To some, wildlife holidays may seem like just another 'adventure', but in reality, the impact of tourism on the ecosystem has been more or less in the gray area. While the monetary aspect is welcome, unbridled number of visitors are often seen as a nuisance to the sustenance of flora and fauna. Which is probably the reason why regions like the Galapagos Islands have a cap on the number of visitors coming to its shores each year.
The efficiency of this measure will be evident a few years down the line. But for now, here are the best places in the world to view our planet's precious wildlife.
It really doesn't matter which destination you pick, but there are a few things that we, as responsible tourists, must keep in mind. Our planet's natural resources, particularly the flora and fauna are under great threat from human interference. Even eco tours in some way, do contribute to the depletion of these resources. Therefore, while it is important to study, understand, and educate ourselves about wildlife, it is our duty to do so responsibly, without inflicting damage.
The best time to go on a Kenyan Safari is from June to December. Witness the Great Migration from July to October.
Kenya has managed to lure travelers for hundreds of years now, and it is definitely understandable why. Kenya's unique geographical diversity is courtesy the Great Rift Valley, an amazing natural divide that runs through the country. An age-old route for animal migration, the rift is surrounded by dormant volcanoes, calderas, and mountain ranges. In the country's northern plains you'll find the elephant, buffalo, rare ones like the reticulated giraffe, Grévy's zebra, and gerenuk, and if you're really lucky, you may even spot the bongo antelope.
Down south is the Maasai Mara―588 sq miles of open plains, woodlands, and riverine forest, home of the Maasai tribe, and site of the Great Migration. As the grazing ground of various species of zebra, giraffe, gazelle, buffalo, and topi, the area sees a profusion of these animals, as well as their predators. Kenya, along with Botswana, Uganda, Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Malawi are countries that have a heavy influx of tourists each year, visiting with the intention of spotting the Big Five. The Big Five comprises lions, Cape buffaloes, African elephants, black and white rhinoceros, and leopards.
Galapagos is fabulous all year round, but the peak season is June to September, and December and January. Remember that the number of tourists allowed are limited.
Legendary naturalist Charles Darwin's followers have the Galapagos Islands to thank for, since the endemic wildlife here formed a significant basis for his Theory of Evolution. The interesting aspect about the wildlife here is that it arrived here either flying, floating or swimming, since the islands have always been separated from the mainland. The fauna in Galapagos hardly includes vicious predators, and as a result, is quite docile. Some of the most remarkable species found on the islands include the Galapagos tortoise (with an average lifespan of 150 years), marine iguana (known to be the only iguana to have adapted to marine life), and the Galapagos penguin (the only penguin species to be found living north of the equator).
With this abundance of natural wealth, the local authorities have majorly clamped tourism businesses in the region, having realized the dangers of an unbridled number of visitors coming here. Getting to Galapagos requires extreme persistence, not to mention a rather loaded wallet, but if and when you do, count yourself among the lucky few.
A visit to the Amazon region can be scheduled anytime of the year, but it must include a visit to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.
After thousands of years of human prevalence on this planet, we still haven't figured out most of our planet's secrets. The Amazon rainforest, in particular, likes to hold its secrets close to its heart. And here in the heart of the Amazon, we often keep unearthing new species of flora and fauna almost each year.
The biodiversity of the Amazon is unparalleled. From vampire bats to piranhas, they all call this dense jungle and its river and streams their home. Thousands of insect, mammal, bird, and plant species have been identified in the region till date―but with the Amazon, there are a lot more waiting to be uncovered.
The finest way of exploring the rainforest would be to take a cruise down the Amazon river. There are quite a few lodges along the riverside as the river flows into Brazil. Staying here is a great way to intimately experience the ways of the wild.
You can only spot the lemurs here in Madagascar, and the best time to be here would be from June to August.
Well, this African island has an entire movie series named after it, which follows the adventures of four incredible animals. So when you actually come to Madagascar, it certainly does not disappoint.
We know how we've been harping about the 'unique' biodiversity of each region this far in the article. However, the uniqueness aspect couldn't be more true in the case of Madagascar, as over 90% of the region's wildlife is unique to the island―you actually cannot find it on the rest of the planet. The lemur, for instance, is endemic to the island, as are the carnivorous fossa, various species of snails, and butterflies.
Orangutans in Malaysian Borneo's Sepilok Sanctuary are protected, and the best time to be here is from May to September.
The rainforest in Borneo happens to be one of the oldest in the world, housing more than 200 species of terrestrial mammals and over 400 species of native birds.
However, what makes Borneo unique is the fact that this forest is one of the few bastions of the endangered Bornean orangutan. It also provides shelter to many endemic forest species, including the Asian elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros, Bornean clouded leopard, Hose's civet, and the dayak fruit bat.
Unfortunately, though, relentless deforestation and human interference has led to the rapid decline of the delicate ecosystem in the region.
If you're on a wildlife watch, late spring (May and June) is a great time to be in Yellowstone.
Possibly being the world's first national park, Yellowstone definitely deserves a mention in this list. The park is positively huge―spanning an area of more than 3,000 square miles, comprising varied landscapes.
The Yellowstone Park is the largest and most famous mega-fauna location on mainland United States. Wildlife enthusiasts coming here hope for a glimpse of grizzly bears, wolves, herds of bison and elk, along with the endangered lynx that live in the park. Other rare animals to be spotted in the park include the very elusive mountain lion and the wolverine.
Around 2 million visitors come to Yellowstone each year, making it one of the most popular national parks in the United States.
The Arctic summer lasts from July to August, which is when you should be here.
Our polar regions harbor uniquely extreme conditions, and that ought to tell us volumes about the wildlife found here. To say that it is cold here is an understatement; but what is more devastating are the icy winds that sweep across the region. And yet, these seemingly harsh conditions support a vast ecosystem which has adapted itself to flourish under such a trying environment.
One can visit Antarctica only between the months of November to March.
Some polar animals have evolved to survive the monstrous cold while other species like birds and whales, migrate long distances each summer, to escape the chill. While the Arctic's biggest draw remains the polar bears, it's penguin land in Antarctica. In addition, there are arctic foxes and wolves, ground squirrels, and snowy owls in the north, whereas the Antarctic sea life includes penguins, blue whales, orcas, colossal squids and fur seals.
The Arctic is not new to human inhabitation, but Antarctica does not have any permanent residents.
The Giant Panda habitat is limited to south and central China. The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center can be visited throughout the year.
The Giant Panda calls south and central China its home, which is reason enough to pay a visit to this nation. Dragons apart, pandas are the symbol of China, and it is heartening to see the efforts made by the country to preserve these wonderful bears, who are known to be challengingly slow procreators.
Those looking to catch a glimpse of the Giant Panda in the wild should visit the Foping National Nature Reserve in Shaanxi Province. Note that these shy creatures are notoriously hard to spot in the wild, and it may take a few days of relentless wandering through the reserve. You'll stand far better chances at Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center in Sichuan Province, a place dedicated to the cause of preservation of the species.
A suitable visit to the Sundarbans has to be scheduled between September and February.
Sundarban is located on the delta of the Ganges river, and comprises dense mangrove forests. Within this treacherous landscape lives the Bengal tiger―one of the most graceful, awesome, and ferocious terrestrial species on the planet. The tigers here are known to be adept at cruising in the saline waters of the delta, and happen to be feared man eaters. Besides tigers, you'll also find fishing cats, leopard cats, macaques, wild boar, Indian grey mongoose, fox, jungle cat, flying fox, pangolin, and chital deer in the area.
The Australian outback can be visited all year round.
Australia is considered to be the world's largest island, and by that logic, it is easy to guess that most of the wildlife here is bound to be endemic. But what makes the Australian wildlife unique is the abundance of marsupials―these are mammals who raise their young in a pouch, unlike placental mammals. What you'll find here then, are koalas, kangaroos, and varied species of possums, bandicoots, wombats, and numbats. A special mention must be made of Australia's (approximately 4,500) marine species, 90% of which are endemic. The WWF conducts specialized eco tours to most of the destinations mentioned here. Besides being informative and educational, these tours help raise money for awareness concerning the precarious state of our environment.