31 Jan The Best Wildlife Destinations to Visit in 2019
The world is an endlessly diverse place – from permanently frozen arctic tundra to steamy, tropical jungles, they create environments where a kaleidoscope of wildlife can thrive. You could keep your eyes open when you visit places around the world, but if you are a wildlife enthusiast, it’s better to deliberately travel to destinations known for being hot spots of biodiversity.
Whether you decide to throw together an itinerary on your own or sign up through a travel provider like Naturetrek wildlife holidays, the following destinations will help you make your next trip the best one you’ve taken yet.
As a vast country where civilisation is the exception, not the rule, Canada is a favoured destination among wildlife enthusiasts. While animals can be spotted throughout this nation, it is in its western provinces where the best spotting can be done.
Throughout the mountains of Alberta and British Columbia, grizzly and black bears can be found with ease, as can deer, moose, and bald eagles. Off the coast of Vancouver Island, orcas (aka killer whales) gesture playfully to tour boats, and in the Great Bear Rainforest, the all-white kermode, or spirit bear, can be found.
How can such a tiny country contain so many species? As a mountainous land mass situated within the tropics, its varying elevations have created a variety of microclimates. The tropical jungles of Manuel Antonio National Park play host to sloths are exotic birds like toucans and parakeets.
Meanwhile, the cool cloud forests of Monteverde are the ideal environment for coatis, hummingbirds, and other creatures who find the lowlands too bloody hot. No matter where you go in Costa Rica, you’ll find a living thing that looks nothing like anything you know back home.
The Galapagos have long been studied for the effect of isolation on animal species. It’s an ideal test case, as this archipelago lies more than 900 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador. The differences between the living beings found here and similar creatures on the mainland are astounding – so much so that Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution based on his work here.
Throughout your time here, you’ll come across the incredibly tame Galapagos tortoise, the colourful blue-footed boobie, and the painfully cute Galapagos penguin. Fact: the Galapagos penguin is the only penguin that lives north of the equator, as a portion of these islands lies north of the 0-degree latitude line.
As one of the world’s most massive blocks of impenetrable jungle, the Amazon is another zone of extreme biodiversity. As scientists continue to study it, new animal species continue to be found, making it a must-see destination for wildlife enthusiasts.
Pink river dolphins, capybaras, and the gorgeous golden lion tamarin (a species of primate) are just a tiny sampling of what you might find here – the Amazon is home to over 2,000 different animal species. See these amazing species while you still can – the election of new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro means development may threaten this essential ecosystem in the years ahead.
The bottom of the world may seem like a hostile place for life in general, but as the saying goes, life finds a way. Amid the glaciers and icebergs of Antarctica, you’ll find a collection of hardy, fascinating animals.
Conditions are too harsh and food too scarce for land mammals, but you’ll find plenty of birds. These include five species of penguin, blue-eyed shags, and snow petrels. The ocean provides an environment that allows seals (at least five species) and whales to thrive, so keep your binoculars trained on the shore even as you sail amidst spectacular icebergs.
Much of mainland Asia has been developed to the hilt, making it tough to find habitat where truly wild species of animal live in comfort. Borneo, despite aggressive palm oil and mining developments, is an island where various species of primate can be found.
The proboscis monkey is the most sought after of this group of animals – its elongated nose and endangered status make it a hit among those taking a Kinabatangan River cruise. Near Sandakan, the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre cares for orangutans whose parents were killed/taken by poachers.
The thick jungle interior of Asia’s largest island is home to other fascinating animals – mouse deer, pygmy elephants, and clouded leopards, while hard to spot, provide rewarding experiences when they are encountered.
There is a place on Earth where ‘dragons’ do exist – on the Indonesian island of Komodo. Okay, so they aren’t the mythical dragons you’ve heard about as a kid, but Komodo dragons will still inspire awe and fear when you see them for the first time.
Mostly found on Komodo Island in the West Flores island chain, these lazy lizards may seem harmless but beware – they have a bite that is extremely toxic. This place is a long way from anything resembling Western health care, so obey your guide’s order and stay well back when getting pictures.
For many, going on safari is a cornerstone of the quintessential African holiday experience. There are many countries where the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinos, buffaloes, and elephants) can be sighted, but South Africa is one of the most popular choices.
As one of the most developed countries on the continent, South Africa allows visitors to have a comfortable holiday while checking out some of Africa’s most distinctive wildlife. Start your travels in Kruger National Park, where not only can you check out the Big Five, but animals like giraffes, hippos, and cheetahs.
Kruger isn’t the only place where wildlife can be sighted – as you scramble over the flat summit of Table Mountain, keep your eyes open for the super cute dassie, or rock hyrax. Additionally, the waters off the Cape of Good Hope are filled with the ocean’s most fearsome predator, the Great White Shark – don’t worry, the cages that tour agencies provide will keep you safe (we hope).
Despite its status as an African nation, Madagascar differs considerably from the main continent. Situated more than 400 kilometres from Africa, the world’s fourth largest island has been separated from the mainland for 88 million years. This has allowed its wildlife to evolve differently, creating species that every wildlife enthusiast should see with their own eyes.
Start with the lemur – found throughout the eastern and southern parts of Madagascar, this distinctive primate has over 100 species and can be found nowhere else on Earth. Ranomafana National Park is a great place to spot them, along with chameleons.
As you comb through this and other parks, be on the lookout for the fossa (mongoose-like creatures that look like felines), Tailless tenrecs (who subsist solely off insects), and the rare golden mantella frog.