A Year of Wildlife Encounters
Whether you yearn to come face to face with a leopard or a lemur, our planet’s wildlife inspires many travellers’ globetrotting adventures.
Kick start the year by heading into the Himalaya in search of the elusive Snow leopard, catch the Great Migration rumbling across the Mara or why not finish the year on a high after spending a precious hour with Mountain gorillas in December?
Sharing their wealth of knowledge, our team of wildlife experts have compiled a calendar of the best animal encounters on Earth. Fauna fans can easily spot where to go and when for their next fix of fins, feathers and paws…
Why now? If you’re looking for a fresh experience to kick off the New Year, you couldn’t do better than following in the footsteps of Darwin. Visitors to the Galapagos Islands will bear witness to the same mind-bending diversity of wildlife that helped plant the seeds of the game-changing theory of evolution. In January the islands have a special attraction; its Marine iguana mating season, and the great reptiles flush with vibrant colour as they perform combative mating displays.
What else: Seals, sea lions, turtles, tortoises, Blue-footed boobies, Flightless cormorants and many, many more intriguing species can be seen in and around the islands.
Why now? Each year, it begins in Tanzania, in the Ngorongoro region. First to go are the zebra. Next, the wildebeest begin their journey. Before long, the horizon is spanned by vast herds, as the largest animal migration in the natural world takes place. Visiting the many national parks around the Great Rift Valley, this trip will introduce you to the immense diversity of wildlife that inhabits the Serengeti.
What else: Giraffes, elephants, rhinos, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, lions, cheetahs, leopards, impala and Thompson gazelle (among many others).
Why now? The chance to look deep into the amber eyes of a Bengal tiger sits pretty high on many wildlife wish lists. Maximise the chances of meeting this elusive striped predator by visiting during the dry season. With less foliage to obscure the view and dropping water levels forcing much of the park’s wildlife to congregate around watering holes, you’re already one step closer to your feline goal.What else: You may also see Sloth bears, leopards, Samba and Spotted deer, kingfishers and the Malabar hornbill.
Why now? If you’re tired of the chocolate egg routine, why not try something a little less ordinary this April? The thick, steaming jungles of Borneo are home to many species, not least of which is the mighty Orang-utan. These powerful primates are deceptively agile and astonishingly graceful in their natural habitat, able to traverse the terrain with easy, measured swings. Their expressive faces and familiar behaviours make these animals seem strangely human.
What else: Gibbons, Fruit bats, Irrawaddy dolphins, Pygmy elephants, Proboscis monkeys, tarsiers and hundreds of species of birds can be found in Borneo.
Why now? The White rhino is a creature of shocking beauty and incredible size, tragically endangered by poaching and destruction of habitat. Seeing these noble beasts is a rare treat, but certain departures on this trip offer something altogether more rewarding: the chance to help conserve the species. You can assist first-hand as the vet micro-chips one of the animals, allowing it to be tracked, and greatly increasing its chances of survival. You can make a difference, and have the wildlife encounter of a lifetime.
What else: Kruger National Park is home to countless species, including zebra, cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, hippos, leopards, lions, impala, Martial eagles, Black mamba, and crocodiles to name but a small few.
Why now? Polar bears bathed in 24-hour daylight, an icebreaker, on board bear experts… the perfect trip. Polar bears are a predator very close to Paul Goldstein’s heart; each year he leads this exclusive Exodus charter around the Spitsbergen archipelago hoping to go one better than the year before. A small ship voyage with no fixed itinerary really is the best way to encounter the great white hunter, as it provides the flexibility necessary to track down the animals.
What else: Walrus, Arctic foxes, Ivory gulls, puffins and Sabine’s gulls can all be seen on this trip.
Why now? After riding the oceans currents for over a thousand miles, Atlantic green turtles arrive at their nesting grounds on the Caribbean shores of Tortuguero National Park. Cumbersome on land, these soft-centred reptiles use their paddle-like flippers to haul their shell-laden bodies up onto the beach, to nest and lay their precious cargo high above the tide line. On top of the turtles, over 5% of the world’s biodiversity can be found in Costa Rica, making it one of the best countries for wildlife-watching on the planet.
What else: Other local wildlife includes Howler, Squirrel, Spider and Capuchin monkeys, sloths, hummingbirds, toucans, iguanas, coati, armadillos, anteaters, crocodiles, Spectacled caiman and the iconic Red eye tree frog.
Why now? Summer in Finland is glorious; beneath the sun, verdant pine forests sigh in the cool breeze, and gurgling streams lead into glittering blue lakes. This is the perfect time of year for bear watching. These immense predatory mammals are notoriously elusive, but seeing one in its element is an unparalleled joy. Of course, coming across them is impossible in winter due to hibernation patterns, so don’t miss your window!
What else: Wolverines, beavers and wolves form the supporting cast of this show.
Why now? As the fiery African summer draws to a close, the millions of animals that departed from the Serengeti begin the homeward leg, setting off from the great plains of the Masai Mara. Since the beginning of the year, the migrants have endured extreme hardships and trials, and the survivors have come through stronger and more resilient than ever before; the sight of the vast herds returning home is stirring and uplifting.
What else: Giraffes, elephants, rhinos, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, impala, antelope, gazelles, eagles, Liliac-breasted roller birds plus so much more.
Why now? Tens of millions of years ago, Madagascar was separated from mainland India by tectonic forces and set adrift in the Indian Ocean. The animal life of Madagascar has existed in isolation for eons, and as such has taken entirely unique evolutionary paths. Lemurs were the dominant mammalian species, evolving into a staggering array of forms and becoming the undisputed lords of the island. There’s literally nowhere else in the world to see these regal, tree-dwelling creatures.
What else: In addition to the 70 or so species of lemur, the island is also home to chameleons, Crested ibis, Cuckoo rollers and Giant coua, sea turtles and, if you’re lucky, the lemur’s only predator: the fossa.
Why now? Deep in the African heartland, shrouded in mist and mystery, is another world. The Congo rainforest has many secrets hidden within its thick vegetation, not least of which are its primates. Go in search of the king of this alien landscape, the broad, muscular Lowland gorilla, and get the chance to closely observe them from the various research platforms in the local area. The trip can also be extended to seek the smaller, quicker cousins of the great apes, the long-limbed Bonobo.
What else: Many life-forms can be seen on this trip, including sitatungas, buffalo, Forest elephants, Red river hogs, otters, crocodiles and countless bird species.
Why now? Could there be a better Christmas destination than this? The Antarctic Peninsula teems with hatchling penguins. Adelies, Chinstraps and Gentoos are the downy stars of this avian crèche. With almost 24-hour daylight, this is the ideal time of year for budding wildlife photographers to hone their snapping skills against a glistening backdrop of tabular icebergs and sapphire polar waters.
What else: Humpback, Minke, Fin and Southern Right whales call Antarctica home at this time of year, as well as Leopard seals, Fur seals and their pups.