Getting close to 5 iconic wildlife species

Whether you’re a photographer wanting that special shot or simply have always yearned to look a gorilla in the eye, getting close to wildlife is one of the reasons some of us travel the world. Of course there is never a guarantee of being able to get close to any wild creature in its own habitat, but there are certain spots where it’s pretty close to being guaranteed – even for some more difficult-to-find animals.

Whale sharks

The world’s largest fish might be up to 13m long, but it is still largely a mystery to us.  They are very solitary creatures on the whole but there are times when they congregate in some numbers in a few special locations. An area off Mafia Island in Tanzania is one of these places due to the profusion of plankton from about September to March. To swim alongside a whale shark is a very sough after experience and here at Mafia Island within these months they can be reasonably certain of being able to get you close enough to the sharks to do this.  It is responsibly done, in terms of not getting too close, and you don’t even have to be a diver to experience this.

Whale shark

Meerkats

In Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans there are a couple of groups of meerkats which have been habituated to the presence of humans.  If you come here in the dry season from around May to October you can head out to find them in the mornings before they go out foraging. Once you find them and they settle down to your presence, you will generally be ignored and you can even find that you are climbed on to be used as a lookout post!

Meerkats

Hyacinth macaws

These beautiful blue birds, the largest flying species of parrot, are an endangered species due to loss of habitat and trapping for the pet trade. It is reckoned that there are around 7000 left, of which about 5000 in the Pantanal in Brazil. So this is the place to come to see these gorgeous creatures, and indeed there are quite a lot of them around here.

Hyacinth macaws

Jaguars

Still in Brazil, for years there was no good chance of getting to see a jaguar in the wild. This has now changed. If you can spare 3 days between June and October, it is now possible to almost guarantee a sighting of jaguars in the wild. The banks of the Cuiaba River in the Pantanal is the spot and the sightings which are currently being experienced by travellers are just phenomenal.  A recent client saw 7 giant otters (rare in themselves!) chasing 2 jaguars up a tree.

Jaguar

Wild dogs

This is one of the most fascinating creatures to watch in my view. Wild dogs are an endangered species and it is thought that there are only between 3000-5000 left. They live in families of up to 40, but even so, are remarkably hard to find due to the large ranges they cover. However, head for one of the Kwando Camps (Lagoon or Lebala) in northern Botswana and the guides and trackers here have an amazing record of being able to find the wild dogs in their region.

Wild dogs

Amanda Marks is Founder and Managing Director of Tribes Travel.

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