Polar bears, Churchill (Shutterstock)
List 31 October

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

The best places to find polar bears, elephant seals, and lots more on your travels this month

Churchill, Canada

Best for: Polar bears
They don’t call Churchill the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’ for nothing. And although bears can also be seen around the remote Manitoba town in other seasons, they are best seen in autumn, when they’re on the move from their summer home on the tundra to their winter hangout on the Hudson Bay pack ice (a good place for hunting seals). It’s not hot – expect average temperatures below freezing. But being a bit cold is a small price to pay for such close-ups with these awesome ursines.

Polar bears, Canada (Shutterstock)
Polar bears, Canada (Shutterstock)

The reason you get so near is that the viewing is done from safe, fat-wheeled tundra buggies, which don’t seem to bother the bears – it’s not uncommon for them to walk right over, rear up on their hind legs and take a closer look at you. There are also opportunities for spine-tingling walking safaris – in the company of extremely expert guides. Look out for caribou, Arctic fox, Arctic hare, moose, snowy owls and ptarmigan too.

Dancing pair of red-crowned cranes (Shutterstock)
Dancing pair of red-crowned cranes (Shutterstock)

Hokkaido, Japan

Best for: Dancing red-crowned cranes
The Japanese believe cranes bring good luck, which is perhaps why they look after them so well. From November to March, feeding stations are set up at the Kushiro marshlands (their winter retreat), which make these elegant birds easier to see. Look out for them performing their elaborate mating dance against the snow.

Southern elephant seal (Shutterstock)
Southern elephant seal (Shutterstock)

Falklands

Best for: Elephant seals
As the austral summer starts, the creatures of the Falkland Islands get lively. Elephant seals start fighting from mid- October (and keep at it until the end of the year), while the pups are at their cutest in November. November-February is also best for spotting orca off the Sea Lion Islands, and – of course – there are plenty of penguins around too.

Penguins in South Georgia (Shutterstock)
Penguins in South Georgia (Shutterstock)

South Georgia

Best for: Plentiful penguins
There are few better places for penguins that this South Atlantic isle. Expedition ships start passing by from October/ November, ideal timing to see penguin chicks starting to hatch, as well as landscapes streaked with wildflowers. The albatross have also arrived, and fur seals are starting to pup. Indeed, from now until February, it’s a riot of wildlife wonders.

Zambia bats at sunset (Dreamstime)
Zambia bats at sunset (Dreamstime)

Kasanka, Zambia

Best for: Fruit bat flurries
It’s wet season in Zambia but it’s worth putting up with occasional showers to view around eight million fruit bats in flight. The bats usually arrive in Kasanka by mid-October and stay until Christmas, to gorge on the ripe fruit trees. All day, they hang out on the branches. But, at dusk, they take flight as one, turning the sky a noisy black; after a night spent foraging, they return in the morning, a vast, dark cloud enveloping the land.


Main image: Polar bears, Churchill (Shutterstock)