There are few experiences that compare to witnessing animals in their natural environment. In a world where landscapes are continually altered, it is often calming, and quite breathtaking, to view animals completely in harmony with their habitats. Though they often require some significant travel, there are opportunities all over the world that give nature lovers a chance to appreciate the animal kingdom, from viewing snow leopards in the Himalayas to wildebeest in Tanzania. These are the five wildlife adventures you have to take before you die.
1. Killer Whales in the Southern Ocean
The largest migratory population of killer whales in the Southern Hemisphere can be found off the coast of Western Australia each year from January through April. Boat tours venture for about an hour-and-a-half's journey out to sea, where passengers can witness the orcas frolicking in the dark waters. As playful as they are powerful, the orcas will often put on a spectacular show for everyone on board, and the marine scientists on the crew are more than happy to answer any questions about the impressive mammals.
Our Hotel Pick: For many travelers, the journey to Western Australia will begin with a landing in Perth. The Sebel East Perth is accessible from the airport, and offers comfortable accommodation near the city.
2. Wildebeest Migration across the Serengeti, Tanzania
Sure to feature on an animal lover’s bucket list, the wildebeest migration across the Serengeti is an epic yearly journey involving numbers of around one million wildebeest, 200,000 zebr,a and 400,000 gazelle. The migration is heavily influenced by rainfall, as the animals move across the national park in search for pasture and water. Calving occurs in February, and the animals are usually on the move by May. September sees the herd’s dramatic crossing of the Mara River, where the herds attempt to negotiate the water in a hectic congregation. A popular tour option includes mobile camps, which allow visitors more flexibility and often longer stints of time viewing the animals.
Our Hotel Pick: Why not spend a few days stopover in South Africa before heading to Tanzania? Located on the southern tip of the continent, the city of Cape Town is a tourist-friendly city with a picturesque backdrop. Aim for a stay at the luxurious Table Bay Hotel before you depart for an outdoor adventure.
3. Snow Leopards in the Himalayas
Spotted across mountainous territory in Central Asia, snow leopards are notoriously elusive and mysterious. The species is endangered and numbers appear to be declining, with population estimates ranging between 4,000 to 7,5000 animals left in the wild. Sighting a snow leopard is never guaranteed, but touring companies have highly experienced guides to track the big cats. The best time to see a snow leopard is during February, when the cats descend from the mountain in search of food.
Our Hotel Pick: Kick off your Asian adventure in glitzy Hong Kong. The Courtyard by Marriott, Hong Kong provides stunning views of the city and the waterfront, a stark contrast to the remote dwelling of the snow leopard.
4. Tropical Species in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Renowned for sparking Darwin’s "Theory of Evolution," the World Heritage-Listed Galápagos Islands host a unique ecosystem with a huge variety of endemic species. Animals that call the islands home include penguins, marine iguanas, Galápagos tortoises, and blue-footed boobies, but the Ecuadorian archipelago is in fact teeming with all sorts of unusual wildlife. Tourism to the islands has a strong focus on sustainability, and registered guides are an essential escort to the majority of locations. Peak periods run from June to September and again from December to January, and visitor numbers to different sites are monitored. Travelers can either opt to see the islands on a cruise, or stay on the main islands of Santa Cruz or San Cristobal, visiting the surrounding areas on day trips.
5. Polar Bears in Svalbard
A remote Norwegian territory located between the mainland and the North Pole, Svalbard offers a secluded destination for travelers keen to catch a glimpse of the impressive polar bear. Polar bear populations in the area are estimated to slightly outweigh that of humans, meaning that chances of sighting a bear are relatively high. Tours around the area usually run through June and July when polar bears spend more time on land, and there is a weekly service that connects the Svalbard archipelago to mainland Europe.
Our Hotel Pick: As eco-friendly as it is cozy, the Carlton Oslo Hotel Guldsmeden is sure to get you inspired to venture out into the wilderness.