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Where the wild things are: 10 wildlife-filled destinations to check out

If you’re after a holiday that’s all about the animals, look no further. From Australia’s iconic kangaroos to some of the more unique creatures (we’re looking at you, fossa) we’ve pulled together 10 of the best destinations for wildlife lovers.

Best place to see orangutans: Borneo

Orangutans, Borneo
Photo credit: Anup Shah

Home to Asia’s only great ape, Borneo is the world’s third largest island, and in a south eastern corner, you’ll find Tanjung Puting, a national park with the largest wild orangutan population. Dotted throughout the park are various rehabilitation and research centres who help place orphaned orangutans back into the wild. Be sure to stop off during feeding time so you can watch the orangutans carry as many bananas as physically possible – it’s a skill to be admired. 

Travel tip:

For the most authentic experience, hire a local guide to take you through the national park by boat. These wooden vessels contain sleeping compartments for a multi-day trip, perfect for getting deep into the forest and spying wild orangutans along the riverbank.  

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Best place to go whale watching: Sri Lanka

Spermwhale, Sri Lanka
Photo credit: Shane Gross

Stay in Mirissa at the south of the island for a dose of paradise. The secluded Turtle Bay Beach is where you’ll find colourful tropical fish and, of course, turtles. But it’s the whale watching that makes this place shine. Take a tour with Whale Watching Mirissa, who depart early in the morning to give you the best chance of spotting the Blue, Sperm, Humpback and Bryde’s whales that swim in the Indian Ocean.

Did you know?

The best time to go whale watching is November to April when the waves are smaller and the Indian Ocean is on its best behaviour. You’ll want to avoid the monsoon season in May and June as very few boats leave the harbour. The geography of Mirissa makes it ideal for whale watching due to the deep continental shelf found at the southern tip of Sri Lanka. The whales can swim closer to shore, and you’ll usually spot dolphins, turtles and flying fish as you go.

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Best place to spot fossas: Madagascar

Fosa, Madagascar
Photo credit: Pixabay

Madagascar is one of the world’s most bio-diverse islands, home to over 200,000 species. Base yourself in Morondava and take a trip to Kirindy Forest National Park – a privately managed dry forest. From here you’ll be able to find the nocturnal fossa, a cat-like carnivorous mammal that preys on lemurs. While you’re around Morondava, it’s worth driving down the Avenue of the Baobabs, a collection of sacred 800-year-old local trees that line the dirt track all the way to Belon’i Tsiribinha. This incredible species is known as the tree God planted upside down – for reasons best understood when you’re standing next to one.

Travel tip:

Visit during the fossa’s mating season between October and December. At this time of year the animals are more active as they look for a mate, plus you’ll be avoiding the rainy season that makes the forest inaccessible.

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Best place to the see the maned wolf: Brazil

Maned Wolf
Photo credit: Pixabay

Over in South America, the maned wolf is the creature to watch out for. Often described as a fox-wolf-deer hybrid, these animals travel alone and inhabit wetlands and grasslands. For the best chance to see one, stay in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state before travelling to Serra da Canastra National Park. The park is also a haven for wild birds alongside the endemic species of the bush dog, pampas deer and the giant anteater. So even if the maned wolf gives you the slip, you’ll still spot some animals unique to Brazil.

Travel tip:

Don’t miss the Casca d’Anta Waterfall in the east of the national park. Standing at an impressive 186m high, you can access viewing platforms at the top and bottom of this natural wonder.

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Best place to spot tigers: India

Tigers, India
Photo credit: Aditya Singh

Situated in northern India, the Jim Corbett National Park is the only Indian national park with on-site accommodation so book in quick for the best opportunity to safely see the Bengal tiger. The 520km2 park offers a range of tours and safaris to suit different budgets, and you can pick and choose which of the five zones you want to explore. Plus, with over 600 species of birds and roaming Asian elephants, India will tick all your wildlife boxes. 

Good to know:

With strict entrance regulations, you’ll need to obtain a permit and hire an authorised jeep with a guide to be granted access to the tiger reserve. Keep in mind that the park is closed from July to October for the monsoon season.

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The only place to see the dingo: Australia

Dingo, Fraser Island, Australia
Photo credit: Sarah LucyMac

On another continent altogether, Australia is a wildlife hotspot. You’ve seen the kangaroos and koalas, you’ve heard about the wallabies and the Tasmanian devil – but what about the dingo? To see this country’s wild dog, you’ll need to hire a 4×4 and take a short ferry over to Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world where 200 dingoes roam free. While you’re exploring the island you should factor in a stop at Lake Mackenzie for a swim, just stay away from the sea as there are sharks in these waters.

Travel tip:

Be warned, wild dingoes have been known to attack if they feel threatened, so it’s best to keep your distance. Travel in Australia’s winter months, June – August to avoid the crowds and have the landmarks (and dingoes) to yourself.

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Best place to spy a jaguar: Peru

Jaguar in a rainforest
Photo credit: Donyanedomam

Peru may be famous for its llamas, but we reckon you’ll be more impressed by the harder-to-find jaguars; and for those you’ll need to head deep into the Amazon rainforest. Fly into the local Puerto Maldonado airport, where staff from the Tambopata Research Centre will pick you up. You’ll then be driven to the river where a three-hour tranquil boat trip awaits. But this is just the start: the next morning you’ll continue with another four-hour boat ride to the most secluded lodge where you’ll be able to unleash your inner explorer.

Good to know:

Head to the Amazon rainforest at the end of the wet season – from December to May plant life is in full bloom and small creatures occupy the ground.

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Best place to see the grizzly bear: USA

Grizzly Bear
Photo credit: Pixabay

With 700 grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, there’s a chance you may actually get to see one. These impressive creatures are identified by a distinctive hump between their shoulders, blonde-tipped fur and a long snout. Grizzly bears can hibernate for up to seven months of the year, so if you want to spot them make sure you’re in Yellowstone between May and October. Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley are the best places to spy a grizzly, and if the bears aren’t there you may still see elks, wolves, bison and the golden eagle.

Travel tip:

While you’re keeping your eyes (and ears) out for those bears, look for the natural attractions too. There are a number of impressive geysers, a rare phenomenon that spouts boiling hot water vertically into the air, to hunt down. The Old Faithful is accurately named for giving a reliable show, roughly at 50-120 minute intervals, with each eruption lasting between 2 and 5 minutes.

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The best place to see coral reefs: Sulawesi Island, Indonesia

Photo credit: Michael Stubblefield

Travel by speedboat from Sulawesi Island to the smaller Bunaken Island where an underwater world of coral reefs await. Sea temperatures are a very comfortable 27 – 29 degrees (in comparison to the English Channel which is at a chilly 15 degrees). You can spend hours looking at the tropical fish, sea turtles and, deep breaths, the occasional shark. You’ll also find seven out of the eight species of giant clams in the reef – that’s more than anywhere else in the world. Time to get that scuba gear ready…

Did you know?

Sulawesi Island is also one of the few Indonesian islands where the babirusa lives. A creature known affectionately as a pig-deer by locals, it has two pairs of unique curved tusks giving them a distinguished look. To spot the babirusa head to the swampy grounds of the Nantu Forest in Gorontalo, north Sulawesi.  

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Best place to spot the big five: Namibia

Wildlife, Namibia
Photo credit: Pixabay

For your dream safari, Etosha National Park is the place to go. The gigantic park has six campsites ranging from the safari-style tents at Dolomite Camp to the spacious chalets at Namutoni Camp. The most popular camp, Okaukuejo, has rooms overlooking the waterhole where you’ll be able to spot lions, elephants and black rhinos congregating – that’s one to tick off the bucket list. Another sight not to be missed – and it’s hard to do so considering its size – is the Etosha Pan. At an incredible 130km long and 50km wide, it can be seen from space and is a mass breeding ground for flamingos.

Good to know:

Etosha is perfect for a self-drive safari. Maps can be picked up at any of the camp receptions and roads are in good condition. Make sure you follow the park’s own driving regulations and respect the animals you come across.

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