wild things are
Love nature? Then take the trip of a lifetime to one of these six fantastic wildlife-rich destinations.
Why? As our closest living relatives, with complex relationships and personalities that mirror those of humans, chimpanzees are some of the most fascinating animals to see in the wild.
Where? Follow in the footsteps of eminent primatologist Jane Goodall and head to Gombe in northern Tanzania, one of the few places in Africa still home to these endangered animals. On the shores of the breathtakingly beautiful Lake Tanganyika, the research centre founded by Goodall still exists today. Further south, although also on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the Mahale Mountains provide habitat to several hundred wild chimpanzees. Unlike most safari experiences, chimpanzee trekking allows you to get up close to the animals, observing them in their natural habitat, often only a few metres away. Walking with experienced trackers, trekkers will typically walk for around 2-3 hours in search of chimps, who move across a wide area of land from lakeshore to mountainside, before spending an hour watching them interact.
Why? With three coastlines to choose from, it's no surprise that Canada is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. Over 30 species of whale, including the majestic blue whale, call the country's waters home and whilst a sighting can never be guaranteed, if you go at the right time, you'd be unlucky to miss them.
Where? Several species of whale including the humpback, orca and grey whales inhabit the waters off the beautiful coast of British Columbia. Whale-watching destinations include the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, the country's only killer whale sanctuary, where prime viewing time lies between June-October. Tofino, also off the west coast, is where the grey whale migration from Mexico to Alaska can be witnessed in March, and then again in October as they head back south to the Baja Peninsula. On the Eastern coast, Tadoussac in Quebec is where blue, beluga, minke and humpback whales all come to feed. Visit the Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia between July-August for a chance to see humpback and fin whales from the shore.
Why? Home to 70% of the world's tiger population, India is the best place on earth to see this highly endangered species in their natural habitat. The last estimate in 2014 calculated the number of tigers in the wild to be 2, 226.
Where? There are currently 48 nature reserves in India, of which 6 are in Madhya Pradesh. Dotted with temples, hermit caves and 10th century shrines, the former Royal hunting ground, the Bandhavgarh Reserve, has a relatively healthy tiger population as well as other animals including monkeys, sloths and leopards.
For an extra-special experience opt to go on an elephant-back safari. Also in Madhya Pradesh, the Pench Reserve is said to have provided inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. Spread over 758sq metres of land, wild boars, deer, leopards and tigers can be spotted. Other reserves are dotted throughout the country including Ranthambhore in Rajasthan, the Tadoba-Andhari reserve in Maharashtra and several lesser-known parks in Assam and Kerala, although chances of spotting a tiger there are low.
in South Africa
Why? One of the greatest ever wildlife experiences, seeing big game in their natural habitat is truly incredible. Whilst there are countless animals and birds to be seen, many visitors go to Africa to see the Big Five, which consists of the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhino, so named because these are considered the hardest animals to hunt on foot.
Where? The Big Five can be spotted all over Africa including Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia. South Africa is home to all five, as well as other wonderful animals such as cheetah, giraffe and zebra, to name but a few. A great safari destination due to the number of national parks such as the world-famous Kruger and private reserves such as Sabi Sabi; there are also hundreds of lodges and camps ranging from basic to luxury to stay in. As well as traditional jeep safaris, game can be viewed on foot or on horseback, and safaris can easily be combined with trips to South Africa's famous coast and winelands.
Be inspired like Darwin
in the Galápagos Islands
Why? The Galápagos archipelago of islands is arguably the ultimate destination for wildlife-watchers. Home to an incredible variety of species, many of which can't be found anywhere else on the planet, the Galápagos famously inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Where? Located 600 miles west of Ecuador, the Galápagos are a remote archipelago of volcanic islands and islets, with landscapes ranging from low-lying rocky hills to white sandy beaches, forests and lava formations. Every one of the 15 main islands, only 4 of which are inhabited, offers something different, making them all unique places to visit. Guided cruises, typically lasting around 10 days, explore the islands allowing visitors to disembark at designated spots to witness creatures such as giant tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas and penguins. As a year-round destination, there is always something interesting to see, from green turtles laying their eggs in January to whales passing through in June and sea lions playing in the sea in August.
in the Arctic Circle
Why? One of the least hospitable environments on earth, at least for humans, the Arctic wilderness is also one of the most starkly beautiful. Inhabiting the Arctic territories of Denmark, Norway, Russia, Canada and Alaska, polar bears are one of the most fascinating, beautiful and dangerous species of bear, born on land, but spending much of their time hunting at sea.
Where? Halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, the Svalbard Islands are a small archipelago of islands characterised by their rugged icy terrain. Located in the High Arctic where sea ice forms, Svalbard is home to more than 2,000 polar bears, one of the largest populations in the world. During the summer months when the ice melts and the sun shines for almost 24 hours a day, boat trips depart from the Svalbard's main town of Longyearbyen in search of wildlife. As well as the elusive polar bear, other animals such as walruses, beluga whales, Arctic foxes, reindeer and birds can often be encountered.