Whether polar bears lumbering across an Arctic plateau, manta rays gliding through crystalline seas or eagles soaring above silent Scottish lochs, a wildlife holiday offers the chance to experience unforgettable encounters with some of the planet’s most fascinating creatures.
Here, Annabelle Thorpe of 101 Holidays suggests 16 adventures that guarantee extraordinary moments and memories that will last a lifetime.
For many people, the ultimate wildlife holiday is a safari and Mahlatini offer a range of luxury camps, catering for families, honeymooners and first-timers. A Big Five Safari is an ideal way to see the most majestic of animals – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo – with evening and morning game drives, and plenty of time to relax in between.
For the ultimate safari experience, head to Kenya for a stay at Sir Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri – a 12-tented luxury camp in the wildlife-rich Olare Motorogi Conservancy, deep in the Masai Mara. Or, head to Uganda with Rainbow Tours to trek through the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to spot Gorillas and Game. Alongside tracking gorillas and chimps, there’s also the chance to see lions in the Queen Elizabeth National Park and cruise the Kazinga Channel.
For a watery wildlife adventure, there are few better places than the Maldives, home to the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Stay at the Amilla Maldives Resort, which offers snorkelling safaris and has a resident marine biologist. Visit between May and November for the best chance of seeing manta rays and whale sharks. Or journey to Sri Lanka with the Experience Travel Group to meet the island’s Big Mammals; with the chance of spotting leopards and elephants in lush national parks, and journeying to the coast to see dolphins and whales.
If you’d rather set your own pace, a self-drive trip is a great way to explore some of America’s National Parks and meet the wildlife that calls them home. You can Journey Cowboy Country by Motorhome and stop off at Yellowstone to see moose, bear and deer as well as coyote and buffalo along the route.
Walking holidays are a fantastic way to get close to a huge range of wildlife. Join a Ramblers Walking Holiday to see the Six Faces of Peru, combining visits to the country’s ancient sites, with the chance to see condors and herds of alpaca, and a canoe trip along Lake Sandoval to spot giant otters, macaws and howler monkeys.
Perhaps the ultimate wildlife adventure is a trip to the unique Galapagos Islands, famous as the place that inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and home to myriad, unique animal species. Join Abercrombie & Kent’s Discover Galapagos tour to encounter sea lions and penguins, turtles, dolphin and orca, with time on land and four nights on a boutique expedition ship. Or experience one of the world’s last great wildernesses, with a South Georgia and Antarctic Odyssey from Mundy Adventures, offering the chance to see penguin and seal colonies in spectacular fjord landscapes, and spot sea lions, condors and guanacos in the Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Few countries can match Canada for its extraordinary natural landscapes, and Cox and Kings’ private Atlantic Canada Explorer brings together its beautiful coastline with inland mountains and national parks. Spot humpback, finback and right whales from the water and walk through the Cape Breton Highlands, home to a wide variety of bird and animal life.
Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido is famous for the elegant, red-crowned cranes that spend the winter months in its snow-drenched fields. A Winter In Hokkaido trip with Wexas combines crane-spotting with husky dog-sled trips, the chance to spot sea eagles and dozens of other bird species at the Kushiro Shitsugen Wetlands. Or try your hand at being a bear keeper or walking with elephants, on Regent Holidays’ Wildlife and Culture of Cambodia tour, that pairs atmospheric historic sites with stunning natural landscapes.
Staying closer to home doesn’t mean compromising on the variety of wildlife you’ll see; book a self-guided walking tour of Cyprus’ Troodos Mountains for the chance to spot griffon vultures, eagles, long-legged buzzards and Mouflon – the island’s indigenous horned sheep. Or head to Finland for a Brown Bear Adventure, that combines the chance to see bears, lynx and the elusive wolverine in the country’s remote eastern wilderness.
Scotland’s dramatic landscapes are extraordinarily rich in wildlife; head to Mull with McKinlay Kidd for a Week of Wildlife, encompassing everything from boat trips to spot minke whales, porpoises, dolphins and seals, to birdwatching walks to see puffins and eagles. Each excursion is with an experienced wildlife guide, who gives a fascinating insight into each species and their habitat.
Or explore from the water on a St Hilda Sea Adventure to the Outer Hebrides, where the islands teem with thousands of different bird species, as well as being home to a huge seal colony. The waters around the islands also play host to basking sharks, orca and minke whales as well as dolphins and porpoises. Across the Irish Sea, the wild Atlantic coast of West Cork is a great place for a wildlife adventure, with whales, dolphins and seals all frisking through the waters and the chance to do a seashore safari or go for a night-time paddle on Lough Hyne, Ireland’s first marine nature reserve.