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9 of the Best Places for a Wildlife Holiday

by Travelbag on 02 March 2020, 17:03PM

Given the diversity of flora and fauna that exists on our planet, it’s not surprising that wildlife holidays are so popular. There’s a certain thrill that comes with witnessing animals in the wild – seeing then feeding and interacting with one another right in front of you makes for a truly magical experience. But if you want to take a trip that focuses on the wonders of the natural world, it can be hard to decide where to go. To help you, we’ve rounded up what we think are nine of the best places in the world for a wildlife holiday.

Kruger National Park

India

India probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of safari holidays. But if it’s tigers you want to see, there’s nowhere better to go on a game drive. Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan is the most popular spot. Given its proximity to Jaipur and Agra – home to the Taj Mahal – you can easily combine it with a Golden Triangle tour.

It’s further off the tourist trail, but the central state of Madhya Pradesh also has a sizeable tiger population. There are a number of reserves to choose from here, including Kanha National Park, which is thought to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. And if you head to Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh, as well as tigers, you may also spot deer, leopards, rhinos and as many as 400 types of bird.

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park 

Borneo

A wildlife holiday to Borneo is high on many people’s bucket lists. That’s because the dense jungles of the Malaysian state of Sabah are home to orangutans – the largest arboreal mammals on the planet. Borneo’s now one of only two places in the world where orangutans still exist in the wild – the other being Sumatra. And it’s not the only rare animal you’ll see here. Borneo’s tropical forests are also a habitat for the elusive sun bear. Lesser spotted than orangutans, but equally fascinating, these nocturnal creatures are the smallest bears on Earth. Tigers, rhinos, elephants and leopards roam here too, while the world’s biggest bat – the large flying fox – can sometimes be seen flying overhead.

Orangutans in Borneo 

Costa Rica

If you want to combine animal-spotting with adventure, Costa Rica makes for one of the best wildlife holidays on the planet. It may be small – Costa Rica’s only about a fifth of the size of the UK – but it has an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. Five percent of the world’s biodiversity in fact. And because over a quarter of the land has been designated a national park or wildlife refuge, much of it’s protected.

A birdwatcher’s paradise, Costa Rica has over 800 native bird species, including more than 50 types of hummingbird. There are also 150 species of bat, 100 types of frog and 130 kinds of snake – plus crocodiles, caimans, sloths, toucans and the rare Baird’s tapir. Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsula is also home to five species of cat – jaguars, pumas, ocelots, margays and jaguarondi – and its waters are inhabited by dolphins and whales. Meanwhile, the beaches in Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean coast, are an important nesting ground for sea turtles. And you’ll find yet more wildlife if you head to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Zip-line through the canopy and, besides howler and capuchin monkeys, you might spot the resplendent quetzal, plus 500 types of orchid.

If you’re thinking about visiting Costa Rica, check out our holiday guide. Or chat to our experts about our range of tours.

Quetzals in Costa Rica 

Thailand

Thailand’s famous for its fantastic street food, fascinating culture and postcard-worthy beaches. But it’s also a great destination for a wildlife holiday. The countryside around Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, is home to a number of ethical elephant sanctuaries. If you’ve ever dreamed of bathing one of these gentle giants, this is a lovely place to do it. Or if you’d rather see elephants in the wild, head to Kuiburi National Park. About 300 of them roam here, as does a huge population of gaurs.

Khao Sok National Park, in the south of the country, is a real wildlife wonderland. Older than the Amazon, it’s believed to contain over five percent of the world’s species. Trek through the jungle here and you might spot leopards, tapirs, gibbons, spectacled langurs and Malayan sun bears. And if you go at the right time of year, you could also see a rafflesia – the world’s largest flower.

But wildlife holidays in Thailand aren’t restricted to land. Go diving or snorkelling amongst the corals and you’ll encounter a rich variety of marine life. Turtles, lion fish, clown fish, whale sharks, zebra sharks and manta rays are just some of the sea creatures you could see here.

Elephants in Thailand 

South Africa

A popular honeymoon destination, South Africa really does have it all. Fabulous weather, world-class wine and spectacular scenery. And then there’s the wildlife. You can’t possibly go on holiday to South Africa and not go on safari. While there are a number of game reserves dotted across the country, Kruger National Park is by far the most famous – and probably the best.

Located in the northeast corner, Kruger is home to more species of mammal than any other reserve in Africa. Here you’ll find cheetahs, giraffes, hippos, zebras and more than 500 different types of bird. But the biggest draw is obviously the chance to see the ‘Big Five’ – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo. Whether you opt to join a guided game drive or choose to go it alone – the vast road network makes self-drive safaris pretty easy – there’s a good chance you’ll encounter all of them here.

But a safari isn’t the only kind of wildlife holiday you can have in South Africa. Besides its majestic mountains, rugged coastline and, of course, Cape Town, the Western Cape is famous for its marine life. Between July and November, the seaside town of Hermanus is one of the best places in the world for whale-watching, while African penguins waddle about on the beaches throughout the year.

Humpback Whale in South Africa 

Australia

Very few places of Earth offer such a variety of wildlife holidays as Australia. Its iconic landscapes range from subtropical rainforests and coral reefs to dust-filled deserts and snow-capped mountains. And it’s well-known for its weird and wonderful creatures – think kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, platypuses and koalas. To see lots of these native critters in one place, head to Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Despite the recent bushfires, much of the island is still very much open for business. Check out our travel guide for further details.

Meanwhile, the Daintree Rainforest, in Far North Queensland, is one of the oldest surviving rainforests in the world. You can cruise the Daintree River looking for crocodiles, or trek through the ancient ferns in search of cassowaries – a huge, rare bird, closely related to the emu and ostrich. Crocodiles can also be seen in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The largest national park in Australia, this diverse wilderness is also home to a spectacular array of birdlife.

Snorkellers and divers are quick to flock to the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s worth considering Ningaloo Reef as well. Located on the other side of the country, in Western Australia, Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef. Manta rays, turtles, humpback whales, fish and dugongs are abundant in its pristine waters – and it’s a fantastic place if you want to swim with whale sharks.

And while you’re over that side of the country, make time to visit Rottnest Island. Just a short ferry ride from Perth, this protected nature reserve has beautiful beaches, and is home to a cute wallaby-like marsupial known as the quokka.

Kangaroos in Australia 

Canada

If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing bears in the wild, there’s really only one place to go: Canada. Different species can often be found throughout country, but for guaranteed sightings you’ll want to head to British Colombia, on Canada’s west coast. And while there’s a good chance you’ll see one or two at the side of the road, encountering them in their natural habitat is far more exciting. For a safe and informative experience, we recommend joining a guided tour.

There are various places you can go bear watching in British Colombia, including Vancouver Island – a tourist hotspot and real outdoor playground, with loads of things to do. But the best spot is undoubtedly the aptly-named Great Bear Rainforest. Sometimes called the Amazon of the North, this vast wilderness is the last large expanse of coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. Besides grizzly bears and black bears, it’s home to the elusive white Kermode bear, also called the ‘spirit bear.’ In fact, this is the only place on Earth where these creatures live.

The forests are rich in other wildlife too. Between the Sitka spruce and Pacific silver firs, deer, cougars, mountain goats, wolves and elk prowl, while bald eagles and other birds soar overhead. And in the waters you’ll find orcas, humpback whales, sea lions, sea otters and salmon. Although there are very few roads through Great Bear Rainforest, there are countless opportunities for adventure. A boat ride through glacial fjords, heli-hiking in the Bella Coola Valley and kayaking between coastal inlets are just a few of the things you can do on a wildlife holiday here.

But before you go ahead and book a flight to Canada, find out what it’s really like to track grizzly bears in British Colombia.

Spirit Bear 

Indonesia

There’s so much more to Indonesia than just Bali. We agree it’s a wonderful holiday destination, what with its beaches, temples and tiered rice paddies. But this is a country with more than 17,000 islands – and while Bali does have monkeys and turtles, more unique wildlife can be found elsewhere.

As mentioned previously, Sumatra’s the only place other than Borneo where orangutans still exist in the wild. But they’re not the only animals you can see there. About 500 tigers live on the island, and they can sometimes be seen on a safari in Kerinci Seblat National Park. The park’s also home to healthy populations of elephants, bears, tapirs, clouded leopards and gibbons.

If you’re something of a water baby, you should definitely consider a holiday to Raja Ampat. Covered in lush green jungle and fringed with white-sand beaches, this group of islands is nothing short of sublime. Birds of paradise reside in the trees, and the water’s said to contain the most biodiverse marine habitat in the world.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Flores you’ll find a tiny group of islands which, together, form Komodo National Park. This is the only place on Earth where you can have a close encounter with a Komodo dragon – the world’s largest lizard. They grow up to three metres in length, and can consume up to 80 percent of their body weight in a single feeding. Their diets are wide ranging, but they frequently hunt much larger animals, including wild boar, goats, deer, horses, and buffalo. Read about what Travelbag’s MD, Lesley Rollo, thought of her recent visit to Komodo National Park.

Raja Ampat 

Kenya

Every year between July and August, over a million wildebeest – plus a smattering of other herd animals, like zebra, antelope and gazelle – migrate north from the Serengeti, in Tanzania, into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Known as the Great Migration, it’s the largest movement of animals anywhere on the planet. And – if you’re lucky enough to witness it – it’s one of the most astounding things you’ll see in your life.

This migration across the Mara River is part of a 1,800-mile round trek which these majestic animals complete annually as they continuously chase the rain. It’s an arduous escapade and sadly a significant number which set out on the journey will succumb to predators, exhaustion, thirst or disease. Those who do make it to the Masai Mara will stay until the rain dries up later in the year – usually around October or November. Then they will turn south and return to the now-greener pastures of the Serengeti.

While July to October is the best time to go on a Kenyan safari, it’s not all about the wildebeest. The Masai Mara’s rolling grasslands are also home to various other animals, including big cats and the infamous Big Five. If you want to do something really special on your wildlife holiday in Kenya, take an early-morning hot air balloon ride. There’s nothing like seeing the sun come up as you drift along over the savannah. And if you want to know what else to see during your trip, take a look at our guide to Kenya.

Masai Mara Great Migration

Ready to head off on your next adventure? Take a look at our amazing offers.

And if you’re still searching for inspiration, have a flick through our latest edition of Escape magazine.


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