Lions and a chance to see the big 5 are a big draw to safaris

Wildlife and safaris


Wildlife and safaris travel guide, including wildlife and safaris travel advice, where to go on safari in the world

Wildlife holidays are all about anticipation. There’s never any guarantee that you’ll get to see a tiger, that a humpback whale will surface near your boat, that a turtle will come ashore to lay its eggs. The people who were there the day/week/month before you always seem to have seen something amazing, while you scour the horizon with little success.

However, adjust to that and you can then start to enjoy all the other aspects of the environment you are in, and all the other creatures that you will get to see.

Though, occasionally, something magical will occur: a leopard crossing your path when you're on a walking safari; a family of orca performing acrobatics just metres from your boat; realising that the boulder has just moved and is actually a rare black rhino.

Wildlife holidays can require a lot of patience, but more important is to find the right one for you. Will you be happy to sit in a vehicle or hide for hours, or do you need an easier option? If on a safari, do you want to stay in a lodge with all mod cons such as air-con and a pool? Or would you rather be in an intimate camp where 'nightlife' is sitting round a fire, swapping yarns and listening to the sounds of the bush?

Whatever your degree of interest there will be a trip to suit you. As a general rule you will have to get up early on a wildlife trip, as the majority of animals are most active at dawn and dusk.

And you’ll need to be soberly dressed: khaki is synonymous with safaris for a reason – wear blue or black and you’re more likely to get bitten by a tsetse fly; wear white or a bright colour and you’ll stand out like a beacon to the camouflaged critters.

Binoculars are always useful on any wildlife trip or safari, as you can rarely get as close to the animals as you would hope. But, when you get down to it, you need no special equipment for wildlife watching. Just open eyes and ears, mixed with a splash of good luck.

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Further Reading

Top 10 wildlife experiences

From big fish to bigger bears to dancing boobies, there's a whole world of wildlife out there

  1. Kayak amongst whales in the Pacific lagoons of the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. Migrating cetaceans glide by the coast from mid-December to April; head out into San Ignacio Lagoon and you could find yourself having an extremely close encounter indeed.
  2. Walk amongst lions and scan the trees for leopards in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. This is the home of the walking safari, and some of the continent's best safari guides – head out on foot for an unmatchable African bush experience.
  3. Gaze into the eyes of a gorilla in the rainforest of Uganda or Rwanda – and feel humble as the great apes stare back. It's expensive to track gorillas (you need a special permit) and you're only allowed to spend an hour in their presence, but it's an hour you'll never forget.
  4. Sit amongst 100,000 curious king penguins on a South Georgia beach, and marvel at the size (and bad breath) of an elephant seal. This southern Atlantic island is home to vast rookeries of little birds, who frequently ignore the 'keep your distance' rule to come and have a peck at your boots.
  5. Paddle a dugout canoe past browsing elephants in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Trips to this great wetland don't come cheap (though there are bargains to be had during the November to April wet season), but gliding quietly in a mokoro, past chortling hippos and innumerable birds, is worth the cost.
  6. Snorkel with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Every year, between April and July, thousands of these mighty fish pass by the coast of Australia; head to the town of Exmouth to arrange a trip out to swim with them.
  7. Watch polar bears from a tundra buggy in Churchill, Canada, or from the deck of an expedition cruise along the Spitsbergen coast. October/November is the time to see the bears in Churchill, the 'polar bear capital of the world', while Spitsbergen sails are best in mid-summer, when you can wildlife-watch under the Arctic's midnight sun.
  8. Watch the courtship dance of the blue-footed booby in the Galápagos Islands, before snorkelling with penguins on the equator, swimming with playful sea lions, trekking into the highlands to search for giant tortoises and basking on the volcanic rocks with a whole pile of marine iguanas. Wildlife heaven!
  9. Track tigers on elephant-back in Bandhavgarh or Kanha National Parks in India. You'll need a bit of luck – these big cats are seriously endangered – but tourists visiting will help convince the locals that tigers are worth much more alive.
  10. Watch wildebeest cross the Mara River during their great migration from the Serengeti, Tanzania, through to the Masai Mara, Kenya. The herds move year round, but the best months for the dramatic Mara River dash – when the ungulates run the gauntlet of hungry crocs and waiting lions – are August to November.