Imagine sitting in a safari hide at the crack of dawn, silence all around…then a lioness and her playful cubs come sauntering into view, oblivious to your presence. Or picture snorkelling on a coral reef, dipping your head underwater and seeing a technicolour marine world swimming around you.
Some of travel’s most memorable moments involve witnessing the world’s most incredible wildlife. Sadly, with the endangered species and habitats list growing ever longer, we are all too aware of how precious this wildlife is. Going on a wildlife holiday helps increase our understanding and respect for the natural world, but always remember to use a responsible tour operator for your trips.
Here are some of Goodtrippers’ ‘world’s best’ wildlife experiences:
Cruising the Galapagos Islands – This archipelago has attracted explorers for centuries. Its remote location and unique wildlife inspired naturalist Charles Darwin to write his theory of evolution. A trip today will bring you face-to-face with whales, dolphins, penguins, vast colonies of sea lions and birds, and real rarities such as the Galapagos tortoise, marine iguana and flightless cormorant. Flora includes mangrove, saltbush, cacti and carob trees.
Tiger watching in India – These beautiful and majestic big cats used to be found all over Asia in their hundreds of thousands. Today, there are barely over 3,000 left in the wild thanks to the destruction of their natural habitats and the illegal trade in tiger skin. However, a visit to some of India’s National Parks may reveal a rare and unforgettable sighting of species such as the elusive Bengal Tiger.
The ‘Big 5’ African safari – There are several countries, and several National Parks, where you can spot Africa’s ‘Big 5’ (i.e. lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard). South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the most well-known for a traditional safari experience – camping under the stars, exploring the bush and plains by Jeep, and keeping a pair of binoculars (and your wits about you!) at all times. The Big 5 are an awesome sight, but don’t bypass the rest of Africa’s natural wonders – watching a pack of wild dogs at night, bird-watching on a lake at dawn, or getting up-close to insect life are all unforgettable safari experiences. Try other spots including Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Diving on New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands – Two-thirds of the Earth is ocean so an underwater experience has to make this list! There are countless top dive sites – Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Thailand’s Similan Islands being just two – but I’ve included one you may not have considered (even though the great Jacques Cousteau named it one of his top ten dive sites in the world). As the 11 million year-old landscape is volcanic in origin, the cliffs, caves and tunnels harbour a unique biodiversity making New Zealand’s Poor Knights Islands an outstanding Marine Reserve and Nature Reserve.
Spotting orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo – These gentle red-heads are only found in Sumatra and Borneo, albeit in rapidly decreasing numbers as the animals are still hunted and their habitat destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Support local efforts to help protect these wonderful creatures by booking a trek through a National Park with a responsible tour operator, or volunteering at a rehabilitation centre. There’s nothing like looking up into the trees and spotting a flash of orange swing high over your head and catching your first glimpse of a wild orangutan!
The world is rich with wildlife experiences and our list barely scratches the surface! If you have a great wildlife experience to share, let us know. (This post by Goodtrippers was originally published on Frontier’s Gap Year Blog)
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