From Costa Rica to Colombia: our top 10 wildlife destinations around the world in 2020

Face-to-face wildlife encounters are always a memorable highlight of a luxury holiday or safari adventure, and there are numerous ways wildlife fans can indulge their love of animals all over the globe – in destinations that also offer beautiful landscapes, unique experiences and exceptional hotels to stay in along the way. Here we round up our top ten wildlife experiences across the world, from the Galapagos, a perennial wildlife favourite, and Costa Rica, another wildlife and birdlife hotspot, to some more off-the-beaten-track wildlife destinations, such as Colombia, Japan and India.

Experience the ultimate wildlife adventure in the Galapagos

The Galapagos needs no introduction for offering an ultimate wildlife adventure – this is one of the world’s most famous places for wildlife fans. From Darwin to Attenborough, the Galapagos Islands have captivated naturalists for centuries, with their dazzling range of endemic species, from marine iguanas to Galapagos penguins. Explore these fabled islands on a luxury cruise, including the chance to go kayaking around rugged coastlines and diving with sharks. On land, stroll along pristine beaches where sea lions bask, and walk across lava-strewn landscapes.

Horse ride with local cowboys in Colombia

The Llanos Orientales in Colombia is home to a rich diversity of wildlife and birdlife, from howler monkeys, caimans and capybaras to the native corocora (or scarlet ibis), which gives Corocora Camp its name. This remote camp has just four luxury tents, and is set amidst vast plains perfect for riding horses where cowboys have roamed for centuries. Other activities include cattle herding, joining local biologists to track jaguars and pumas in the jungle, birdwatching trips and getting involved with local conservation projects. In the evening, enjoy barbecues and music around the campfire, accompanied by panoramic sunsets.

See grizzly bears in Canada

British Columbia in Canada is a wildlife lover’s dream – see grizzly and black bears, grey wolves, humpback whales, bald eagles and more, in stunning landscapes. Stay in some unique lodges in spectacular settings, such as Great Bear Lodge in the Great Bear Rainforest, reachable by a scenic seaplane flight – quite a way to arrive at your hotel. The quality of the bear viewing in this area is so high that the BBC use it as their base for filming grizzlies. Find out why it’s so special on bear-tracking walks and interpretive rainforest treks, and take boat rides to waterfalls or around the pristine glacier-carved inlet, before some night-time stargazing.

Come face to face with orangutans in Borneo

Visit Malaysia and Borneo to see orangutans in their natural habitat and watch them being fed in the heart of the rainforest, where you might also get to see pygmy elephants and rare animals such as the Sumatran rhino and the proboscis monkey. Head up on rope bridges high in the forest canopy to see exotic birds. Venture out on the water on river cruises, and go on an evening boat trip to witness hundreds of fireflies glowing on the riverbanks. For a blissful contrast to all that wildlife spotting and adventuring, end your holiday with some prime beachfront relaxation, such as on the idyllic island of Tioman.

Go in pursuit of penguins in Antarctica

On an epic once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Antarctica, you can follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers such as Shackleton, by embarking on a luxury cruise to far-flung destinations like the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. See penguins, sea lions, seals, whales, dolphins and albatrosses in pristine icy waters and clear skies. Budding photographers can hone their wildlife photography skills during their cruise on photography programmes with expert photographers. Those with a real adventurous spirit can even camp out on the ice during their journey.

See snow monkeys in Japan

For an alternative wildlife adventure, and a fantastic option for families, head to Japan to witness adorable snow monkeys, or macaques, bathing in natural hot springs in the mountains, unfazed by their curious human visitors. See all sides of Japan during your holiday: in between memorable encounters with the macaques in the countryside and stays in a traditional ryokan, take in its attractive modern cities, including the bright lights of Tokyo and the charms of Kyoto – whose castle and aquarium will also keep little ones entertained.

Track gorillas in Uganda

A highlight of a wildlife holiday in Uganda is undoubtedly the opportunity to track gorillas in the heart of the forest, accompanied by expert guides who will help you make the most of this bucket-list experience. This is a fantastic destination for wildlife fans, as not only can they track gorillas, they can also see tree-climbing lions, who bask in the shade of the branches to escape the heat of the sun, leopards, elephants, chimpanzees and more. Go on forest treks, safari game drives and scenic boat trips, and stay in characterful lodges nestled in the heart of the wilderness.

Walk with giraffes in Zimbabwe and Botswana

While we’re on the subject of Africa, this is also a perfect destination for family wildlife holidays. Children can come face to face with giraffes and more of Africa’s iconic wildlife on a family safari adventure to Zimbabwe and Botswana, taking in landmarks such as Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta and the otherworldly landscapes of Makgadikgadi National Park, home to one of the largest salt flats in the world. With game drives, walking safaris and the chance to take part in Young Explorers programmes, before gathering round the campfire at dusk, the family certainly won’t be bored.

See exotic birds in Costa Rica

As well as ticking all the boxes when it comes to tropical landscapes, beautiful beaches and wow-factor places to stay, Costa Rica is one of the most accessible places in the world to see exotic birds and much more, up close. See birds such as colourful toucans, macaws and the aptly-named resplendent quetzal, which was worshipped by the Mayans and Aztecs. As well as birds, spot sloths and monkeys in the trees, and see hatchling turtles, whales and dolphins in the Pacific Ocean and along its coastline. Zipline in the cloud forest and go river rafting, keeping an eye out for wild inhabitants from iguanas to river otters along the way. This is simply one of our favourite spots for a wildlife-focused holiday or honeymoon.

Go tiger and leopard spotting in India

India may be known for its rich culture and history, fascinating cities and world-famous landmarks such as the Taj Mahal, but it is a worthy wildlife destination too. Head to Ranthambore, Rudyard Kipling’s inspiration for the iconic Jungle Book, to see majestic Bengal tigers prowling in the forest and around the historic Ranthambore Fort, which sits in the national park and was built in the 10th century. Leopards, wild boars, sloth bears and macaques can also be seen here. Amongst India’s other wildlife experiences, stay at a luxury safari camp in rural Rajasthan to spot leopards and more, from flamingos to crocodiles, on memorable game drives. During your stay, you can also tour the landscapes with a local tribesman to get a real and authentic feel of this striking setting.

Thomas Ryves is Marketing Director at Exsus Travel. Exsus Travel specialises in creating the very best luxury tailor-made holidays, honeymoons and family adventures in over 80 destinations worldwide.

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Comments (8)

  1. Chris H. says:

    I firmly belief that the more people know about the wildlife that is out there the more likely they are to appreciate its beauty. It’s great when people travel and see it for themselves. Then the next step is to get them to understand how many species are endangered. The route to preserving the planet’s wildlife is through knowledge.

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Chris,

      Coming face to face with wildlife is certainly a memorable part of a holiday – and there are plenty of ways people can find out more and get involved in local wildlife and conservation projects and give back during their holiday too!

  2. Steven Ham says:

    My wife is an absolute wildlife nut, she loves animals and also likes to travel.

    We’ve got a very big wedding anniversary coming up next year and I thought we’d go somewhere special. I’ve shared this post as a starting point for negotiations with her.

    Though I’m not promising anything yet. There is a ceiling on our 2020 travel budget.

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Steven,

      Combining epic wildlife adventures and a love of travel – a wildlife holiday sounds perfect for your big wedding anniversary! And there are so many wildlife options to suit all wildlife fans (and all budgets).

  3. Anna Weber says:

    My parents would love that horse ranch in Colombia. Even though they didn’t grow up together, they both said when they were little kids they used to play cowboys all the time. My dad still has a thing about cowboys, loves the old films and Westerns and horses. I never really thought of a place like that with ‘real’ cowboys where you can go for joining in with the activities as well as horse riding. Sounds like a very authentic way to experience it, very involved and hands on. I’m more of a monkey and gorilla fan myself. I don’t like zoos and I’m always wary of tourist attractions that hold animals in an unnatural space, so seeing them in their own habitat out in the wild would be fantastic.

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Anna,

      We love this camp, and it’s fantastic for horse fans. There are plenty of places in the world where you can experience life like the local cowboys, such as ranches in Argentina, where you can enjoy an authentic experience and a real taste of local daily life. For seeing monkeys and gorillas, there are so many fantastic destinations around the world too!

  4. Will says:

    More and more I’m feeling drawn to the Galápagos. I’ve read so much about the islands and the wildlife lately, especially on A Luxury Travel Blog.

    I’d like to read Darwin’s book along the way and try to see the Galapagos as he saw them. It’s just amazing that the journey inspired him to come up with a completely new way of seeing the world.

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      The Galapagos is a real bucket-list destination for any wildlife fan, it is truly spectacular – inspiring naturalists from Darwin to Attenborough for good reason! We definitely recommend it for a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife adventure.

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