Our Wonderful World of Wildlife
Inspired by the extraordinary natural wonders showcased in the BBC’s Planet Earth II, we invite you to take a look at our favourite wildlife encounters around the globe. From the big five in Africa to New Zealand’s small five, the wonders of the deep to those that soar, wildlife and nature has always been at the heart of our holiday collection.
Some of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles are found on islands. Imagine mingling with a hundred thousand king penguins on the far-flung sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, or walking along sandy beaches in the Falklands where elephant seals rub shoulders with gentoo penguins and caracaras. Tiny offshore islands in New Zealand provide sanctuary to rare and endangered species like the kiwi, kakapo and tuatara, while Iceland’s towering sea cliffs support noisy citadels of puffins, guillemots and gannets. From the Arctic wilderness of the Svalbard archipelago – kingdom of the ice bear – to Alaska’s Kodiak Island – home to super-sized grizzlies – islands promise some of the most exciting and rewarding wildlife encounters possible.
Mysterious and magnificent, the giants of the deep never fail to impress – from the initial thrill of spotting a blow rising like an exclamation mark above the waves, to the spine-tingling moment when a humpback breaches or a sperm whale arches its back to dive. As pioneers of whale watching in Iceland, cetacean encounters hold centre stage in many of our wildlife holidays around the world.
The Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Canada are world-class whale watching locations, whether you’re searching for orca in British Columbia’s Johnstone Strait, or humpback and blue whales in the Bay of Fundy. The deep submarine canyons off New Zealand’s east coast are a favoured hunting ground for sperm whales, while vast schools of dusky dolphin can be encountered closer inshore. Nutrient-rich seas around Antarctica, meanwhile, attract a plethora of cetacean species, including orca, fin, minke and humpback whale. The Arctic is equally diverse, with rarities like the bowhead whale and the distinctive beluga and narwhal all possibilities.
Iceland and Norway are two of Europe’s top whale watching destinations. Our winter holidays feature orca watching off the coast of West Iceland and a chance to spot no less than five cetacean species off the Andenes Islands in Norway – both with the potential added bonus of the northern lights. During summer, whale watching in Iceland is bathed in the golden light of the midnight sun.
Nature at its most extreme, deserts provide a spectacular combination of inhospitable wilderness and fascinating wildlife encounters. The world’s oldest desert, the Namib, covers 80% of Namibia and is easy to reach. The 300m-tall, apricot-coloured sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park have to be seen to be believed. With luck you may see desert specialists like the gemsbok roaming this parched land, while ‘fog-drinking’ beetles, shovelnose lizards and sidewinder adders leave a graffiti of tracks across the dunes’ surface.
Damaraland is another stunning region in Namibia and a prime spot for tracking the elusive black rhino and desert-adapted elephant. Other species found here include springbok, giraffe and lion.
For a truly remote desert experience, head to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, which can only be reached by helicopter aboard expedition voyages.
The forest-clad mountain ranges of the Rockies and Canada’s Pacific coast provide a head-spinning backdrop to some exciting wildlife watching encounters. Keeping watch for grizzly bears is an intrinsic part of any self-drive holiday in British Columbia, Alberta or the Yukon, while elk, bighorn sheep, black bear and golden eagle can also be seen. The best opportunities for spotting grizzlies, black bears and the rare Kermode, or spirit bear, are at ecolodges deep in the wilderness.
New Zealand’s alpine landscapes are the haunt of creatures that you might not expect to find in mountains. They include a parrot known as the kea – one of New Zealand’s ‘small five’. These bold birds have a mischievous reputation, often approaching unwary hikers (and their packed lunches!). Visit the Southern Alps and this cheeky critter is likely to find you first.
A watery maze of seasonally flooded grasslands, dotted with termite mounds and sparkling with permanent lakes and river channels, Botswana’s Okavango Delta supports a staggering array of wildlife. Families of African elephant slosh through the waterlogged plains, while large herds of red lechwe cavort through the shallows. Hippo, buffalo, zebra, rhino, leopard and lion, along with a dazzling cast of some 400 bird species, make this a veritable African Eden. Based in a wilderness lodge, you can set out on safari by vehicle or mokoro – a traditional wooden dugout canoe.
Northern Australia is home to the world’s largest remaining tropical savanna and boasts a rich biodiversity. In the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory birdlife is abundant, with vast flocks of magpie geese crowding seasonal lakes. Crocodiles frequent the waterways, while in Litchfield National Park you can find impressive termite mounds pimpling the grasslands.
The ancient taiga forests of Eastern Finland are home to a diverse range of wildlife, including wolverine, lynx and brown bear. Rarely seen during the day, these enigmatic creatures can be glimpsed during an overnight stay in a purpose-built hide. With luck, you may even see bear cubs (the best times are July and early August) while other forest species include pine marten, three-toed woodpecker, Siberian jay and great grey owl.
The sparsely populated Catlins Coast in the south-east corner of New Zealand’s South Island comprises deserted beaches, rugged cliffs and temperate rainforest. The area offers an abundance of wildlife including sea lions, fur seals and yellow-eyed penguins. A colony of the latter can be found at Curio Bay, which is also the site of a petrified forest dating back millions of years.
Wedged between the Pacific Coast and the Coast Mountains, Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest protects a vast tract of moss-shrouded temperate rainforest – home to black, brown and white (spirit) bears. Down under, you can track down marsupials and reptiles in forests of soaring Karri trees in south-west Australia, or delve into New Zealand’s equally mesmerising Kauri forests, filled with the haunting cries of kiwis.