Where to go on a wildlife vacation
Most people know that one day they would love to go to South Africa, Botswana or Namibia to see some of our planet�s great creatures in the wild. What this guide hopes to show is that, when working out where to go on a wildlife vacation, there are also so many different and sometimes surprising options when it comes to wildlife vacations. Like the Azores, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada. It�s a big wild world out there.
Where to go on a wildlife vacation
The world is your oyster when it comes to where to go on a wildlife vacation. It is also your gorilla, bear, lion, tiger and bear. Of course, it is impossible to pinpoint everywhere in the world to see great wildlife, but we have picked out a collection of our top recommendations of where to go on a wildlife vacation – the ones that our responsible travelers review with the words �I am reborn� when they come back. The ones that our expert suppliers pick out again and again as being pure natural gems, and whey know exactly what to see and when. And the ones that we need to support, to show the world that wildlife tourism is worth so much more than poaching or habitat destruction.
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Whales frolic in the rough seas, enormous elephant seals bark and scrap and vicious, shark-mouthed leopard seals dive into icy waters to hunt penguins. Much like the Galapagos, the wildlife here is not afraid of humans � you may find yourself stepping over penguins. On the Subantarctic Islands, otherworldly forests of megaherbs flourish across the windswept land, creating fantasy scenes of giant leaves dotted with seals and seabirds. See our Antarctica guide here.
2. Botswana & Namibia
In these vast desert nations, the preservation of ancient migration routes has created space for over 100,000 elephants, more than anywhere else in the world. You�ll see lions paddling across the Okavango Delta, while on Namibia�s Etosha salt pan, animals cluster around its waterholes � with elephant, zebra, jackals, springbok and giraffe jostling for drinking space. Namibia is also the place to go for some serious rhino tracking.
Canada is bear central. Head north to Churchill for a trip of a lifetime, to see polar bears crossing the land en route to Hudson Bay as it starts to freeze. Or head west to British Columbia to watch grizzlies doing their thing in many locations, such as the Coast Range Mountains, home to the Great Bear Rain Forest. No prizes for guessing who eats the porridge in those woods. See our Canada guide here.
4. Costa Rica
Plenty of countries have astounding wildlife, but rarely have they preserved it so carefully for decades � and few offer so many ecosystems in such a tiny space as Costa Rica. Sightings are so superb here as there is simply nowhere for the creatures to run. Turtles, quetzals, howler monkeys, sloths, caiman, otters, dolphins� take your pick of iconic species, and don�t forget your binoculars. Great for family wildlife vacations too. See our Costa Rica guide here.
The world is filled with wonderful wildlife � much of it bigger, fiercer or more unusual than that of the Gal�pagos. But nowhere else is it as fearless and friendly, which is what lures people to this isolated archipelago, nearly 1,000km out into the Pacific. It�s this extreme isolation that has shaped and conserved the beaks, shells and wings of its unique species, in this living exhibit of evolution. See our Gal�pagos guide here.
This is one of the most spectacular up close and personal wildlife experiences: encountering our distant cousins in mist-draped forests. Volcanoes (Rwanda) and Bwindi (Uganda) are the two main national parks for gorilla tracking, but be sure to secure your permit months in advance. Explore more of Uganda�s varied wildlife with chimp treks, game drives and river safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park � tree-climbing lions are a speciality.
Seeing tigers in the wild is rare. Only 3,000 remain in world, and India is home to half of these. The best places for viewing are Bandhavgarh, Bandipur, Kanha, Periyar and Ranthambore National Parks, Corbett Tiger Reserve and Pench Tiger Reserve. India�s other wildlife is superb too, however, with Asian lions, leopard, elephants, buffalo, rhino, monkeys, wolves and a veritable fiesta of birdlife. And, in Ladakh, the super elusive snow leopard. See our India guide here.
8. Kenya & Tanzania
Whether you�re watching a million wildebeest thundering across the Serengeti before attempting to cross the crocodile-filled Mara River, tracking huge elephant herds against the backdrop of Kilimanjaro or visiting endangered rhino in a crater, an East African safari is as close as you can get to playing a starring role in the Lion King. Stay in Maasai-run camps on community land, in order to truly embrace responsible tourism
The biggest attraction is the lemur, believed to have floated here 60 million years ago, and now evolved into over 100 species, all unique to Madagascar. Favourites include the panda-faced ring-tailed lemur, the �dancing� sifaka and the metre-long indri, which �sings� like a whale. However, you can also kayak the north coast to spot dolphins and whales, or hike through its many habitats, from rainforest to savannah.
Having only opened up to tourism over the last few decades, the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak are now well equipped for visitors, boasting exotic wildlife that is world renowned. Long-limbed orangutans are the huge draw, but proboscis monkeys, only found here, are perpetual crowd pleasers, as are the elusive clouded leopards, tiny tarsiers, slow lorises, sun bears and pygmy elephants.
11. South Africa
South Africa is brimming with bestial beauties. Kruger National Park is one of Africa�s oldest, largest and most diverse with over 500 bird species and more mammals than any other park on the continent including, of course, the Big Five. Check out alternative safari options, such as walking or cycling safaris, or combining it with some whale watching. South Africa has it all.
12. Sri Lanka
As well as its cultural highlights, another of Sri Lanka�s wonders lies in the world of whale watching, with huge numbers of sperm and blue whales arriving in to party off the southern coast in February. As if this isn�t enough natural wonder for one trip, you can combine this with a visit to Yala National Park which has an impressive population of leopards and a beautiful bevy of birdlife.
13. Trinidad & Tobago
The two islands offer vastly different landscapes, from Trinidad�s tropical rainforests to Tobago�s coral reefs. And with these habitats come 600 species of butterflies, 470 species of birds as well as beach bliss for magnificent leatherback turtles. Both islands have a plethora of fine naturalist guides to show you all other fauna, including wild hogs, armadillos, iguanas and the comical agouti � a kind of giant guinea pig.
14. Whale watching
You can�t really say you�ve been to the Azores until you�ve hung out with the locals � the local cetaceans, that is. Many Azoreans used to earn a living from hunting whales, but over the last three decades this cluster of islands, an autonomous region of Portugal, has reinvented itself, rather brilliantly, as one of the world�s best, and most responsible places to see whales and dolphins.
15. Norway & Spitsbergen
The best way to discover Norway�s wildlife is from the sea. Sail in a small wooden cutter around the jagged northern coastline and Lofoten Islands, seeking whales, puffins and the Northern Lights. Or take an icebreaker around the coast of Spitsbergen as the sea ice melts in early summer, in the hope of spotting walrus, ringed seals, seabirds, whales and � of course � polar bears. Daily treks can also reveal Arctic foxes and reindeer.
Our Wildlife Vacations
Galapagos land based adventure vacation
Amazing wildlife, both on land and underwater
Uganda wildlife and activity vacation
Experience the Pearl of Africa. true African adventure!
Brazil wildlife vacation, tailor made
From the world�s largest jungle to wild empty beaches
Thailand elephants and Karen hilltribe stay
Conservation project returning elephants to the forest.
Luxury Tanzania safari and Zanzibar beach vacation
Selous safari then relax on beautiful Zanzibar
Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores
Live a dream and swim with wild dolphins
See all our Wildlife VacationsGive us a call
If you’d like to chat about Wildlife or need help finding a vacation to suit you we’re very happy to help.
Where to go on a wildlife vacation
Responsible Travel’s suppliers recomend
Paul Callcutt at our leading supplier of gorilla trekking vacations, Natural World Safaris gives some good tips on where to see gorillas: “Rwanda is generally viewed as somewhat easier trekking in order to see the gorillas. They tend to be out in the open a bit more and along easier hiking trails than in Uganda, where things can be a bit steeper and the undergrowth is thicker. So it can be a little more challenging. It also depends which families you go to see. The Nkuringo gorilla family in Uganda�s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is known as being a slightly more difficult in terms of the hiking you do there. In Uganda, the longest you could trek is eight hours, but even this is unlikely. However, it is not impossible. When I have done it, I haven�t walked for more than two or three hours in both Uganda and Rwanda. But if you have mobility issues, I would probably recommend Rwanda first.”
Paul Goldstein , top tiger safari guide and expert at one of our leading suppliers, Exodus:
�The best parks for seeing tigers in India are Ranthambore, Karna, Bandhavgarh and Tadoba. For tiger safaris, it is important to give yourself more time in one or two places than just a tour that ticks of four or five reserves, because there are big distances between them.�
Daniel Waters, from our supplier Wild Frontiers:
“I would recommend seeing orangutans in Danum Valley. It�s one of the best national parks in Borneo, incredibly rich in plant and animal life. There is a lodge in the middle of the jungle, it�s eco friendly, they�ve got on-hand naturalists and tour leaders and there�s a pretty good chance of seeing orangutans there as well as things like pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, hornbills. it�s one of the richest areas for the range of animals and plants you can get in the world so it�s a brilliant place to go to.”
Sue Grimwood, is a whale watching expert from our supplier Steppes Travel. She shares her best place to watch dolphins: “In the Azores we saw five species of dolphins, there are plenty out there. Some species can be quite shy. Risso�s dolphins are really unusual because they are really deep divers and you don�t normally see those unless you�re on a deep sea crossing. But the Azores have really good population, and they�re the only group of Risso�s that have been studied continually for about 15 years. The operator in the Azores is part of the local research team. They photograph a lot of the whales and dolphins that they see, then they upload photos and track them. It�s very much hands on research � you can just go and watch the dolphins but if you�re interested in the research and helping then you can do that as well.”
More about Wildlife
It is a good lesson to remember that, on wildlife vacations, it is the wildlife that calls the shots. They tell us when the best time to go on a wildlife vacation is. If there is a sudden change in weather, for example, you might find that the most reliable wildlife sightings are suddenly rare. Or vice versa
This wildlife travel guide is meant to be like a trailer for the new Attenborough series. Because we also have individual travel guides for more specific wildlife vacations, such as our safaris, bear watching and whale watching. The travel guide below gives you the perfect introduction to getting your head around the extraordinary life on earth, and where to go to find it.
Sometimes it is straightforward. It has always been your dream to see gorillas in the wild. Or polar bears in the Arctic. Others may need help working out how to choose a wildlife vacation.
Sometimes people wait until their kids have flown the nest before heading off on that trip of a lifetime to see our wilderness neighbours in the animal kingdom still brooding over theirs.
You don�t always have to fly to the other side of the world to see wildlife. In fact, Scotland is one of our top destinations for wildlife vacations in Europe.
There are so many to choose from and yet people always ask us � what are our top 10 wildlife experiences? So here they are below.
Blue Planet returns to the BBC, inviting us into an extraordinary underwater world and inspiring us to explore and protect our oceans.
One thing we have learned at Responsible Travel is that the more respectful you are to wildlife, the more incredible your encounter will be.
One of the most important pieces of wildlife vacations advice isn�t about wildlife at all. It is about people. And their homes.
It is rare in the wonderful world of wildlife that watching wildlife in their natural habitats comes issue free. What can we say?�it�s complicated.
Is there really such a thing as an ethical wildlife selfie? The spread of social media has encouraged a worrying trend in pictures of tourists holding, hugging and feeding wild animals, and NGO World Animal Protection has campaigned to stop this.
This wildlife travel guide is meant to be like a trailer for the new Attenborough series. Giving you ideas of what you are going to see, when you can see it and where.
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Top 10 wildlife experiences
There are so many to choose from and yet people always ask us � what are our top 10 wildlife experiences? So here they are below. The bestsellers, the most reviewed, the ones that people go back for more than once, and the ones that are, for many people, the absolute trips of a lifetime. And all, totally wild.
Our top 10 wildlife vacations
It�s no wonder that wildlife vacations are so popular. Watching animals feeding, playing and interacting with their natural surroundings is a great way to get back to nature and escape everyday life. With so many wildlife vacations on offer in so many fabulous locations it�s hard to decide where to go or what species to see. So we�ve put together our top 10 wildlife watching vacations around the world � some in the remote wilderness, and some closer to home.
Whether you have three weeks to spare or three days, there�s a wildlife vacation to suit you. As many species featured on this list are endangered, we make sure that these trips are run responsibly and respectfully. Many of our partners are actively involved in conservation projects so you can rest assured that your wildlife vacation will look after the wildlife as well as you.
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1. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda & Uganda
Watching gorillas is often described as one of the most life-changing of all wildlife experiences. It�s often a moving experience too � perhaps because of their intimidating size combined with their unexpected gentle grace, or because they behave so much like us. And whether you want to see mountain gorillas in Uganda�s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or in Rwanda�s Virunga Mountains, we have a responsible gorilla safari for you.
2. A Big Five safari in Africa
You can practically take your pick of African safaris � they come in almost every shape, size and budget. Go for a classic jeep safari in East Africa, following the Great Migration across the savannah, or opt for a self drive vacation in South Africa and Namibia. The intrepid can even step out of their vehicles in Botswana and Zambia for a Big Five bush walk accompanied by an expert guide. Other guides will whisk you out on a dugout canoe along the elephant-friendly waterways of the Okavango Delta.
The Big Five (that�s the inimitable lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and black rhino) tend to take center stage, but don�t forget that other creatures such as hippos, hyenas and zebra can be just as thrilling to see. Check out our African safaris to see where your adventure could take you.
3. Polar bears in the Arctic
Polar bears are an iconic Arctic species. But with rising concerns over their ever-shrinking hunting grounds, where ice is being lost to global warming more quickly than bears can adapt, it is more important than ever to make sure that your bear watching vacation is run responsibly. That�s why all our polar bear watching vacations have to adhere to criteria that ensures your trip minimises environmental impacts to help conserve these magnificent creatures. Have a look at our Arctic cruise vacations to find the ultimate wild polar bear experience in the company of wildlife experts, researchers and conservationists.
4. Tiger safaris
Tiger safaris awaken something magical within. They can transport us back to childhood dreams and recall poetry in motion. And there�s something spiritual about seeing this most iconic of big cats prowling its natural territory, especially when one considers how endangered they are, with around 3,900 tigers left in the wild. Our responsible tiger safaris in India, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh can offer unforgettable sightings, of course. But they also help to ensure that these magnificent creatures will still be around for new generations to admire.
5. Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and a must for any wildlife enthusiast. The archipelago�s most famous visitor, Charles Darwin, began to form his theory of evolution here and it�s easy to see why. With birds and animals that are found nowhere else on earth, and which are completely unafraid of humans, the Galapagos Islands are a wildlife experience like no other. Take a look at our Galapagos tours to see why.
What is a good wildlife place to visit for vacation
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This remote archipelago off the coast of Ecuador just might be the ultimate wildlife vacation destination. You don’t need special photo equipment or giant zoom lenses to get close-up wildlife shots; because there are no natural predators here, the animals are unafraid of people, and you’ll often find yourself within a few yards of sea lions, giant tortoises, waved albatrosses, and iguanas. Keep an eye out for the world’s only tropical penguins.
How to get there: There are a few dozen hotels and inns in the Galapagos, including the cozy Semilla Verde Boutique Hotel on Santa Cruz Island, but to see as many animals as possible you’ll want to hop on a boat. Vessels here can carry no more than 100 passengers by law, and many are much smaller, creating an intimate experience. Popular operators include International Expeditions, Celebrity Cruises, and Metropolitan Touring.
There are few sights more magnificent than a 400-pound Bengal tiger stalking across the grass, muscles rippling under its sleek striped coat. Tigers are most easily spotted in a string of parks across India, including Corbett and Bandhavgarh National Parks. The most appealing, though, may be Ranthambore National Park; once the hunting grounds of Jaipur’s maharajas, the park features not only plenty of tigers but also temple ruins and other wildlife such as leopards and sloth bears.
How to get there: Tiger Safari India offers a variety of tiger-spotting packages ranging from four nights to three weeks. The ultra-luxe Oberoi Vanyavilas is located right outside Ranthambore National Park and can help you arrange excursions.
For many travelers, Antarctica is the wildlife trip of a lifetime. The climate is hostile and the journey to get there is long, but the rewards are many: Picture elephant and fur seals, humpback and orca whales, and thousands of penguins, all set against a backdrop of ice in every possible shade of white and blue. If you have the time and budget, consider booking a trip that includes a stop in South Georgia to see its massive penguin population (including king penguins, which are more difficult to find on the Antarctic Peninsula).
How to get there: Quark Expeditions specializes in polar journeys and even offers fly-in options for travelers who want to skip the notoriously rough Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica. For luxury cabins and food, consider a cruise with Silversea.
Best Vacations for Wildlife Lovers
Imagine crouching in a dense green forest just a few yards away from a mother gorilla cradling her baby or a 400-pound silverback foraging for food. There are only about 880 mountain gorillas left on the planet, and Rwanda and Uganda are the best and safest places to view them. Uganda is a better option for travelers on a budget, as permits and accommodations tend to be cheaper; it’s also easy to add other adventures onto your wildlife trip such as spotting lions and elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Meanwhile, Rwanda has better infrastructure, shorter driving distances, and the chance to see playful golden monkeys.
How to get there: In Rwanda, consider basing yourself at the high-end Virunga Lodge, which boasts lake and volcano views and will arrange treks in search of gorillas and golden monkeys. In Uganda, the recently renovated Bwindi Lodge features butler service for all guests and grounds where gorillas often roam. Both lodges are operated by Volcanoes Safaris, which offers four- to seven-day tour packages in Uganda and Rwanda.
Located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, this cluster of icy islands is one of the few places on the planet where you can see polar bears stalking across the ice in their natural habitat—along with reindeer, Arctic foxes, puffins, walruses, and seals. Most people visit in the summer, when the midnight sun shines all night long.
How to get there: You can base yourself at a hotel such as Funken Lodge, which can arrange wildlife excursions, but the most convenient and far-reaching way to discover Svalbard is on a cruise ship. Quark Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions, and G Adventures are among the operators that can take you there.
The Pantanal, South America
Sprawling across parts of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the Pantanal is the planet’s largest system of freshwater wetlands. The Pananal has an even denser concentration of wildlife than the Amazon; visitors can spot jaguars, caimans, macaws, river otters, monkeys, egrets, anteaters, and many more in the region’s broad floodplains.
How to get there: Pantanal Nature runs wildlife tours, including jaguar-focused excursions, in the northern part of the region. Ecolodges such as Araras Pantanal Ecolodge and SouthWild Pantanal Lodge also arrange wildlife trips around the region.
With bald eagles soaring overhead, humpback whales flashing their flukes in the water, and hungry bears stalking rivers in search of salmon, Alaska offers a feast of wildlife travel adventures. Denali National Park is a good place to spot Alaska’s version of the African Big Five: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. Many visitors come on cruise ships through the Inside Passage, where you can often see marine animals such as sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and various types of whales.
How to get there: This list of bear-viewing tours is a good place to start your research if viewing black, grizzly, or polar bears is a must-do for you. Numerous cruise lines offer Alaska voyages, including big-ship lines like Princess and Holland America, and smaller expedition companies like Alaskan Dream Cruises and UnCruise Adventures. For stays in Denali National Park, consider booking a lodge or cabin room at McKinley Creekside Cabins.
Borneo, Southeast Asia
Covered in old-growth rainforest and split among the nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, Borneo entices travelers with the chance to spot orangutans swinging through the trees or catch a glimpse of Asia’s smallest elephant. Love monkeys? Don’t miss a trip to Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve, home to a whopping 10 different primate species including proboscis monkeys, orangutans, and multiple variants of macaques and langurs. Keep an eye out for the elusive Malayan sun bear and its distinctive white or gold patch of chest fur.
How to get there: Intrepid Travel and G Adventures run a number of small-group Borneo tours with various price points and activity levels. If you’d rather travel independently, you can book a multi-night package at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, located in the Danum Valley Conservation Area; past guests report seeing red leaf monkeys, orangutans, macaques, and various colorful birds around the grounds.
No wildlife lover should pass up a chance to see Africa’s legendary Big Five: lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, and Cape buffalo. In Tanzania you’ll find them all plus many more, including hippos, giraffes, and zebras. The country is most famous for the Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest move en masse from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in neighboring Kenya; June and July are the best months for viewing the migration in Tanzania.
How to get there: Bright African Safaris is one well-regarded local operator. Nomad Tanzania runs luxurious safari camps across the country. Intrepid Travel offers a number of Tanzania packages, many that also include time in Kenya.
Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Also known as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is the body of water between the Baja California peninsula and the mainland of Mexico—and it’s teeming with wildlife. Blue, gray, sperm, fin, and humpback whales migrate through these waters at various times of year, while dolphins and orcas are year-round inhabitants. You can even go swimming alongside playful sea lions and gentle whale sharks.
How to get there: You can base yourself in Los Cabos and take whale watching and snorkeling excursions to see the local wildlife. For a more in-depth look at the region, book a small-ship expedition cruise with operators such as Lindblad Expeditions or UnCruise Adventures.
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