We can get so caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of human life, that it’s easy to forget that we share this planet with some other amazing animals too. There’s nothing like a really immersive wildlife experience to help you step out of yourself and get a better perspective on the world – whether it’s marveling at the sheer size of whale at sea or laughing at the antics of a tiny meerkat!
Here are some of the best places in the world to view wildlife in their element, and step outside of yours!
The Big Five in Africa
Whether you choose a game reserve in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya or Namibia, you’re guaranteed to be amazed at the variety of animals that call the African continent home. The Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo – may be the most famous, but they share this special place with countless other remarkable species. Aside from the animals you’ll encounter on an African safari, the endless landscapes, intense quiet of the bush and the magic of dazzling night time skies mean you can’t help but leave some of your worries behind!
Game drives are a favorite activity on any African safari, and with a seasoned guide they are an excellent opportunity to learn about the daily struggles of the creatures here and the way they interact with each other and their environment. Walking safaris, horseback safaris and even hot air balloon safaris are also becoming increasingly popular.
The rainforests of Borneo
Everyone who meets an orangutan in the wild speaks of the instant sense of connection you feel when you lock gazes, and Borneo is perhaps the best place on earth to get to experience it! Borneo is the world’s third largest island, and like rainforests the world over, new species are discovered here every single year. They are a constant reminder that we’ve only scratched the surface of understanding the plants and animals that we share the planet with, and of our duty to protect it.
Borneo is also home to Asian elephants and the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros, aside from being one of the last natural habitats of our cousin, the orangutan or ‘man of the forest’. As an added bonus, the surrounding seas are an excellent location for snorkeling, where you might be lucky enough to meet some sea turtles!
The Galapagos Islands
It was on these islands that Charles Darwin famously formulated his theory of natural selection, and today, fans of natural history and biology continue to find inspiration here. The best way to view the islands remains via day boat or cruise tours, and a number of popular hotels along with accompanying restaurants have made tourism an important part of the local economy.
In 1986, a massive area of the surrounding ocean was declared a marine reserve and whale sanctuary, the second largest on Earth after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
UNESCO has recognized the islands as a World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve.
Some of the species you can expect to encounter here include the intriguing marine iguana, the famous giant tortoises and green turtles, and Galapagos sea lions. The stunning range of sea birds include the only tropical living penguin in the world, albatrosses, frigatebirds, Galapagos mockingbirds, the slightly bizarre Blue-Footed Booby, and the famous ‘Darwin’s Finches’ which sparked his theories.
Yellowstone National Park
The vast grassland and forest habitats of Yellowstone are home to some truly amazing animals – from vast herds of bison and elk to top predators like grizzly bears and wolves. It’s also an excellent place to really get out into nature, with a range of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing and enjoying the famous geothermal areas and waterfalls.
Yellowstone has a long and fascinating history, and taught humankind many valuable lessons about the dangers of interfering with the natural order of a habitat. The extermination of the wild wolves in the area starting in 1914 in an effort to protect elk populations backfired, with a huge increase in lame and sick individuals which would normally have been the natural prey of the wolves. When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, wolves were the first mammal species to be included. In the 1990’s, the controversial decision to reintroduce wild wolves from Canada was made, and thankfully their numbers are now stable.
Whenever we visit beautiful places like these, it’s important that we remember how fragile they can be too. Make sure you choose operators and accommodation that help to preserve and protect these special places and the wonderful creatures that call them home.