Pink dolphins, leopards, orangutans and the most exotic birds: the world’s best wildlife destinations

Nature documentaries are fascinating, but nothing beats the thrill of seeing a lion cub in Kenya or a Norwegian moose in the woods. The five best destinations in the world for spotting wildlife 

Want to know the best places to spot big cats in the wild? How about destinations that will give you the chance to get close to creatures you won’t see anywhere else in the world, or the thrill of looking over the side of your boat to see pink dolphins bobbing in the water? Then you might want to visit one of our top five wildlife destinations on Earth.

Nairobi, Kenya

If it’s the famous ‘big five’ animals you want to see on your travels, there’s no better place than Kenya, which is well rehearsed in hosting safaris to places where you are likely to see lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos. Swarovski Optik’s binoculars allow you to be fully immersed in nature without disturbing the animals.

We’ve all seen documentaries of these wonderful animals in their natural habitats but nothing can prepare you for the adrenaline rush of looking out from your safari jeep across the savannah to see if you can spot a herd of elephants or a lion on the prowl.

Some companies offer bespoke safaris, including trips to the Masai Mara, where you can watch from the edge of your seat as thousands of wildebeest attempt to cross the Mara River while navigating the dangerous threat of crocodiles.

The Peruvian Amazon

There are few places where you can escape the trappings of modern life as much as in the Amazon jungle. It encompasses more than half the world’s rainforest and is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

In both the rainforest and the gigantic Amazon River and its tributaries, wildlife that seems to have survived for millennia endures: pink dolphins put on playful displays for local boats, sloths cling to trees and tropical birds add sound and colour to the lush forests.

Villages flourish in these natural surroundings and if you’re lucky enough to stay in an Amazonian village, you’ll be warmly welcomed into the community, sleeping on a hammock on the porch of the wooden house or on the floor of a tented sheet (designed to keep out some of the less desirable creatures of the night). 

Don’t be surprised if the chorus of croaking frogs keeps you awake: there are thousands of them here and once one starts the others seem to join in. Ecotourism companies offer authentic jungle experiences with local guides.

Moose in Norway
Spot snow-dusted moose in the woods of Norway. Photo from CH – VisitNorway.com

 

Lofoten Islands, Norway

This Scandinavian country is one of the best places in the world to see sperm whales, particularly around the Lofoten islands, an archipelago near the Arctic Circle.

Because of their location, the Lofoten Islands are also a fantastic place to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), which can be seen here from September to April (weather dependent).

But back to the whales: due to the deep water near the islands and the abundance of squid and fish, it’s a great feeding ground for sperm whales from late October to mid-January, so you’re almost assured of a sighting. Once you see one of these giants of the sea, we promise the memory will stay with you long after you’ve left.

Magnetic North Travel organises whale-watching tours in and around the Lofoten Islands. For those who are land-bound, look out for moose and wild reindeer in the woods during wintry walks. 

Madagascar

Unlike other African safaris, on this enchanting island – which broke away from the rest of the continent 165 million years ago – you can get up close to the native wildlife (many of which are unique to here) on foot.

The best way to see the rare fauna is on a visit to one of the island’s many national parks, such as Tsingy de Bemaraha, a unique site of limestone formations and mango groves on the western side of the island.

The park takes its name from the limestone pinnacles (or tsingy) which have been gradually eroded into jagged shapes over millions of years. They are home to the island’s famous lemurs, as well as exotic birds and many prehistoric-looking reptiles.

When you take a tour through into Tsingy, stop at the Kirindy forest and make sure you take a sunset drive along Baobabs Avenue, which is lined with 800-year-old trees that are a startling reminder of the tropical forests that once covered the island.

orangutans
Get close to swinging orangutans in Malaysian Borneo

 

Borneo, Malaysia

On the third largest island in the world, new species of animals are still being discovered, so it’s the perfect place to channel your inner Attenborough. The biggest draw are the enigmatic local orangutans.

Sarawak is a great entry-point to the Malaysian side of Borneo. From here you can take day trips to rainforests where orangutans count proboscis monkeys as their neighbours.

You may also catch a glimpse of the world’s largest flower, the Raffleesia. A pair of binoculars will reveal the intricate petal patterns or allow you to catch baby orangutans dozing in the treetops. To get within touching distance of an orangutan, factor in a visit to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, a sanctuary for injured or orphaned orangutans.

Elsewhere in Malaysian Borneo, Gunung Mulu National Park is a complex network of caves, gorges and chambers that is home to 27 species of bats.