The trees rustle, the water ripples. The leaves part, the surface splits. Curious eyes look back at you, fins are aflutter. You catch your breath so as not to disturb the very air that separates you from the royalty of the animal kingdom. It’s moment like these that animal lovers will cherish forever.
The natural world and its spectacular ecosystems are a haven for incredible wildlife and animal enthusiasts alike. Specialist wildlife tours venture to remote pockets of our planet to open up mesmerising moments and incredible encounters that are truly unforgettable. Here are just some of the best wildlife experiences from around the world that you can plan to do today.
This 11 day small ship expedition cruise around the Svalbard archipelago of Norway showcases the Arctic wilderness that the polar bear call home. Glide past icebergs and glaciers as you scour both land and sea in search of these incredible creatures, remarkably elusive for their size. Weighing up to 725 kilograms (1,600 pounds) they pad through the snow camouflaged by their coat, until their black nose and dark eyes peeking out from behind icy bluffs betray them.
These expedition cruises are operated from June through August when the long and unwavering daylight hours of the midnight sun present plenty of viewing opportunities for polar bears and other wildlife, from seals to reindeer and an array of bird species.
Did you know? Beneath their thick, colourless fur polar bears have black skin to absorb and retain the warmth of the sun.
Make the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia your base for an incredible six day bear viewing adventure. In this remote wilderness, bears outnumber humans and you’ll be guided by a biologist into the most densely populated corners of the forest to optimise your viewing.
On this itinerary, you’ll have six bear viewing excursions as well as informative sessions to learn more about grizzly bears and the environments they live in. With three nights at the Great Bear Lodge, you will also get time to simply kick back and relax in stunning surrounds.
Did you know? Grizzly bears can run – fast. Despite their size they have been recorded at speeds of up to 48 kilometres (30 miles) per hour, outpacing even Usain Bolt.
Travel through the national parks of Madagascar in search of the fascinating concentration of wildlife that exists here, many of which are endemic to this isolated island. Paired with incredibly varied landscapes, from the Avenue of the Baobabs to fertile hills and 5,000 kilometres of coastline, Madagascar is a natural wonderland to behold.
Glide along the Tsiribihina River by barge, spotting wildlife at the river’s edge and camp on the bank listening to the calls of the wild. Keep your eyes peeled for the world's smallest chameleon in Ranomafana National Park during your stay deep within the rainforest and see how many lemurs you can spot during your wildlife adventure through Madagascar.
Did you know? Over 70% of Madagascar’s wildlife exists nowhere else one the planet, including the 113 species of lemur that call the wilds of Madagascar (and a couple of small surrounding islands) home.
Travel deep into the heart of India in search of the mighty Bengal tiger. On this itinerary you’ll visit four national parks that offer an idyllic environment for these majestic felines along with an array of other wildlife. See how predator and prey coexist in these spectacular ecosystems as you partake in safaris by jeep, boat and on foot.
Getting off India’s usual tourist trail showcases another side of this fascinating country beyond its big ticket items carved of marble and stone, instead spot sloth bears, leopards, mongoose and macaques in landscapes fashioned by nature's hand alone.
Did you know? India’s Pench National Park was the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book' – if the landscapes seem oddly familiar, it might be due to the images conjured by its pages.
The jungles of Borneo are known for their dwindling orangutan population, one of only two places in the world where the orangutan can be found. On this journey you’ll get the chance to spot these beautiful animals during a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary as well as in the wild along Kinabatangan River and in the forests of the Danum Valley.
Along with the humble orangutan, Borneo also plays host to Proboscis monkeys, macaques, sun bears, clouded leopards, pygmy elephants and an array of birdlife (just to name a few!). You’ll enjoy excursions at dawn, in the plain light of day, on dusk, and even a night walk to see the wildlife that stirs after the sun has settled for the day.
Did you know? Orangutan is a Malay word that means ‘person of the forest’ which is fitting, given that Orangutans share 97% of human DNA.
Sandwiched between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean is a landscape abound with biodiversity. Join naturalist guides to discover the incredible array of wildlife that calls Costa Rica home as you travel from stunning coastlines to mystical cloud forests and beyond.
Explore the waterways of Tortuguero National Park, a nesting site for the endangered Green turtle as well as Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Giant Leatherbacks, and keep your eyes peeled for monkeys, iguanas and varied birdlife along the way. Hike Arenal National Park under the watchful eye of Costa Rica’s lofty volcanic roof, explore the cloud forests where Howler monkeys swing through the trees, and keep a lookout for sloths in Manual Antonio National Park.
Did you know? Sloths are somewhat camouflaged in the rainforest by a green hue on their fur. This pigment comes from algae growing on their coat, made possible by their sedentary nature – they are the world’s slowest mammal and sleep between 15 and 20 hours a day.
This once in a lifetime expedition cruise to the icy wilderness of Antarctica rewards with pretty incredible bragging rights – you’ll cross the Antarctic Circle and have wildlife encounters that must be seen to be believed. Excursions will depend on the weather conditions and you’ll partake in spectacular Zodiac cruises and awe-inspiring shore landings.
Amidst the Falkland Islands you’ll likely spot at least three species of penguin and a couple of endemic bird species. South Georgia awaits with elephant seals, fur seals, albatross and rookeries teeming with hundreds of thousands of king and macaroni penguins. Watch for whales in the waters of the South Shetland Islands and learn all about this incredible polar ecosystem during expert onboard presentations.
Did you know? Antarctica is actually a desert. While it doesn’t have the usual sand dunes or cracked red earth as you’d expect, it is the driest continent on the planet.
The Galápagos is home to an unrivalled abundance of wildlife, many of which you won’t find anywhere else on the planet. This 17 day small ship cruise is designed to offer travellers incredible animal encounters with a series of guided walks and snorkelling excursions. A Galápagos National Park Service guide will accompany you, while in the islands providing valuable insights along the way.
See giant tortoises in the wild, swim with sea turtles, spot large colonies of sea lions, keep your eyes peeled for marine iguanas and rays, and marvel at the abundance of birdlife from flamingos and pelicans to frigatebirds and the iconic blue-footed booby.
Did you know? The animals that live in the Galápagos tend to be quite tame, thought to be due to the lack of predators in the archipelago compared to their mainland counterparts.
There are not many hour-long experiences that will move you in the way that observing a mountain gorilla family in their natural habitat does. A trek to see this critically endangered species rewards with time enough to watch them play and preen, without encroaching too much on their space. You’ll get roughly an hour to sit in awe of the sheer size and strength of the silverback while the gentle innocent eyes of their young dart from tree to tree as they play.
On this trip, you’ll not only get to tick off this bucket list experience, but also set off on a trek through Kibale Forest tracking chimp - wild chimpanzee, redtailed monkey, black and white colobus monkey and many others reside here. You’ll also enjoy game drives to see an array of other wildlife from prowling lions to elephants ambling through the stunning landscape.
Did you know? There are just over 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild and they exist only in two locations – the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and the Virunga mountains, bordering Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Travel through the seemingly infinite grasslands of Kenya and Tanzania as you gaze in awe at the concentration of wildlife that calls these savannahs home. Take safari drives on the Masai Mara and Serengeti and descend to the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater in search of the Big Five.
On this itinerary your accommodation is mostly comprised of lodges and tented camps where you’ll stay in the heart of these amazing reserves. Gaze up at a blanket of stars painted in a dark sky far from any light pollution and fall asleep to the calls of the wild – a truly immersive way to experience East Africa.
Did you know? During the Great Migration roughly 1.5 million wildebeest (along with accompanying zebras and gazelle) make their way through the Masai Mara and Serengeti in a cyclical pattern, constantly in search of greener pastures.