With the facilities and travel options for wildlife enthusiasts improving all the time, and travel restrictions coming to an end, the bush and all its amazing inhabitants beckon! Here are some fantastic wildlife destinations to help you plan that dream wildlife holiday for 2023
Clean air, bustling penguin colonies, albatrosses, multitudes of birds, and breathtaking scenery – that’s just some of the riches Chile offers the wildlife traveler. Chile has five species of penguins, including the only continental colony of king penguins on earth. The country’s impressive array of wildlife includes orcas, dolphins, blue and humpback whales, guanacos, majestic Andean condors, armadillos, skunks, foxes, pudú deer, and gorgeous black-necked swans. Their apex predator is the magnificent puma.
Chile’s diverse habitats include the Atacama desert, (the driest place on earth), ice-covered fjords, Patagonian steppes, pre-Andean shrubland, polar forests, wetlands, beaches, lakes and densely forested Andean mountains. Its islands and shorelines abound in birds, fish, shellfish, and the endangered Chiloé or Darwin’s fox, and the charming monito del monte or ‘mountain monkey’.
Inspiring Indonesia – land of ‘dragons’, whale sharks and orangutans
Indonesia offers wildlife enthusiasts an amazing range of habitats: active and dormant volcanoes, tropical rainforests, mountain ranges, coral reefs, and some of the planet’s best beaches. It also boasts the biggest lizard on earth, the intimidating komodo dragon, long-tailed macaques, orangutans and tigers.
And Indonesia’s marine life is just as impressive! Sperm whales, pilot whales, spinner dolphins, gigantic whale sharks, and a vast array of crustaceans and cephalopods, all thrive here.
The Phenomenal Greater Kruger – South Africa
With some of the most luxurious safari lodges in the world, outstanding private game reserves, and an unrivaled array of wildlife, the two-million-hectare Greater Kruger is assuredly one of the world’s foremost wildlife destinations. This protected wildlife area has nine different biomes, 517 bird species, 147 mammal species, 33 amphibian species, 94 different reptile species, and more than 200 different kinds of trees! Add the iconic Big Five and several rare and endangered species, and you have a wildlife paradise bar none – dense bushland, sweeping savannah, verdant riverbanks, water bodies teeming with fish, terrapins, crocodiles, hippos, and elephants coming for a swim!
The oldest and arguably the most famous game reserve here is the Sabi Sands. It provides visitors with some of the best Kruger National Park safaris with unparalleled game viewing, particularly leopard, lion, hyena and elephant sightings ensuring superb photographic opportunities.
The Remarkable Shetland and Orkney Islands
Have you considered exploring the wild and remote beauty of Scotland’s Orkney and Shetland Islands? These amazing islands offer visitors a fantastic range of wildlife – otters, bottlenose dolphins, porpoises, whales, orcas, seals, and, of course, those rotund, sturdy little Shetland ponies grazing placidly on the hillsides! Seabirds absolutely abound – gannets, fulmars, guillemots, kittiwakes, storm petrels, puffins, shags and gulls. Europe’s greatest raptor, the magnificent white-tailed sea eagle, also seems to be making a return to these islands.
Nature lovers will be astounded at the range of specialized plants that flourish here. And the moorland is a sight to behold when it turns blue in spring, when the blue squill flowers, and then turns deep pink when all the sea pinks come into bloom. There are some fascinating Stone Age sites on the Orkneys to explore and adventurous souls can hike and kayak. Some lucky visitors to Shetland may even get to see the magical ‘Mirrie Dancers’ (the local name for the Northern Lights) performing!
Vast and Rugged Mongolia
Known for its nomadic, horse-centered culture and Genghis Khan, remote Mongolia is unbeatable for ‘getting-away-from-it-all’. Mongolia boasts one of the world’s most beautiful animals, the almost-mystical snow leopard, and the rare Przewalski’s horse. It’s also famous for its dinosaur past, and visitors can enjoy fossil-hunting excursions. Its wide variety of habitats includes taiga forests, sweeping steppes, towering mountains, and the enormous Gobi desert.
Mongolia is an outstanding birding destination with more than 440 species in the Gobi alone. These include the Mongolian ground jay, Pallas’s sandgrouse, the swan goose, partridges, bearded and Himalayan vultures, and demoiselle cranes, famous for their incredible migrations over the Himalayas. Raptors like the lammergeier, black vultures, saker falcons and buzzards thrive here. Other species include Pallas’s cat, marmots, argali mountain sheep, Mongolian gazelles, and Siberian ibex. Botanists will drool over the wealth of wildflowers and biodiverse flora!
Parque Natural Montaña Palentina – wild Spain at its best
With ancient villages now mostly abandoned, this nature park in Spain’s rugged limestone Palentian mountains is being reclaimed by the endangered Cantabrian brown bear and wolves. Their prey species, chamois and red and roe deer, as well as many smaller creatures, are also starting to reestablish themselves in this protected 78,360-hectare wildlife park, as wildlife corridors are being restored.
Two important rivers, the Carrión and the Pisuerga, have their origins in this botanically significant park that contains the northernmost junipers in Europe. The Cantabrian capercaillie, a rare grouse subspecies that became extinct in the park, is also being reintroduced. Experienced cavers will enjoy exploring the extensive Cueva del Cobre cave system, Visitors can stay in restored farm cottages and explore on foot or by vehicle.
Have these wonderful wildlife destinations sparked your interest? Don’t delay planning your dream wildlife vacation. Nothing restores body and mind like connecting with nature and the wonderful creatures that live in it.