Memories of holidays involving wildlife stay with you forever. Annabelle Thorpe, editor at 101 Holidays, shares some favourites.
Annabelle Thorpe, editor at 101 Holidays shares some of the best wildlife adventures, from the close to home to the seriously intrepid.
Adventures by sea
A cruise is a fantastic way to see dozens of species of sea birds and mammals, and a trip around the Outer Hebrides offers the chance of seeing basking sharks, orca and minke whales and dolphins, as well as puffins, petrels and gannets wheeling above the water. On Ireland’s beautiful Atlantic coast, the glorious scenery of West Cork plays host to whales, dolphins and seals throughout the summer and into early autumn.
Further west, the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador in Atlantic Canada offers fantastic whale-watching possibilities. If it’s underwater life you want to see, few places can beat the Cayman Islands.
Famous for its dive sites, it’s an ideal place for beginners and experienced divers, with places such as Stingray City offering the chance to learn about and engage with the extraordinary species that live under water.
Wildlife experiences don’t get more classic than a Kenyan safari, where the sprawling plains of the Serengeti play host to majestic lions, elephants, cheetah and giraffes. Further south, Botswana offers some of the most luxurious lodges in Africa, with the chance to fly in and out by light aircraft, upping the romance factor considerably. If you want to take the family, South Africa is the perfect choice – no time difference, no malaria and camps offering the chance to see all of the Big Five.
Adventures on land
If you like your wildlife with a side-helping of culture, Sri Lanka can be an excellent choice. Combine days seeing elephants, leopard and sloth bears in the lushly beautiful National Parks, with time at some of the island’s atmospheric temples and ancient sites. Or head to Madagascar, where days are spent trekking through spectacular rainforest landscapes, looking out for lemurs, chameleons and dozens of vividly-coloured bird species. Fast becoming one of Latin America’s biggest tourist destinations, Costa Rica offers the chance to visit wetlands, cloud forests and protected rainforest, all home to a stunning diversity of bird and animal life.
But the ultimate land-based wildlife experience has to be the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania, one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles on the planet.
If you have a very young family, whale-watching or safaris may not be an option – but kids will get just as excited over baby lambs and foals as cheetah and zebra. Choose a holiday cottage on a working farm, and the whole family can get involved with lambing and feeding the animals. If you want a tech-free break, where bird-watching and seal-spotting will replace Insta-surfing and Twitter, Lundy Island, located off the North Devon coast, makes a wonderfully old-fashioned family holiday. Older children will love the freedom and sense of adventure that comes with an American ranch holiday, offering a unique chance to engage with all aspects of horsemanship, from riding to grooming and stabling.
Off grid adventures
If you’re after an experience that offers a true escape into the wild, a trip to Ethiopia’s spectacular Bale Mountains will deliver. Home to Colobus Monkeys, impala, warthogs and Red Wolves, this is a trip for those looking for a walk on the wilder side. Closer to home, Finland’s Taiga forest offers fantastic bear-watching possibilities, with comfortable hides dotted between the trees. Overnight stays offer the best chance of seeing the mainly-nocturnal brown bears.
For a slice of truly unspoilt nature – and some fantastic whale-watching opportunities - the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago set deep into the Atlantic – is a fantastic choice. But perhaps the most extraordinary islands in the world – in wildlife terms, at least – are the Galapagos. With a unique eco-system that means the islands are home to species not found anywhere else in the world, this really is a wildlife-lovers paradise.