Not much can come close to that feeling of observing an animal in the wild, especially when youíre not expecting it: awe-inspiring, breathtaking, wonderful - and a moment you will never forget.
Itís no wonder that wildlife vacations are so popular. Watching animals feeding, playing and interacting with their natural surroundings is a great way to get back to nature and escape from the computers and commuting of everyday life. With so many wildlife vacations on offer in so many fabulous locations itís hard to decide where to go or what animals to see. So weíve put together our top ten wildlife watching vacations around the world - some in the remote wilderness, and some closer to home.
So whether you have three weeks to spare or three days thereís a wildlife vacation to suit you. As many species featured on this list are endangered or protected, we make sure that these trips are run responsibly and respectfully. Many of our tour operators are actively involved in conservation projects so you can rest assured that your wildlife vacation will look after the wildlife as well as you.
1. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda and Uganda
Watching gorillas is often described as one of the most life changing of all wildlife experiences. Being face to face with a wild gorilla is on many peopleís Ďmust do before you dieí list. Whether itís because of their intimidating size combined with their unexpected gentle grace or because they behave so much like us, itís easy to see why gorilla tracking is such an amazing experience. Whether you want to see mountain gorillas in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or in Rwanda's Virunga Mountains, we have a selection of responsible vacations for you. Take a look our gorilla safaris here
2. A Big Five safari in Africa
An African safari is one of the most varied of all wildlife experiences. Go for a classic jeep safari in East Africa, following the Great Migration across the savannah, or opt for a self drive vacation in South Africa and Namibia. The intrepid can even step out of their vehicles in Botswana and Zambia for a Big Five bush walk, accompanied by an expert guide - or pole a dugout canoe along the Okavango Delta. The Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, black rhino) tend to take centre stage , but donít forget that other creatures such as hippos, hyenas and zebra can be just as thrilling to see. Check out our African safaris here
3. Polar bears in the Arctic
Polar bears are an iconic species that symbolises climate change and puts a cuddly face to the ugly problem of global warming. With concern over the conservation status of the polar bear it is more important than ever to make sure that your bear watching vacation is run responsibly.
Thatís why all our polar bear watching vacations have to adhere to our criteria so that you know that your vacation is run to minimise environmental impacts to help conserve these magnificent creatures. Have a look at our Arctic cruise vacations
for the ultimate wild polar bear experience in the company of wildlife experts, researchers and conservationists.
4. Tiger safaris
Tigers are one of the world's most endangered, elusive - and dangerous species, which means that a tiger watching vacation is an incredibly rewarding experience. With nearly 30 reserves, India is making a great effort to conserve its remaining tigers, and Nepal, too, is using innovative conservation methods to protect the tigers within its national parks. Our trips visit some of the best of these reserves including Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore, along with Chitwan and Bardia in Nepal. Check out all our tiger watching vacations here
5. Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and a must for any wildlife enthusiast. The archipelago's most famous visitor, Charles Darwin, began to form his theory of evolution here and itís easy to see why. With birds and animals that are found nowhere else on earth, and which are completely unafraid of humans, the Galapagos Islands are a wildlife experience like no other. Take a look at our Galapagos cruises here
6. Whale watching
Watching as an enormous whale breeches the ocean's surface and disappears to the ocean depths with a splash really can take your breath away. Whale watching is an increasingly popular activity and very widespread with boat trips operating wherever the whales are.
From Norway to Newfoundland, Iceland to Italy, all our whale watching vacation are run responsibly, ensuring that whilst you get close enough to take great photos, you won't be disturbing these ocean giants. Whether you want to see playful orcas or mighty humpbacks we havea range of trips
and one to suit you.
7. Grizzly bears in the Rockies
Grizzly bears, a subspecies of brown bears, are amongst the eight remaining bear species on the planet. Many of the bear species, such as the sloth bear, are endangered or vulnerable but brown bears arenít among them, so hopefully spotting one shouldnít be too tricky! Watching a creature so huge and powerful can be an awe inspiring experience and if you go to the right place at the right time of year you might just be lucky enough to spot some little bear cubs out to play. Take a look at our bear watching vacations here
8. Watching orangutans in Borneo
Watching orangutans in the wild makes regular appearances on travelers' bucket lists - and with good reason. Watching orangutans can be utterly magical. Widespread deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations has reduced this species' habitat to a tiny fraction of what it once was, and they are now listed as endangered. Itís therefore more important than ever to ensure that responsible tourism contributes their conservation. All our tour operators abide by a code of conduct and most vacations to Sabah include visit to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which houses and then releases injured orangutans back into the wild when possible. Have a look at our orangutan vacations here
The vast, frozen continent of Antarctica is one of the planet's last true wilderness. Officially uninhabited and owned by no one, it is a place like no other on earth. But it's not empty; several penguin species, seal colonies, whales and albatrosses are among the creatures that call this frozen desert home. Small ship cruises incorporate onboard lecture programmes by biologists, geologists, conservationists and marine scientists, bringing the scenes to life. We have a selection of vacations in Antarctica here
10. Wildlife in Europe
You donít have to travel too far from home to find a great wildlife experience. Europe's wildlife may be little celebrated - but it is no less impressive than other more exotic locations. Whether you want to see birds
, wolvesor whales
we have an exciting range of wildlife encounters in Europe. Take a look at all ourwildlife vacations in Europe here
Donít forget that all of our trips have to meet our criteria for environmental, social and economic responsibility which means that they minimise their environmental impact, benefit the local community or provide employment in the local area. They also abide by strict codes of conduct so not to distress the wildlife (for example not getting too close, and ending encounters when animals leave, rather than following them). Also, many of our wildlife tour operators regularly donate to and support conservation projects to protect and preserve endangered wildlife. You can find our criteria here
and the campaigns we support here