Top 6 Wildlife Experiences on the Planet

03 September, 2019

Safari drive on the Serengeti

Our planet is a remarkable place and each pocket is home to different ecosystems and the varied species that call them home. Specialist wildlife tours take you to the very heart of these amazing regions and unlock animal encounters that will raise goosebumps and let butterflies loose in the pit of your stomach. If you are an animal lover, then these wildlife experiences are a must do.

Mountain Gorillas of Africa

Visit the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda

Imagine crouching low and watching through the leaves as a couple of young gorillas play under the watchful eye of their mother. An eye that wanders inquisitively toward you every now and then, locking with yours in a moment of shared respect and curiosity. You’ll sit quietly at a distance and while you are not allowed to touch the gorillas, sometimes you’ll pique the interest of one and they may approach you to check you out. Catch your breath with nervous energy and sheer amazement – an encounter unlike any other.

The forests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are home to the only remaining mountain gorillas in the world. Awareness of their plight and the conservation efforts undertaken to protect them has been boosted by the opportunity for travellers to see these critically endangered species with their own eyes, and to connect and care for them in a whole new way.

Specialist wildlife tours visit the mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda and are run with the utmost respect for these gentle giants. The number of trekkers in each group is capped to just eight and viewing time is limited to an hour in order to minimize impact on the gorilla families visited. Small groups of travellers are accompanied by trackers and rangers to find and observe them in their natural environment, and visitors are educated on how to interact with these animals and share their space respectfully.

On some itineraries travellers also get the opportunity to visit the Karisoke Research Center, founded by Dr. Dian Fossey, to meet a resident researcher and learn about the ongoing protection efforts. A rewarding, enlightening, and moving wildlife experience in the depths of the African wilderness.

Find the Experience: Rwanda & Uganda Gorilla Discovery

Marine Iguana, Galapagos

Discover the Endemic Species of the Galápagos

Walk in Darwin’s footsteps as you discover the incredible wildlife of the Galápagos and the home of more endemic species than anywhere else on earth. The volcanic islands of this archipelago play host to marine life, land dwellers and birdlife that you just won’t find elsewhere, and you will get an incredible snapshot into this bionetwork with experts on a dedicated wildlife cruise.

Depending on when you visit, this glimpse into the workings of the Galápagos’ unique ecosystem will be different. March sees marine iguanas start nesting on North Seymour and Fernandina, May sees the blue footed booby mating season kick off (watch out for their courtship dancing!), August sees sea lion pups enter the world, and December through April welcomes giant tortoise hatchlings – just to name a few!

Exploring the Galápagos Islands with an experienced naturalist guide means that you will unlock more wildlife encounters and get a deeper insight into the animals that call these islands, waters and skies home. Snorkel with iridescent fish, swim with turtles and sea lions, spot land and marine iguanas sunning themselves on the volcanic shores, visit fur seal and penguin colonies, and see the Galápagos giant tortoise in the wild or at the breeding and conservation centres that support their ongoing survival.

You can get up closer and ogle longer with the residents showing a notable lack of fear compared to their mainland counterparts, said to be derived from the absence of predators on the islands. Without the instinct to flee you will be able to observe these diverse animals flagrantly going about their daily lives, and you will be guided on appropriate distances to keep by your expert guide. This will ensure you don’t disturb the workings of this fascinating environment and preserve it for future generations – of all species.

Find the Experience: Galapagos Wildlife Cruise

Spotting the Orangutan of Borneo with Explore

Explore the Forests of Borneo

You don’t have to look far into the dense forests of Borneo to spot a couple of eyes peering back at you or catch the flitting of wings through the canopy. Boasting fascinating biodiversity, Borneo is a great place for lovers of all things flora and fauna.

One of the most well-known wildlife encounters can be found within the forest of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, a sanctuary established to rehabilitate orangutans into the wild. Sprawling over 4,000 hectares the forest provides an environment for them to live wild and free, moving nimbly through the treetops. A visit during feeding time gives you the best chance to spot these beautiful creatures as the leaves begin to rustle and they swing on in for some free food.

Nearby the Kinabatangan River area is one of best places in Borneo to spot wildlife, including the chance to see more wild orangutans. Take a cruise along these waterways keeping your eyes peeled for proboscis monkeys, gibbons, Malay sun bears, clouded leopards, pygmy elephants, and a plethora of birdlife. As some species call it a day, others wake. Don’t miss a guided night walk to see nocturnal animals including owls perched above, the big eyes of slow loris or tarsier peering through the leaves, or the tail of a civet cat disappearing into the trees.

To the southwest lies the Danum Valley, a conservation area remaining untouched by the palm oil industry that has decimated other areas of Borneo’s rainforest. The vegetation here contrasts the palm oil plantations that you will see travelling through Borneo, and while confronting, it is a reality closely tied to the plight of the flora and fauna here. During your time in the Danum Valley, you can stay at a working scientific research station in the heart of the conservation area and enjoy guided walks to spot some of the wildlife that share its shelter. Insightful and awe-inspiring – an incredible experience for animal lovers.

Find the Experience: Borneo Wildlife Highlights

Whale Watching with Intrepid

Take an Expedition Cruise to Antarctica

Antarctica is a frozen wilderness unlike any other place on the planet. An icy frontier that is home to incredible species that brave its cold waters and frosty shores. Follow a route chartered by explorers and join the wildlife that frequents this part of the world on an expedition cruise to Antarctica.

Cruise itineraries will be tailored to the conditions and excursions scheduled to suit the ship’s location and the best wildlife viewing opportunities each day. This may see you visiting penguin rookeries, getting up close to marine life by Zodiac or kayak, or taking a polar plunge. You may also get the chance to camp overnight on the Antarctic Peninsula to make the most of your time in this white wonderland.

One of the most incredible animal experiences on offer in the region is watching the giant ocean dwellers that call these waters home during their migration breach and tail slap. The most common species are humpback, minke and fin whales as well as orcas. Cruising during the peak migration season (February and March) will give you the best viewing opportunities as you glide by.

There is also no shortage of incredible experiences on board your expedition ship, and you’ll be joined on your cruise by experts in marine biology, glaciology and Antarctic history. Lecture programs will keep you engaged throughout your voyage and you will disembark with a deeper understanding, appreciation, and respect for this remote wilderness.

Find the Experience: Antarctic Whale Journey

Wildebeest Migration, Masai Mara, Kenya

See the Great Migration in Africa

The Great Migration in Africa sees more than 1.5 million wildebeest along with zebras, gazelles and other animals rove in a loop through Tanzania and Kenya in search of greener pastures. This clockwise journey through the savannahs and vast plains of Africa is a perilous one, battling with predators on land, crocodile infested rivers, and the wrath of nature to survive.

This annual passage sees the grassy landscape swarm with wildebeest, each adult weighing up to 270 kilograms (600 pounds) and calves joining the herd in February/March. They thunder through the Serengeti and Masai Mara following weather, which means viewing this phenomenon will depend on the season and the timing of your African safari.

Joining a dedicated tour with expert trackers means that you are best positioned to catch sight of this spectacle, as well as the abundance of incredible wildlife experiences offered by Africa year-round. Stay in a mobile camp synonymous with the movement of the wildebeest giving you the best viewing opportunity and enjoy game drives to see the Great Migration in full swing.

You can also take to the skies by hot air balloon to see this natural wonder from above, gliding over the Serengeti or Masai Mara blanketed with wildlife as far as the eye can see. Watch as the wilderness stirs to life at sunrise and the herds start their instinctual daily trek, perhaps with a few hungry big cats in tow. You really feel like you are witnessing the circle of life play out here.

Find the Experience: Great Migration: Tanzania & Kenya

Polar Bears of Churchill, Canada

Meet the Polar Bears of Churchill

Nestled on the banks of Hudson Bay in the heart of Canada, Churchill and its surrounds are well known for its wildlife – particularly the mighty polar bear. During the months of October and November polar bears call this part of the world home, joining Arctic Foxes and Snowy Owls in this wintery wonderland.

Step aboard a custom built vehicle and set off through the landscape of Arctic tundra and boreal forest in search of these incredible creatures padding through the snow. Keep your eyes peeled for a moving mass of white that blends into its surrounds remarkably well for its size. The cold air will catch in your chest as a polar bear lumbers into view and you’ll watch in complete awe as it comes close enough to make out its massive paws and wary eyes.

Seeing a polar bear up close is an unforgettable experience in its own right and an absolute highlight for animal lovers on a tour of Canada. However, pairing it with other wintery activities can make a holiday to Churchill truly one of a lifetime.

Here you can also enjoy a dog mushing tour through the stunning landscape cloaked in white. Let these specially trained furry friends showcase the wild and whimsical terrain that will mesmerise you as it flashes past. If you can tear your gaze away, look to the sky in search of the Northern Lights – a breathtaking natural phenomenon to top off a sensational journey.

Find the Experience: Churchill Polar Bear Experience

Natasha Goncalves
Natasha Goncalves Global Journeys