

Winter Quarter, 2009

Meeting Wednesdays 3:30-5:30 PM

From Dates: Jan 14, 21, 28, Feb 11 & 18, 2009


Instructor’s name: Alexander Coke Smith

Phone number and/or email: 360-565-1571 (


  • Instructor Qualifications: MS degrees with concentrations in Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology and Entomology as well as being an avid traveler and professional lecturer, photographer and naturalist. 


Course Catalog Description: Join naturalist, intrepid traveler and professional photographer Coke Smith for a fascinating series of photo essays illustrating the amazing wildlife and ancient cultures of Southeast Asia.  Travel with Coke to the wilderness of Borneo and explore the private lives of such amazing creatures as wild Orang Utans, Bornean pygmy elephants and dozens of other fascinating species.  Coke will also highlight the wilderness areas, wildlife and national parks of his second country, Thailand.  While exploring the wilds of Thailand, you will also be treated to visits with the remote hill tribes and the ancient sites in the northern regions of the "land of smiles".  There will also be beautiful photo essay on the ancient temples and history of Angkor Wat.  Coke has been traveling to the region for over 25 years and has guided numerous tours to Southeast Asia. Washington State clock hours offered.


  • Course Objectives: To provide students with a greater appreciation phenomenal biodiversity and culture of Southeast Asia.  Special attention will also be given to conservation issues of the region.


Course Outline:


Jan 14: Introductions

Photo Essay One:  The Wildlife of Borneo                 

Borneo is the land that time has forgotten.  Borneo is an island that for much of its history was left to nature and the wild creatures that live there.  However, since the times of Alfred Russell Wallace, Borneo has captivated the imaginations of naturalists and nature enthusiasts world wide.  In this photo essay, we will explore the secret lives of such exotic creatures as the Bornean Orang Utan and the rare Bornean pygmy elephant, which are only found in a very small section of the island.  We will see images of such creatures as the various subspecies of gibbons and langur leaf monkeys that are found only in Borneo.  This safari will provide the nature enthusiast with a true appreciation of the vast biodiversity that still exists in Borneo while at the same time painting a vivid picture of the serious and immediate conservation issues facing the island paradise.


Jan 21A Safari in Thailand

When people imagine Thailand, beaches, ancient culture, friendly people, towns and villages are generally what come to mind.  Very few of the millions of visitors that come to Thailand every year realize that Thailand offers some of the greatest opportunities to view some of the last wilderness areas remaining in Southeast Asia.  This photo essay will bring students to several of the most spectacular national parks and wilderness areas in the kingdom.  We will visit World Heritage sites such as Khao Yai and Kaeng Krachan national parks as well as the restricted regions of the western forest complex.  We will see images of many of the animals that call the area home.  Professional-quality images of the wildlife will bring the wildlife up close and personal!


Jan 28The Hill Tribes of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is home to a diverse assemblage of peoples.  With over thirty different hill tribes residing in the areas of Southeast Asia, the region is an anthropologist’s paradise.  This evening we will trek the highlands of Thailand, Laos, China and Viet Nam and meet some of the fascinating people of the hills and countryside of these amazing countries.  We will learn about such tribal groups as the Hmong, Mien, Lisu, Akha, Aday, and Karen peoples and see how they live.  We will also explore the regions they call home and learn some aspects of their ethno botany and cultures. 


Feb 11The Great Angkor

Very few people are adequately prepared for the magnitude of the Angkor complex before seeing it first hand.  Few are aware that it is not just one temple complex, but dozens that cover tens of square miles in area.  Angkor was the capital of a great empire and civilization that spanned centuries.  We will explore the Khmer empire and history in this photo essay and see the grandeur of several of the more famous temple complexes in Cambodia and southeast Thailand.  We will also go beyond Cambodia and learn a bit about the civilizations that followed and how Khmer culture can still be seen in many areas of Southeast Asia.  Once the capital of a great empire, Angkor is now the capital of tourism in the region and seeing the images of this presentation will surely instill an urge to visit the region yourself.


Feb 18: The Birds of Southeast Asia

By now you will have gained an appreciation for the impressive biodiversity of Southeast Asia.  And due to this staggering biodiversity, it is simply impractical to give the avid nature lover a good appreciation variety of animals one can see in one short lecture.  This is why we will be learning about the birds of the region separately.  Some of the world’s most spectacular bird species find their homes in Southeast Asia.    Great and Rhinoceros Hornbills are spectacular not only in their beauty but in their size.  The broadbills and sunbirds are truly beautiful with their never ending colors.  The instructor has spent countless hours in the field capturing images of many of the various species of the region to share with you.  If you are not yet a bird enthusiast, you will surely have a greater appreciation of the group after this slide show!



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