9 of the best wildlife tours for 2018/2019
"It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement", and Sir David Attenborough should know. Travelling taps into this, giving us a sense of discovery as we experience new cultures, sights, climates, and landscapes, and taking an expert-led tour is a great way of making the most of any trip.
There are so many niche options out there, from railway and foodie itineraries to cycling breaks, but surely an adventure that focuses on a country's wildlife is the most rewarding.
From learning about current threats and conservation efforts to simply seeing some of the world's most remarkable creatures up close in their natural habitat, a wildlife tour is one to cherish. Here we share our pick of the nine best wildlife tours you can take in 2018, which combine a little history and heritage with animal magic in destinations around the globe.
1. Tigers in India
The striking Bengal tiger is, without doubt, one of the finest looking creatures on the planet - even watching tigers on TV elicits an audible 'aww' for their size, agility, and elegance, let alone their beautiful coats and adorable cubs.
The national animal of India (and neighbouring Bangladesh, for that matter), Bengal tigers are, sadly, endangered due to loss of habitat and cruel poaching. This makes seeing these pantherine giants in their natural environment so very special.
Explore! runs an action-packed Indian Wildlife Adventure tour, which takes in the cities of Mumbai and Bhopal, historic UNESCO sites, and four national parks. Everything from guided treks and canoeing trips to Jeep safaris are included to help you track down these elusive big cats in the central Indian highlands.
2. Lemurs in Madagascar
Lemurs are the celebrities of Madagascar. People come from all over the world to spy these playful primates, of which there are more than 100 different species (when divided into various sub-species and families) spread across the national parks.
From the iconic ring-tailed lemurs and large, noisy indri indri to leaping sifakas, the tiny Berthe's mouse lemur, and everything in between, you won't be disappointed. Throw in countless colourful birds and reptiles at every turn (think bright turquoise geckos, lazy chameleons, Nile crocs, and curious frogs), and it's easy to see why Madagascar is a wildlife lover's dream.
The team at Intrepid Travel hosts a diverse Experience Madagascar tour, that incorporates stays in major cities, including the capital Antananarivo, as well as plenty of time exploring four national parks. There's also a few days on glorious Ile Sainte Marie, where you'll take a 4X4 tour and go whale watching.
3. Polar bears in Canada
As the planet's largest land-based carnivores, it's curious that we humans flock to see what are highly dangerous animals. Yet, much like the tiger, these stunning kings of the Arctic are incredibly endearing not to mention endangered, increasingly threatened by climate change.
In the summer months, when the ice recedes, polar bears can be found roaming northerly Canadian towns in search of food. Churchill in Manitoba is the self-proclaimed 'Polar Bear Capital of the World', and considered to be the place to see these impressive creatures without schelping to extreme frozen territories.
Just You, which specialists in exciting tours for solo travellers, runs an essential polar bear-scouting tour called A Wild Arctic Summer. The trip not only includes a guided search for the pearly-white bears, but also a trip whale watching - you will even get the chance to snorkel with Beluga whales for a truly memorable experience.
4. Orangutans in Malaysia
Orangutans and Borneo go hand-in-hand, mainly because it is one of only two regions where the dwindling numbers of great apes can now be found (Sumatra in Indonesia being the other).
The orangutan is another victim of deforestation (typically giving way to devastating palm oil plantations) and a legacy of hunting, which has them firmly on the critically endangered list. Intelligent, feeling, and creative, they are tree-dwellers, usually found chewing on fresh fruit and lounging on branches.
Riviera Travel offers a tempting itinerary in its Malaysia, Borneo & Singapore tour, which crams a lot in to 14 days. As well as discovering the island of Penang and metropolises of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, this tour heads to the wilds of Borneo to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Here, you'll get up close and personal with these intelligent primates, and learn all about the ongoing struggle to ensure their survival.
5. The Big Five in South Africa
South Africa needs very little introduction when it comes to wildlife. The secret has long been out that some of the earth's most fascinating, awe-inspiring creatures can be found in this enormous country at the tip of Africa.
Of the country's 19 main national parks, the Kruger is the largest game reserve, not to mention one of the most diverse. You can see everything from leopards, zebras and giraffes to eagles, vultures and crocodiles if you (or your experienced guide) know where to look.
Saga has created a very special trip for twitchers and wildlife lovers alike: The Bush Camp Birdwatching tour is a nine night extravaganza in the heart of Kruger National Park. As well as three safaris to see (among others) lions, rhinos, and elephants, you will enjoy a guided bush walk to see the lesser known Little Five - including elephant shrews and leopard tortoises - and game birds up close.
6. Gorillas in Uganda
One of the most privileged experiences in the world has to be seeing the majestic mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Another incredible mammal on the critically endangered list, gorilla numbers are low, estimated at fewer than 900, found only in protected forest areas of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
These enormous primates are highly sociable and a trip to see a family nestled in the bamboo forests of Uganda is one you'll treasure.
Titan Travel operates a once-in-a-lifetime tour, Great Apes of Uganda, with visits to four national parks, including the rich Queen Elizabeth National Park, known for its diverse wildlife and landscapes. As well as seeing the gorillas, you will encounter other creatures of the rainforest and bamboo forest, such as cheeky chimpanzees, as well as birds, butterflies and reptiles. Activities include guided hikes and 4X4 safaris, ensuring you make the most of your time in this central African nation.
7. Sloths in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is colourful in every sense of the word: from flowering plants and luscious rainforests to turquoise beaches and the bold shades of resident parrots, it's the epitome of paradise.
If you want to see plenty of wildlife for your buck, then Costa Rica is for you. This thriving central American nation is a biodiversity hotspot, supporting 4% of the world's total plant and animal species, from amphibians and butterflies to monkeys, wild cats, reptiles, and birds.
Trafalgar has an all encompassing tour that gives a good flavour of the country: the Natural Wonders of Costa Rica trip exposes you to a little bit of everything from volcanoes to beaches, as well as guided tours to see leisurely sloths, plus parrots, toucans, and howler monkeys. Throw in a canopy tour, kayaking, biking, and zip lining opportunities, and you have the makings of a truly memorable getaway.
8. Giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Mecca of wildlife destinations has to be the Galapagos Islands. The volcanic archipelago, which lies some 560 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, is home to an incredible array of endemic species.
Cemented in history forever by the exploits of Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands host those keen to see its plethora of flora and fauna - in particular, the giant tortoise. While speedy iguanas, varieties of seabird, and stealthy sea lions all have their appeal, the giant tortoises are the real draw.
Travelsphere runs a wonderful introductory break to the islands with its Galapagos Island Hopping tour. On top of the promise of giant tortoises, you will experience a frog symphony, go looking for hummingbirds in the Mindo Cloud Forest, swim with sea turtles, and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, among many other mind-blowing activities.
9. Pandas in China
No trip to China would be complete without seeing loveable giant pandas chewing on their trademark bamboo. Although classified as vulnerable, thankfully conservation efforts appear to be paying off with a slow increase in the number of pandas reported.
While not the official symbol of China (that would be the dragon), the adorable black and white panda bear is certainly a close second. Their sleek monochrome coats and cutsie cubs (think sneezing panda of YouTube fame), have nurtured worldwide adoration.
Conveniently, China expert Wendy Wu Tours has just the thing in the form of its In Pursuit of Pandas trip. As well as seeing wonders such as the Great Wall and Xian terracotta warriors, you'll spend time at the Panda Conservation Centre in Chengdu. Here, you'll learn all about giant pandas, and see first hand the efforts being made to safeguard their future.
Has our pick of the best wildlife tours got you digging out your binos? Check out the latest deals on adventure tours worldwide from these companies and more to see if you could come face-to-face with a Bengal tiger or hear the cries of indri indri lemurs for less than you might expect.
Please note: Weather2Travel.com advocates responsible wildlife viewing only and, to the best of our knowledge, the companies featured here adhere to the same principles. Do your research to ensure you only experience the very best that nature has to offer with sustainable, reputable guides.
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