People travel to new destinations for many reasons. Some go purely for relaxation, others to delve into history, still others go to sample the food and drink or to be immersed in a different culture. However there are a few who, above all else, want to witness the glory of nature at its most expressive: those who travel to encounter wildlife. In spite of today’s rampant urbanisation, there are still many places around the globe which have been left more or less the same as they were before humans arrived, allowing the native flora and fauna to flourish. This allows us a unique window into the past - a look at what a purer Earth would be like. Of all these “windows” there are a few that, for animal lovers, stand head and shoulders above the rest. Come discover them with us.
The Australian continent was separated from the rest of the world over 90 million years ago, which goes a long way toward explaining just how bizarrely beautiful its creatures are. Left alone to adapt and change independently in an environment that shades from rainforest to desert, it’s no surprise that so many Australian animals have taken utterly unique forms. That’s not to say that visitors aren’t shocked and amazed by the kaleidoscope of Aussie animal life however - no matter how much you’ve watched or read about the country, nothing can prepare you for the real experience. One place that stands out as an ideal spot for wildlife watching is Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park. Over 280 bird species call Kakadu home, some of which can’t be found anywhere else outside the region, but it’s not just birdwatchers who’ll be excited by the park’s diversity. This is one of the best spots in Australia to see both fresh and saltwater crocodiles - these are truly impressive creatures, with some saltwater crocs (or ‘salties’ to the locals) growing up to 6 metres (20 feet) in length. The dry season is the best time to spot these behemoths, as they often crowd together into the shrinking bodies of water. Just remember to keep a respectful distance from these magnificent but deadly animals. Other species that you may come across (but are far more rarely seen) include the diminutive marsupial quoll and the flatback turtle which comes ashore to nest at the mouth of the South Alligator river, where Kakadu meets the sea. Most visitors to the park will start their journey in Darwin and make the half-day trip southeast for a camping trip that will spark memories for years to come. Pick up an Australia Motorhome hire and dive into what Australia has to offer. Other Australia options include Melbourne and Tasmania.
Yes, Yellowstone is home to some of the most impressive megafauna in the US, but there are many, many reasons to visit this incredible place. For a start, it’s sitting on top of the Yellowstone Caldera (the largest supervolcano on the continent) which is the root of all the geothermal activity springing up in the area. One of the most famous of these geothermal wonders is the Old Faithful geyser, one of the most predictable geographical features on Earth, which has been erupting every 94 minutes for decades. Yellowstone is also a mecca for hiking and climbing enthusiasts, with world famous trails abounding. But getting back to the wildlife… This park is home to more wild animals than almost anywhere else in the US, including grizzly and black bears, wild horses, bison and grey wolves. Your best chances of seeing a grizzly are at dawn and dusk during spring and early summer, while black bears are often spotted during the daytime especially in the northern part of the park between Elk Creek and Tower Falls. Although vanishingly few people have been injured by bears in Yellowstone, it still pays to treat them with respect - and never run during a bear encounter. If you’re looking to spot some of the park’s gray wolves, Lamar Valley is your best bet - these animals are easier to find than many of Yellowstone’s other predators as they tend to live on the plains and are very social creatures, congregating in packs. There are a few different cities you can start your trip from - many opt for Salt Lake City, road tripping the 5 to 6 hours into this breathtaking park. For those that are interested in venturing a bit further consider Las Vegas for and RV Rental or a motorhome rental from San Francisco.
When it comes to out of this world wildlife experiences, Serengeti National Park is king. While Kakadu’s crocs are impressive and once you see a Yellowstone grizzly bear you’ll never forget it, Serengeti easily outshines both those places. Famed for its annual migration of over 1.5 million white-bearded wildebeest and more than a quarter million zebra, this park showcases the absolute best of African wildlife and boasts more exotic animals than you could hope to see in a lifetime of travel elsewhere. And while the sheer numbers of migratory herbivores make for mind boggling viewing, many visitors are interested in seeing creatures of a more carnivorous bent. In this department, Serengeti National Park delivers in spades: lions, leopards and cheetahs all call Serengeti home. Of the three, leopards are by far the hardest to find as they usually spend all day and part of the night nestled in trees, sleeping and waiting for the right time of the night to hunt. Travellers are likely to have better luck with cheetahs, which are widespread across the savannah, and lions - the most abundant large predator on the plains and savannah. Lions often spend most of the day resting before becoming more active during the late afternoon, although they can be seen hunting large prey like wildebeest and zebra at any time of day. Of course, it’s not all about the meat eaters. The Serengeti is also home to the African Elephant and the Black Rhinoceros, both magnificent creatures. Sadly there are few Black Rhinoceros left due to rampant poaching but those that remain are often found near the centre of the park around the outcroppings of hard volcanic rock known as kopjes. Serengeti National Park is a full day’s drive from Dar es Salaam, but the length of the journey is more than rewarded by the magnificent experience that awaits.
Have you been to any of these three wildlife sanctuaries? Perhaps you’ve visited another place that you think should have made this list. We’d love to hear your stories - let us know about your experiences in the comments!