Stephanie Henkel, Global Animal
Whether you are deep in the outback or on the shore of a coastal cay, every destination is an exciting wildlife adventure waiting to be explored. Many organizations, including PlanetWildlife, help travelers plan the perfect animal adventure where a close encounter with incredible creatures is almost guaranteed. PlanetWildlife has just teamed up with the wildlife charity RIGHT-tourism to educate tourists about responsible travel and the fair treatment of animals. Make sure to check out their websites before traveling to your desired destination, and read on for the top 10 best wildlife travel adventures in the world.
Located on the northeastern coast of Central America, Belize is brimming with unique and exciting wildlife. There are approximately 145 species of mammals, 139 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 500 species of birds that call the Latin American country home. Belize contains remarkable protected parks and coastal cays abundant with indigenous wildlife. To see some of Belize’s rarest animals, such as Baird’s tapirs and scarlet macaws, a tour guide is required, but many exotic animals can be spotted all around the tropical paradise. Swim with sharks and stingrays in the crystal-clear Caribbean waters, and make sure to visit the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is recognized internationally as the world’s first jaguar preserve.
2. Yellowstone National Park
Stretching across Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, Yellowstone National Park has the largest concentration of watchable wildlife in the continental United States. Bison, bears, and wolves are just a few of the many animals roaming the valleys of this North American landmark. In fact, in 1994, there were no wolves in Yellowstone National Park, but they were reintroduced to the region in 1995 and 1996. There are now over 300 of their descendants living in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Many remarkable species are endemic to this unique location in wild America, including elk, moose, and cutthroat trout. Enjoy what nature has to offer at Yellowstone National Park, and don’t forget to check out the famed geyser, Old Faithful, during your visit.
3. Galápagos Islands
Six hundred miles west of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are well known for their vast number of endemic species. The archipelago was studied by Charles Darwin, who developed his theory of evolution by natural selection by studying the islands’ unique wildlife. Giant tortoises, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies are just a few of the amazing creatures inhabiting the volcanic island chain. Approximately 95 percent of the islands’ pre-human biodiversity remains intact, which is an astounding figure. While visiting the Galápagos Islands, snorkel in the great Pacific Ocean alongside the only iguana who lives and forages in the water, the marine iguana, and take a boat tour to see all the islands’ wildlife wonders.
West of Botswana, Namibia is the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. The Southern African region is home to 26 parks and reserves, which makes the country an ideal tourist destination to see exotic wildlife. Pukus, wild dogs, rhinoceroses, and honey badgers are just a few of the creatures roaming the African plateaus. In addition, Namibia has the largest population of cheetahs in Southern Africa not contained within national parks. Speaking of national parks, the famed Etosha National Park is a great place to see large herds of “plains game,” such as Burchell’s zebras, gemsboks, and blue wildebeests. So take a safari, and experience the beautiful coastal deserts the environmentally-progressive African country has to offer.
5. Costa Rica
Smack-dab in the middle of the Central American isthmus, Costa Rica is home to over 500 species and is one of the 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world. The Latin American country, which is approximately the size of West Virginia, contains around 4 percent of all the species that exist on the entire planet! Monkeys, sloths, poison-dart frogs, and crocodiles explore the Costa Rican jungles, while an ample assortment of wild birds, butterflies, and insects soar through the skies. Make sure to visit the Piedras Blancas National Park, which is part of the Osa Conservation area. The Piedras Blancas receives over 200 inches of rain annually and is the perfect place to observe rare plant and animal life. Whether you are trekking through the rainforest or walking on the beach, Costa Rica is overflowing with life and is definitely one of the most beautiful locations on earth.
In the northwest extremity of the North American continent, Alaska is an unspoiled safe haven for wildlife. Alaska boasts the largest state park system in America, and 65 percent of the state is managed by the Federal government, including its 15 national parks. From bald eagles to beluga whales, the rugged destination has a wide range of wildlife and is one of the most amazing places within the United States. Even Anchorage, the state’s most populous city, is abundant with wildlife with approximately 1,000 moose living in the municipality. Animals to search for during a visit to “The Last Frontier” state are grizzly bears, caribou, killer whales, and dolphins. Alaska is full of outdoor adventure, so plan a trip to the wild wilderness today!
South of Indonesia is the great continent of Australia. The land down under is known for its rare and exotic wildlife and has a very high level of endemism. Australia is home to the world’s largest and most diverse range of marsupials, and two of the five living species of monotremes live there. Kangaroos, koalas, emu, and platypi are just a few of the many creatures roaming the Outback. In fact, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is composed entirely of living organisms. Some of the species living in the largest coral reef in the world are angelfish, pufferfish, snubfin dolphins, and humpback whales. While in Australia, take a safari through the Outback, and snorkel the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. This world of wonder is the premiere destination to experience wildlife in a whole new way!
8. The Pyrenees
Straddling the border between France and Spain, the Pyrenees mountain range is a wonderful location to observe European wildlife. Golden eagles, brown bears, bearded vultures, and Pyrenean desmans are just a few of the animals spotted throughout the area. Due to the region’s relative isolation and lack of human habitation, the Pyrenees is flourishing with life and has an abundance of wildlife to observe. During the excursion, make sure to visit the Pyrenees National Park, which is where the Tour de France passes through. This National Park is without barriers or fences and is a place where animals are totally free. During a trip to the Pyrenees, take a trek through the high mountains, experience the highs and lows of cycling, and swim through the grand rivers. With so much to do and see in this mountain range, the Pyrenees is the ideal place to embark on a wildlife travel adventure.
9. Malaysian Borneo
East of Sumatra, the Malaysian Borneo is a wonderful destination to observe the wildlife living in Southeast Asia. Explore the lush lowland rainforests, and see the macaques, kingfishers, brahminy kites, and proboscis monkeys. Also worth checking out are the country’s orangutan sanctuaries—the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Sarawak and the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah. Interestingly, not all of Malaysian Borneo’s incredible animals are found on land. The region has some of the world’s best scuba sites to connect with marine life. Travelers seeking ocean adventure are bound to see interesting creatures such as turtles, hammerhead sharks, and whale sharks. Another amazing location in the area is the Kinabatangan River, which is a great place for elephant sightings at certain times of the year.
East of Uganda, Kenya is home to the so-called “big five,” which include lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopards. Many other animals can be found throughout Kenya, such as giraffes, cheetahs, jackals, zebras, and hippos. Safaris are the most common mode used to view African wildlife, but visitors will see a large assortment of creatures through self-exploration of the country as well. The Masai Mara Game Reserve, the most popular wildlife park in Kenya, is a great place to witness the amazing migration of millions of zebras and wildebeests from July through October. So take a trip to the African wild, and see all the incredible animals roaming the great plains of Kenya!
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