Top 10 Animal Encounters
Gorilla trekking in Uganda
Uganda, the ‘Pearl of Africa’, is full of adventure with wild Bwindi National Park, spectacular Lake Bunyonyi and half of the world’s gorilla population, the lush forests holding approximately 400 mountain gorillas. The search for gorillas can be strenuous, the expert guides leading you through the dense jungle on a trek that could be one or possibly eight hours. However this unpredictable nature adds to the excitement of the animal encounter with nothing comparing to the thrill of emerging through the trees to find a troupe of gorillas. Spending an hour in the company of the peaceful but mighty gorillas is both exhilarating and tranquil. Gorilla permits are limited in numbers with only 10 issued per gorilla family each day to ensure their exposure to humans is limited and your experience has a wonderful atmosphere of seclusion.
Recommended tours: Gorilla and Game Trek | Gorilla Trek and Tanzania | Great African Expedition
The Big Five across Africa
Spotting the Big Five on safari is the ultimate African wildlife experience, attracting animal fans to the plains of Africa time and time again. Elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo and lion where nicknamed the Big Five as these were the hardest animals to hunt in the days of the ‘great white hunter’ in the 19th century. There are many countries and so many national parks in Africa where you can enjoy a Big Five safari, from South Africa’s Kruger National Park to Namibia’s Etosha National Park and Chobe National Park in Botswana, with no two animal sightings ever the same. Driving across the beautiful landscape, the expert guides will take you to close proximity of prides of yawning lions, herds of elephants playing and spraying each other around a waterhole, a gang of buffalo chomping on the long grass, a rhino and its calf wallowing in the mud, and a single elusive leopard hanging out in the branches of an acacia tree.
Recommended Tours: Falls to Joburg | Big Five Safari Explorer | Wildlife Express
The Wildebeest Migration in East Africa
For many years, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra have followed their natural instincts and journeyed across the vast plains of East Africa in one of the world’s natural wonders known as the Great Wildebeest Migration. This colossal show is played out across two of Africa’s epic wildlife areas - Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park before entering Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Although many aim to see the exhilarating crossing of the Grumeti River in Tanzania from June to mid July, this natural cycle of movement happens all year with many different and exciting stages to it. During this pilgrimage across 1,800 miles the wildebeest are faced with many adversities including the snapping jaws of crocodile and the hungry prides of lion following closely in their tracks in the hope of catching a weak stray. This thrilling predator versus prey interaction makes for incredible safari watching.
Recommended Tours: Best of Kenya and Tanzania | East Africa Encompassed | Kenya and Tanzania Trails
Tiger safari in India
An important symbol of Indian tradition, Bengal tigers are fearless predators of the jungle. They live solitary lives, skilfully stalking their prey of deer and pig through the trees and pouncing on them with one quick and strong leap. Travel to Ranthambhore National Park, the former hunting ground of the Maharaja of Jaipur and the best place to spot wild tigers in Rajasthan. To increase your chances of spotting the black and orange stripes through the branches, venture into the national park for safaris in both the morning and afternoon. Although a tiger spot is the ultimate animal sighting there is plenty else to see including leopards, striped hyena, sambar deer and sloth bear. If you are lucky enough you may catch a tiger stretching and relaxing across the ancient temples of Ranthambhore Fort in the centre of the park.
Recommended Tours: Shere Khan | Tiger Trail | Ranthambhore to Kanha
Canoe safari in Okavango Delta
An ever-changing labyrinth of waterways and exotic islands, the Okavango Delta is an extraordinary landscape. The world’s largest inland delta is also one of the greatest venues to watch African wildlife, the shifting water levels changing the animal activity throughout the year. This huge expanse of water in the north of Botswana is one of the few places you can enjoy a safari in a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe steered through the water and reeds by the local guides. Journey into the heart of the delta, gliding over the water to see large numbers of elephant, buffalo and hippo gather around the lagoons and reed beds, the ever-watching predators of cheetah, lion, African wild dog and hyena adding to the watery drama.
Recommended Tours: Falls to Namibia | Best of Botswana & Victoria Falls | Namibia, Botswana & Falls
The Big 15 of the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands is an unrivalled wildlife haven, a collection of strange and bizarre species spread out across the volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Darwin formulated his theory of evolution when confronted with the unique creatures of the other-worldly landscapes. A cruise is the best way to see this part of the world, hopping from island to island accompanied by an expert naturalist guide the animals completely unperturbed by your presence. Walk amongst the sun-bathing sea-lions relaxing on the beaches of Floreana Island the Galapagos albatross soaring overhead, watch the mesmerising blue-footed boobies flap their vibrant feet and the menacing marine iguanas crawl over the rocks on Espanola Island, and visit the Galapagos tortoise breeding centre on Santa Cruz Island.
Recommended Tours: Darwin's Eden | Galapagos Discovered | Ultimate Galapagos
Penguins of Chile
Magellanic penguins are found in the rocky islands off the southern coast of South America. There are two places in the southern tip of Chile you can watch these tiny black and white birds - Punta Arenas and Magdalena Island both in the Strait of Magellan, a sea route separating South America mainland, and the islands of Tierra Del Fuego. Magdalena Island has been named a nature reserve due to its thriving numbers and importance as a breeding site for the flightless birds, home to over 120,000 of them between the mating months of September and March. A highly sociable bird, Magellanic penguins congregate together. Watch from beachfront hides in Punta Arenas, the capital city of Chile’s southernmost region, as the penguin colonies swim ashore and waddle out of the water to their burrow homes in the low forest, grasslands and rocks.
Recommended Tours: Santiago to Patagonia
Pandas of China
China’s national animal of the giant panda resides in the bamboo forests high in the west of the country and spend half of their day eating up to 12.5kgs of bamboo, climbing as high as 13,000 feet to snack on the woody grass. These cuddly creatures, with their rotund figures and sleepy black-ringed eyes, are talented tree-climbers and efficient swimmers. A peaceful docile animal, giant pandas are unfortunately critically endangered with only about 1000 left in the wild. Visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, also known as Panda Base, to learn about work on panda conservation and development. Opened in 1987 they have successfully created a natural habitat across 200 hectares of land of wild bamboo forests, rugged caves and picturesque rivers for the pandas to enjoy and thrive in.
Recommended Tours: Best of China | Sizzling Sichuan | Classic China and Chengdu
Lemurs of Madagascar
Separated from Africa mainland some 165 million years ago, the wildlife of Madagascar is completely bizarre, wonderful and parts of it utterly unique to the islet. The perfect place for wildlife enthusiasts to go on holiday, most people instantly picture lemurs when they think of Madagascar who evolved on the island after its separation from Africa. With over 100 species there are many to see. Travel to the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park to hear the haunting whale-like song of the large Indri echo through the forest, head south to Isalo National Park the iconic ring-tailed lemur sitting in large groups amongst the trees, and journey to Tuléar to see the golden furred Verreaux’s Sifaka dancing along the dusty pathways with its comical two legged hop. Other incredible and intriguing wildlife of Madagascar includes colourful chameleons, alien-looking geckos and powerful catlike fossa.