10 amazing (and surprising) wildlife holidays and the animals found there
1. Whale Watching in Spain
One of the most exhilarating animals to see in the wild, the whale is fascinating to watch in its natural environment. A close encounter with one of these enormous creatures guarantees a lasting impression, offering a glimpse of the unknown beneath the surface of the ocean. But you don’t have to travel far out to sea to catch a glimpse of these graceful marine mammals.
The Straits of Gibraltar, the narrow stretch of water between the southernmost tip of Spain and the African content, provides a wonderful opportunity for getting close to whales and dolphins. Minke whale, sperm whale and orca can be found in relatively high numbers, throughout the year, and local whale watching boats tours are the ideal way see more of these gentle giants.
2. Brown Bears in Romania
If you go down to the woods today… if you’re in Romania that is, you’re sure of a big surprise. The Carpathian Mountain range that stretches through the Czech Republic and into Romania is home, at last count, to around 5,000 brown bears. The best way to see these shy giants is with a bear watching tour where the etiquettes of bear seeking (make lots of noise to avoid catching them by surprise, don’t turn your back to a bear, etc.) will be explained by an experienced guide. Spend a couple of days in the forests and you could also discover wolves, deer and the increasingly rare lynx.
3. Crocodiles in Cancun
The Nichupte Lagoon to the east of Cancun, Mexico, is a 3,000 hectare natural paradise of lakes and mangroves that is home to an array of beautiful birds, sea life and, if you’re lucky enough to spot them, crocodiles. Behind the luxury hotels and yachts of Cancun, a very different and exotic ecosystem is just waiting to be explored. Nature lovers can take a boat trip for a unique jungle tour of the mangroves and get up close and personal with its native wildlife, while watching the sun set over the lagoon.
4. Sea Turtles in Greece
Greece is the only country in Europe where you can encounter the loggerhead turtle, and Zante is the perfect destination for a chance to spot these endangered animals. During the summer months, you may see them making their nests in the sand in the National Marine Park or, if you’re really lucky, find yourself swimming alongside one. These majestic creatures share their beach with holiday makers and it is important to take care when you are around them. Boat trips offer an alternative way to see the turtles, or real animal lovers can look at volunteering with one of the conservation groups in the area.
5. Bison in Poland
The 8,000-year-old Bialowieza forest, the last remaining primeval forest in Europe, is home to wolves, deer, elk and, most famously, bison. You may have spotted them on bottles of Żubrówka, Poland’s popular ‘bison grass’ vodka, but the zubr (or European bison) are more difficult to come across in the wild due to dwindling habitats and hunting.
The ancient wilderness that straddles the border between Poland and Belarus may not seem an obvious holiday choice, but is an amazing destination for animal lovers looking for wildlife holidays closer to home.
6. Dugongs in Singapore
Once common in the Straights of Johor that separate Singapore from mainland Malaysia, dugongs are sadly now a rare sighting in the waters around the island. Despite this, fresh signs of the animals in seagrass meadows can often be spotted and the amazing Singapore river safari is a great way to see these unusual, rare mammals. For a wilder experience, dolphins, otters and sometimes turtles can all be seen around the shores of Singapore.
7. Seal Spotting in Scotland
What better place for wildlife holidays than on our very own native shores. Often overlooked when planning a trip away, Scotland has in fact just been named the ‘most beautiful country in the world’ by Rough Guides readers – so no need for further justification.
The west coast of Scotland with its crystal-clear seas and beautiful natural surroundings makes it the ideal location for wildlife hunting, and island hopping is a great way to do this. Whether you take a boat or go out on the water in a kayak, there is an abundance of native wild creatures to be seen. Common seals and grey seals populate the coasts and seal watching trips from the islands of Oban and Argyll are a great way to see them.
8. Reindeer in Finland
In Finland, reindeer and people have been connected for thousands of years through hunting, domestication and finally herding. The Sami are an indigenous people of northern Europe with a long tradition of working with reindeer and for them, reindeer herding is a way of life.
A visit to the snow blanketed Finnish Lapland is a magical experience, especially for families, and a reindeer safari to see these animals in their natural habitat, followed by a husky sled ride, can only be topped by the chance of seeing the northern lights.
9. Diving in the Canary Islands
The dramatic, volcanic seabed of the canaries is a major attraction for anyone looking to try their hand at diving, and the abundance of colourful fish and coral reefs makes it a great choice for wildlife holidays. Larger species such as angel sharks and rays can also be seen in these sub-tropical waters, and Las Palmas in Gran Canaria has one of the best selections of diveable shipwrecks in the Atlantic.
10. Flamingos in Tanzania
Known more for sighting of the big five, Tanzania is also home to some out-of-this-world landscapes, including mineral-rich Lake Natron, a soda lake home to hundreds of thousands of flamingos. This unusual lake’s waters are so alkaline that it burns the skin and eyes of any animal unused to its high pH levels (up to 10.5). However algae, and the flamingos that feed on it, thrive here. Found near the base of Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano that regularly bubbles up a thick, black lava, this strange lake is well worth a visit in its own right.