Some of the most amazing adventure travel experiences include interactions with wildlife in their natural habitats. There is nothing quite like spotting wild creatures in exotic locations around the globe, and fortunately you can have these types of experience on all seven continents. With that in mind, these are our favorite nature and wildlife adventures, all of which should be on your bucket list.
Exploring blue-footed boobies on the Galapagos Islands and swimming near playful sea lions and giant tortoises in the surrounding ocean is the equivalent of putting yourself inside the latest edition of Planet Earth. That is exactly why so many travelers are choosing to spend days on a boat exploring these spectacular islands located off the coast of Ecuador. The award-winning Ecoventura, International Expeditions, and Geographic Expeditions offer departures throughout the year, with some family-friendly options for those who want to bring the kids.
One of the most thrilling, heart-pounding, and visceral wildlife encounters takes place when divers come face-to-face with a great white sharks, tiger sharks, or other massive sea creatures. While it is true that these fearsome predators can be dangerous and intimidating at times, adventurous travelers can observe them safely from within a reinforced shark cage. The result is the opportunity to observe these legendary animals as they roam the open ocean.
Shark Diver offers a variety of intimate encounters with sea life, taking clients on a cage dive to view great white sharks off Isla Guadalupe or into its deep dive-submarine to catch a glimpse of giant squid in Roatan.
The Classic African Safari
When it comes to spotting animals in the wild, few experiences can compare with the classic African safari. Travelers can visit the Serengeti to watch a million wildebeest roam across the endless grasslands of Tanzania and Kenya or the explore Kruger National Park in South Africa for a different kind of safari experience. In both cases, you'll have the opportunity to see lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, rhinos and perhaps even cheetahs. Overnights can be in simple camping locations or luxury lodges or tents, depending on how much you want to spend. Some of the companies offering these tours include International Expeditions, Natural Habitat Adventures, and Abercrombie & Kent.
Everyone knows that Churchill in Manitoba, Canada is considers itself the "polar bear capital of the world," but there are other places where these creatures can be found in the wild. For instance, Norway's Svalbard region offers opportunities to see polar bears on the prowl in their natural habitat too. The remote and rugged Svalbard is an island that sits above the Arctic Circle and is said that the bears outnumber the people there. Adventurous travelers can find out of that is true by joining a tour hosted by Oceanwide Expeditions, which has been taking visitors into the wild for decades.
Yellowstone National Park is home to so much wildlife that it has been called the "Serengeti of North America." Visitors to the world's first national park are likely to spot bison, elk, black and grizzly bears, wolves, moose, and an array of other creatures. The park offers stunning landscapes that serve as amazing backdrops to all of the wildlife viewing opportunities, which are available all year round, but are particularly epic during the winter. As with most U.S. national parks, Yellowstone is very easy to explore independently, just be sure to include the Lamar Valley on your "must-see" destinations. Alternatively however, there are a number of companies that offer great Yellowstone Tours, such as Austin Adventures based out of Billings, Montana.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, and quite a destination for anyone who loves spotting sea creatures. The GBR is made up of 3000 individual reef systems and 900 islands, spread out across 1500 sq miles of area. It also happens to be home to more than 30 species of whales, dolphins, and other purposes, along with 1500 species of fish, and 17 species of sea snakes, and literally dozens of other creatures too. The reef is one of the absolute best spots in the world to go diving and snorkeling, with an abundance of guide companies offering live-aboard trips to explore its depths. Some of the best are found in Cairns, where you'll find operators that will take you out for a day or for a week.
The Amazon Jungle is home to more than 1500 different bird species, making it a fantastic destination for those who enjoy spotting avian wildlife. The birds of the Amazon are bright, colorful, large, and playful, making them fun to spot. Peru is one of the best places to experience these amazing creatures and G Adventures offers some of the best options for those looking to take a boat up the river. Along the way, you might even spot some other types of animals, including river dolphins that like to swim alongside the boat.
Orangutans are some of the most fascinating primates on the planet, but it isn't always easy to find ways to see them in the wild. Fortunately, Adventure Indonesia puts together regular trips into the jungle, which includes some unique opportunities to see these creatures in their natural home. The trip includes a boat excursion down the Lamandau River where travelers will learn more about orangutans and visit Camp Leakey where older orangutans are reintroduced back into the rain forest. They'll also get the chance to visit a Dyak Tribe villages too, providing a cultural context to the adventure as well.
Wildlife viewing, with twice-a-day opportunities to spot grizzly bears in their natural habitat, is the focus for guests at the floating Great Bear Lodge, May through October, guests are shuttled in by a floatplane to the lodge, which is located about 50 air miles from Port Hardy, British Columbia, Canada. One- to seven-day visits can be booked, depending on how long you wish to stay, and while grizzly bears might be the main attraction, there are also plenty of black bears, moose, bald eagles, seals, wolves, and other creatures in the area too.
Spotting whales on the open ocean is one of the most awe-inspiring travel opportunities imaginable. These massive creatures are simply wonderful to behold and can be found in numerous parts of the world, including Northern Europe, Australia, Alaska, and dozens of other locations. One of the best places to encounter whales is along the Baja Coast of California and Mexico. This region serves as the nursing ground for several different species, making them easy to spot at various times throughout the year. Natural Habitat Adventures offers a variety of whale watching excursions, including chances to see Pacific gray whales up close and personal.
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
One of the most rewarding animal encounter experiences that any adventure traveler can have is a gorilla trek in Uganda. These journeys take visitors into the heart of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where they'll have the chance to observe and interact with mountain gorillas in their own natural habitat. These creatures are as curious about humans as we are about them, often wandering within a few feet in order to get a better view. Tourism dollars are used to help protect these creatures and gorilla treks have become one of the best conservation programs in the world. There are a number of companies that offer these excursions, but Mountain Travel Sobek has some of the best, offering options in Rwanda too.
Visit a Penguin Colony in Antarctica
Penguins have always been popular amongst adventure travelers, and while there are places you can encounter them that aren't in the Antarctic, why would you want to go anywhere else? Some of the largest Emperor penguin colonies are found on the frozen continent itself, with numbers stretching into the hundreds of thousand. Seeing these creatures in their natural habitat is an experience unlike any other as their colonies stretch as far as the eye can see. Lindblad Expeditions offers excellent trips to Antarctica and South Georgia Island, another great place to spot penguins in the wild.
Join a Tiger Safari in India
Tigers are amongst the world's most endangered animals so spotting them in the wild can be a challenge. Fortunately, these majestic creatures are protected in India, where much of the remaining tiger population lives, and part of the conversation process involves adventure travelers going on photo safaris to locate these big cats in their natural habitat. Natural World Safaris operates some of the best tiger excursions in the country, with options to no only interact with the wildlife but also immerse visitors in the local culture too. That isn't always a priority on other safaris, but here it is a top draw.
See Rhinos in Nepal
When most adventure travelers think about Nepal the first thing that comes to mind is the amazing trekking and climbing that takes place there. But what they don't realize is that the Himalayan country is also a great place to spot wildlife, particularly in the Chitwan National Park. This lowland area far from the mountains is home to a stable population of rhinos, making it a great spot to see these creatures in the wild. The rhinos there are a different species than those found in Africa, but are no less impressive to witness in person. Nepal Safari offers a two-day, one-night rhino excursion that makes a great add-on before or after you trek to Everest Base Camp.
Run with the Wolves in Belarus
Humans have always been drawn to wolves and that fascination continues even today. One of the best places to encounter these mesmerizing creatures is in the Nalibooki Forest of Belarus. The creatures roam free in this untamed wilderness, where you may also get the chance to spot bison, lynx, beaver, and elk too. Explore! offers some fantastic opportunities to go in search of these animals, while also experiencing the Belarusian culture and history too.