Rhino, Kaziranga National Park (Shutterstock)
List 02 December

Wildlife watching in December: the best animal encounters to have this month

Want to travel where flamingos flock, rhinos roam and manatees mingle? Here's where to venture this month

Kaziranga, India

Best for: Thriving rhino

Ensconced on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River, in the Indian state of Assam, Kaziranga National Park is home to 70% of the world’s one-horned rhino. It’s a handsome spot too, a spread of lush-green grassland swaying before a backdrop of distant Himalayan peaks.

Rhino, Kaziranga National Park (Shutterstock)
Rhino, Kaziranga National Park (Shutterstock)

The park is open from October to April; floodwaters recede from mid-November making the place more accessible. But the best time to visit is from December onwards, after the annual grass burnings deplete the vegetation and make the wildlife a lot easier to see. December is also delightfully mild, if quite cool at night.

As well as rhinos, you might spot Asian elephants, water buffalo, Ganges river dolphins, sambar deer and an array of birds. The park is also home to a good number of tigers, though they have a tendency to hide in the grass. Keep your eyes peeled.


Flamingos in Laguna Colorada (Shutterstock)
Flamingos in Laguna Colorada (Shutterstock)

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

Best for: High-altitude flamingos

December-April might be wet season in Bolivia but the rain brings more birds. It is during this period that the greatest numbers of flamingos can be seen on the high-altitude lakes of Reserva Eduardo Avaroa: three species (James’s, Chilean and Andean) favour the algae-rich waters here, and look particularly splendid against the crimson sheen of Laguna Colorada. As an aside, this is also the time to see the surreal white saltflats of the Salar de Uyuni under a fabulously photogenic puddle.


Albatross, New Zealand (Shutterstock)
Albatross, New Zealand (Shutterstock)

New Zealand

Best for: Albatross chicks

The Otago Peninsula, on New Zealand’s South Island, is home to the world’s only mainland albatross colony, and birds are present year-round. However, the best time to visit – which handily coincides with NZ’s best weather – is December to February, when the albatross are feeding their young: one parent is always guarding the nest, while the other heads off in search of food.


Tiger, Chitwan National Park (Shutterstock)
Tiger, Chitwan National Park (Shutterstock)

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Best for: Rhinos & tigers

The dry season months of December and January are the best time to head into Royal Chitwan – on elephant back, by boat or on foot – with the thinner vegetation makes it easier to glimpse species such as rhinos and tigers; many Himalayan birds over-winter on the lowlands too. And thanks to clear, crisp skies, marvellous mountain views are the icing on the cake.


Manatee, Florida (Shutterstock)
Manatee, Florida (Shutterstock)

Florida, USA

Best for: Affectionate manatees

West Indian manatees don’t like the cold, so congregate in the warm waters of Crystal River from December to the end of March. And they’re so much sweeter than the nickname ‘sea cow’ suggests – curious and affectionate, playfully bumping into each and any be-snorkelled human who happens to be finning by.


Main image: Rhino, Kaziranga National Park (Shutterstock)