There is nothing more exciting than the sighting of a rare or unexpected animal whilst on holiday. So if you’ve ever yearned to catch a glimpse of something special in the wild, read on.
Perhaps the most two most visited areas for wildlife are in stark contrast to each other, Africa and the Galapagos Islands, one an entire continent, the other an archipelago, with 18 main islands, 926 km off mainland Ecuador. These small islands, credited with providing Charles Darwin with evidence for his theory of evolution when he sailed here on The Beagle in the 1830s, are now a National Park. Visits are strictly controlled with cruises, guides, visitors and naturalists being monitored. Animals here really do come first and the ecological balance here is of paramount importance. Sea lions, the only living tropical penguins, Darwin’s finches and marine iguanas are among the unique species that have survived here unthreatened for centuries. A visit to the Galapagos is an extraordinary opportunity to understand exactly how evolution works and is quite unlike anywhere else on the planet.
Africa, on the other hand, covers a vast continent, made up of 54 fully recognised countries. The array of wildlife to be seen here on safari is staggering, with superb birds and river animals adding to the mix. Whilst the Big Five (lion, African elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo and rhinoceros) are on everyone’s list, zebra, giraffe, crocodile, impala, monkey, kudu and warthog are just some of the other creatures you may encounter in the beautiful, conserved but untamed parks and ranches of Africa. Your camera will be busy and your memory filling with wonderful images to remember. One of the most thrilling experiences of all however, is to see gorilla in Uganda or Rwanda. High in the misty mountains, deep in dense rainforest, these secretive, critically endangered mammals are to be found and every attempt to ensure they survive is being made by local governments and conservation charities.
North America is home to some great wild spaces and above the Arctic Circle, these are perfect places for the polar bear to be watched, powerful and predatory, on the sea ice. Alaska is home to cheeky puffin, sea lion, black and grizzly bear, moose and eagle. A voyage here along the Inside Passage (which begins in Puget Sound, Washington, goes along the coast of British Colombia and ends at the Alaskan Panhandle) ) is ideal for view them, as is a drive out from Anchorage. All along the west coast of Canada and the USA whale watching takes place, with a seaplane ride from Vancouver Island being a fabulous way of seeing orca, minke and humpback whales along with seals and sea lions. Point Reyes, in Northern California, where Sir Francis Drake is said to have landed in 1579, is a great place to look out for grey whales in the ocean, and all manner of birds in the air and on land. Imagine staring out at the Pacific Ocean, seeing one of largest animals in existence, whilst enjoying the glories of National Park and the wildlife there, including the once nearly extinct Tule Elk.
The Great Teton National Park in Wyoming, which incorporates Jackson’s Hole and fabulous mountains, and Yellowstone National Park have long been the territory of bears, bison, grey wolves and mountain lions as well as exceptional numbers of birds, bald and golden eagles among their number, and several unique fish in the lakes. Indeed, campers are often warned that bears can be very inquisitive and at times, intrusive. Wolves tend to keep their distance, thankfully. Moose and pelican can be spotted too.
The Central American countries of Costa Rica and Belize are relatively undeveloped with areas of virgin rainforest still existing, offering a sense of true remoteness and isolation, with animals in abundance. Part of the world’s second-largest barrier reef is off Belize, offering a stunning insight into marine life, with over 500 species of fish and nearly 100 types of coral. Sharks, manatees, turtle, cowfish and seahorses create colour and drama in the ocean.
South America, with its rainforests, desert, mountain plateau and Amazon River must surely be one of the most colourful places on earth in terms of the animal kingdom, and possibly one of the noisiest too. Trekking along jungle trails in Peru, where rainforest occupies 60% of the country and is one of the most bio-diverse regions on Earth, with parrots screeching all around and monkeys chattering is exciting, deafening and almost unbelievable in the uniqueness of the experience. Brazil too has its share of rainforest and several eco-projects focussed on conservation. Anaconda and occasionally jaguar are the possible thrills of a trip here. The extensive wetlands create a wonderful environment for birdlife and the river itself is populated by turtles and piranha too.
Silver Travel Podcast
Kay Durden from Abercrombie and Kent is a wildlife expert. Her interview about safari holidays for The Silver Travel Show can be listened to here.
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