What makes a wildlife holiday truly unforgettable? Is it seeing as many different species as you can? Being wrapped around by nature? Is it enjoying the opulent comfort of a luxury safari lodge and being pampered in an indulgent bush spa? All of those? The destinations we have highlighted will give you all of that, and more …
#1 – Meet ‘the man of the forest’, his wife and kiddies, Borneo, Indonesia
You hear Borneo, you think ‘orangutans’!. Rugged and mountainous, Borneo is the world’s third-largest island with ancient and biodiverse rainforests that teem with life. Its astonishing 15,000 identified plant species make exploring its mountain and jungle trails a memorable experience. Its unique wildlife include marvelous creatures like clouded leopards, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, flying foxes (that are actually bats!), endangered Sumatran rhinos and tigers, Bornean elephants – and orangutans, of course! The remarkable Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center allows you to get close to these extraordinary creatures and appreciate their uniqueness.
#2 – Terrific tigers safaris, India
There is just something magical about tigers. Part of it is probably William Blake’s evocative poem about the “Tyger” that is “burning bright” in the “forests of the night”! But these magnificent creatures capture our imaginations like no other animal on earth. We think that they’re beautiful, but we’re terrified of them as well. After all, fearsome Shere Khan in The Jungle Book was a Bengal tiger!
Therefore a tiger safari is a unique and unforgettable experience. Seeing these beautiful endangered cats in their natural habitats is an intensely moving, awe-inspiring and unique experience. Though estimates vary, there are only between 3,900 and 5000 wild tigers left in the world, most of which are in India. The best areas to see them are the Pench and Kanha National Parks in the heart of India’s scenic tiger country.
#3 – Visit polar bears in arctic Canada
The inhabitants of the Canadian town of Churchill in northern Manitoba enjoy living right alongside the largest population of polar bears on the planet! Visitors to the town share this privilege. The best time to visit is summer when the bears congregate around the town waiting for the seas to freeze over so they can disperse over the ice to hunt.
Birders will also be in their element with more than 285 bird species having been spotted around Churchill. These include various owls, falcons and eagles, as well as rare Ross’s gulls, northern hawk owls, longspurs, spruce grouse, three-toed woodpeckers, and the elusive yellow rails and Harris’s sparrows. Bowhead and beluga whales occur here, as are narwhals and seals. You can take a cruise, venture out on a tundra buggy, and watch the famous Northern Lights. Why not venture out by dog sled, canoe, and even hot air balloon?
#4 – See the Big Five in the Greater Kruger, South Africa
The Greater Kruger, incorporating the Kruger Park itself and many private game reserves, is a vast protected wilderness area. Located in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, the area offers visitors fantastic wildlife, great diversity in flora, and many sites of historical and archaeological interest. With close on 150 mammal species and an astonishing 500 bird species, the Greater Kruger is the place for unrivaled wildlife sightings. And the iconic Big Five, of course – lions, leopards, both black and white rhinos, elephants, and Cape buffalos.
Reserves like the Sabi Sands are particularly renowned for their leopard, lion, and other predator sightings. You can confidently expect to also see kudu, eland, bushbuck, zebra, impala (lots!), wildebeest, giraffe, and waterbuck. You might also be lucky enough to see wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, wildcats and civets. You could even see an indefatigable honey badger loping past. A wide variety of accommodations are available to suit every budget, including some of the superb Kruger Park safari lodges.
#5 – Swim with whale sharks in Western Australia
Kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and vast flocks of green budgies, immediately spring to mind when you think of Australia. But, if you follow the famous Coral Coast highway, it will take you to Ningaloo Reef, where you can have the amazing experience of swimming with whale sharks. Despite their name, whale sharks aren’t whales at all. Whales are mammals, and whale sharks are a species of shark. However, unlike most sharks, they are filter-feeders, so they can’t and won’t be tempted to snack on you! At up to 40 feet long, and a whopping 20 tons in weight, they are the world’s biggest fish.
There are some definite rules to observe when swimming with them. Stay away from the tail (that big tail can give you a hard whack), never be tempted to touch them, and respect their space. So stay about three feet from the head, wear a life jacket, and no flash underwater photography. And no sunscreen, perfume or deodorant – the chemicals make the whale sharks’ eyes sting!
#6 – Calling all birders: a birdwatching tour in Nepal
Nepal’s three premier wildlife areas, the densely forested Kathmandu Valley, Chitwan National Park, and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, are all renowned for superb birding. Some of the species you can expect to see on your trip include red-headed trogon, Bengal pittas, racquet-tailed drongos, emerald doves, white-tailed rubythroats, Indian rollers, bee-eaters, sunbirds, and crested serpent eagles. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is probably Asia’s finest wetland, renowned for its more than 430 bird species. These include long-tailed broadbills, Bengal floricans, swamp francolins, Pacific golden plovers, baya weavers, and the chatty swamp grass babblers. Visitors can explore by boat or on foot. And, of course, on this trip you won’t only see birds! Striped hyenas, golden jackals, honey badgers, dholes, Bengal foxes, red pandas,, clouded leopards, palm civets, and golden jackals may all cross your path …
It is accepted wisdom these days that nature and wildlife rejuvenate us body and soul. Why not reward yourself with the experience of an unforgettable wildlife holiday at one (or some!) of the above superb destinations?