Whale-watching, hanging out with gorillas, spotting the Big Five – we’re pretty sure these would be on any self-respecting animal lover’s bucket list. Here are the best places in the world for taking a walk on the wild side…
1. Peer at polar bears in Canada
In autumn, polar bears make the move from their summer digs to the seal-rich Hudson Bay. And, you can catch them en route by heading to the ‘polar bear capital of the world’, Churchill. Locals have all the bear-necessities to keep their furry friends in check, like a bear patrol and a ‘prison’ for those outstaying their welcome. You can head to the Polar Bear Lodge to view the bears gathering and playing – you might spot Caribou, Arctic Fox and wolves, too.
2. Track the Big Five in South Africa
You’ve probably tucked into your tea with Attenborough on in the background. And you can watch a safari adventure unfold right in front of your eyes at Kruger National Park. It’s home to 12,000 elephants, 1,500 lions and the largest single population of rhinos on the planet. So, you’re in the right place if you want to watch cheetahs chasing their prey and elephants spraying their playmates with water.
3. Close in on komodo dragons in Indonesia
They might not breathe fire, but these 3-metre-long lizards are the world’s biggest and most dangerous. That said, enthusiasts can brave a visit to the islands they call home in eastern Indonesia. Rangers – armed with wooden sticks – lead visitors through the jungle for a chance to spot the carnivorous lizards.
4. Swim with whale sharks in Mexico
They may share a name, but whale sharks come without the rows of fear-inducing teeth, so swimming with them is thrilling and safe. Hundreds of them gather off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula from May to September, when snorkellers and divers can swim alongside these gentle giants. Don’t worry – they’re filter feeders, so plankton and tiny fish are the only foodie delights they’re interested in.
5. Meet mountain gorillas in Rwanda
There are only 680 left in the world. And one of the best places to spot them is the Parc National Des Volcans in Rwanda. It’s got half the entire population of mountain gorillas and tour companies can organise trips to see them – from one-day treks to 6-day hikes. Once you’re up the slopes, you can watch gorilla families going about their day.
6. Kayak with alligators in America
Swap noisy airboats for a kayak – and you’ll blend right in as you glide through Florida’s Everglades. Now they’re protected, American alligators are making a comeback, with numbers estimated at around the million mark. So, you can expect plenty of blinking eyes as you paddle your way through the waterways.
7. Observe orcas feeding in Iceland
Watching a pod of killer whales in a feeding frenzy is quite an impressive sight –they didn’t get their nickname for nothing. From mid-December to April, the waters off Grundarfjörður, in western Iceland, are teeming with herring, which attracts killer whales, dolphins and sea birds. Tour boats will get you close enough to hear the whales as they blow.