If you love animals and beautiful scenery, you might want to think about taking a wildlife holiday for your next trip. There’s something incredibly special about seeing wild animals feeding, playing and interacting in their natural habitat – and when you combine the experience with plenty of adventure and exploration in stunning surroundings, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have an exciting, memorable, and potentially life-changing trip.
Whether it’s whale watching in Iceland, going on a tiger safari in India, gorilla trekking in Rwanda, or observing the legendary wildlife of the Galapagos, there’s a wildlife holiday for everyone.
You don’t even need to travel to a far-flung country to enjoy a wildlife break, as our own shores are home to fascinating animals and birds. So, to help get you inspired, here are 10 of the best holidays for animal lovers.
1. Mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda
Watching mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is described as a life-altering experience – and according to David Attenborough, it’s the greatest wildlife encounter on Earth. Gorillas are the world’s largest primates, and these gentle giants are mostly found in Rwanda’s mysterious and forest-cloaked Virunga Mountains.
Despite a turbulent past, Rwanda today is safe, and during a trekking experience, you’ll get to witness its jaw-dropping beauty. Following expert guides, you’ll trek up soaring mountains and over endless green hills as you seek out these intelligent, graceful animals.
Gorilla trekking isn’t cheap, but the profits are used to protect the gorillas’ habitat and the gorillas themselves. So you can take comfort in the knowledge that you’re helping ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures.
Encountering mountain gorillas and observing their power is something you’ll remember forever – and few things can prepare you for just how cute the babies are! Rwanda is great for primates in general, and you have a good chance of seeing olive baboons, blue monkeys, golden monkeys, and red-tailed monkeys on your trip too.
To find out more about mountain gorilla trekking, and to research different tour operators, head over to Visit Rwanda.
2. Puffin spotting in Scotland
If you’d prefer something a bit closer to home, why not head to the northern tip of our very own country? Vast swathes of Scotland remain wild and unspoilt, providing a tranquil haven for wildlife, and the Scottish isles are some of the best places in the world to spot seabirds like puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and fulmars.
The Atlantic puffin in particular is one of the most photogenic birds on the planet, and if you’re into photography you’ll love the chance to capture these lovely creatures in such beautiful surroundings. The Hebrides islands are all great puffin-spotting destinations, and each island boasts breathtaking scenery – from rugged mountains to crashing emerald waves.
As well as puffins, you may be lucky enough to spot whales, dolphins, and seals, as well as otters and majestic golden and white-tailed eagles. The Scottish isles are also known for their pretty fishing villages and historic ruins, so this is a wildlife holiday that packs in plenty of culture and history, too.
For more on puffin spotting in the Hebrides, and to research where and when to go, check out the Outer Hebrides website.
3. Grizzly bear watching in Canada
If you’re up for travelling further afield – and you’re interested in animals that are bigger and a little more intimidating than puffins – you may be interested in a grizzly bear watching holiday. The grizzly is a subspecies of the North American brown bear and one of the best places to spot them is Canada.
British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies are known for their endless forests, mighty mountains, and dramatic coastlines, and this awe-inspiring landscape is home to the magnificent grizzlies. Watching an animal that’s so big and powerful is an exhilarating experience – and you may even be lucky enough to spot a cub!
A grizzly bear watching holiday usually involves staying in lodges deep in the bears’ natural habitat and being led by expert guides who’ll help you spot the bears – and stay safe. You may trek through places like Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Bella Coola, or the Pacific Coast Mountains, all of which are dazzlingly beautiful.
To find out more about grizzly bear watching holidays, head over to Canadian Affair’s website.
4. A Big Five safari in Africa
Of all the wildlife holidays in the world, the most famous is definitely the Big Five African safari. The big five animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo, and while the term was once used by hunters to refer to the five most difficult African animals to hunt, it’s now a common safari term.
The Big Five are found in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, and where you decide to go depends on the type of safari you want to enjoy. South Africa and Namibia are good for self-drive safaris, whereas Botswana and Zambia are better for Big Five bush walks – accompanied by expert guides, of course!
South Africa is the most reliable country to spot all the big five, particularly around Kruger National Park. Depending on when you go, you might want to follow the Great Migration across Kenya, where over 1.5 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras trek 1,800 miles from the Serengeti to the Masai Mari.
While the Big Five are the main focus of an African safari, you have a good chance of spotting hippos, hyenas, zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, and antelopes too – so this definitely a wildlife holiday that packs a serious punch!
To find out more about spotting the Big Five and to check out safari tour options in different countries, check out Explore’s website. Or why not have a read of our article; 8 incredible African safari animals and where to see them?
5. Hang out with orangutans in Borneo
Known for their distinctive red hair, expressive eyes, gentle nature, and human-like mannerisms, orangutans are one of the world’s most fascinating animals. But they’re also critically endangered and seeing these primates swinging through the jungle canopy is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There are many different orangutan experiences in Borneo. If you want to enjoy plenty of adventure on your holiday, you can go on an orangutan trekking experience, where you’ll hike through the wild and untamed forests of Borneo. During these experiences, you may be able to spot wild boar, crocodiles, and many different monkey species, too.
Or, if you’re more focused on conservation, you might want to volunteer at an orangutan sanctuary or rehabilitation centre. Parts of the Borneo jungle are used to rehabilitate rescued adults and babies, and volunteering here means you can get up close to these great apes, participate in their feeding sessions, and help to protect their habitat.
To find out more about the different ways you can hang out with orangutans in Borneo, head over to Responsible Travel.
6. Puma tracking in Patagonia
Located at the southernmost tip of South America, Patagonia is one of the world’s last frontiers. Here you can find some of the wildest, most dramatic, and desolately beautiful landscapes in the world – from soaring mountains to impossibly blue lagoons and seemingly unending ice caps.
This barren yet bewitching region is also home to one of the world’s most elusive predators, the puma – also known as the “ghost of the Andes”. The puma is incredibly tricky to spot unless you’re on an actual puma tracking trip, and they’re most commonly found in the Torres del Paine National Park, in Chilean Patagonia.
Known for its jagged peaks, bright blue icebergs, and golden grassland, trekking across this unique wilderness is a remarkable experience in itself – and spotting this mysterious cat only makes it more special. Keep an eye out for the mighty Andean condor, as well as grey foxes, Chilean flamingos, and more!
To find out more about where you can spot pumas, as well as the different types of puma tracking tours available, check out Swoop Patagonia.
7. Penguin watching in Antarctica
The vast, frozen continent of Antarctica is a land of extremes. It’s the coldest, driest, windiest, iciest and highest of all the world’s main landmasses, and though it’s officially uninhabited by humans, plenty of animals live here – from seals to penguins and whales to albatrosses.
It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by the remoteness and wilderness of Antarctica – and once you’ve seen its vast ice shelves, towering glaciers, snow-covered mountains, and glistening icebergs, it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by its surreal beauty, too.
If you’re into birdwatching, you’ll be spoiled for choice, because these icy shores are home to many different species of penguin, including the emperor, chinstrap, adelie, and gentoo. Few birds are as captivating as the tuxedo-wearing penguin, and seeing them waddle cutely on land before swimming gracefully through water is exhilarating.
Millions of other seabirds soar in the Antarctic skies and the ocean itself also teems with life; leopard seals, Weddell seals, minke whales, and the titans of the sea, blue whales, swim in these freezing waters. If you’re brave enough, you can even put your scuba gear on and join them!
To find out more about the different types of wildlife holidays you can take in Antarctica, head over to Discover the World.
8. Explore the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos Islands are like nowhere else in the world – and many of the creatures that live here are found nowhere else, too.
Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these 13 volcanic islands somehow managed to avoid human colonisation until the 21st century – and it was here that Charles Darwin developed his theory of natural selection.
Once viewed as inhospitable, the Galápagos Islands are a living laboratory, and the exciting yet delicate ecosystem has become legendary when it comes to showcasing biodiversity. From sea lions to iguanas, albatrosses to tortoises, sharks to penguins, the variety of wildlife here is unrivalled.
The scenery is just as stunning – and with lunar-like lava fields and rocky volcanic craters, these islands aren’t your typical tropical paradise. On a Galápagos holiday, you can cruise around the archipelago, snorkel in turquoise waters, hike up volcanic calderas, and relax on red sand beaches.
To find out more about visiting the Galápagos Islands and to research the difference between organised and independent tours, check out the Galápagos website.
9. A tiger safari in India
Bengal tigers are one of the most beautiful, graceful, and elusive predators in the world – but they’re also one of the most endangered. Seeing these powerful big cats prowl seductively through their natural habitat is an enormously exhilarating experience and a memory you’ll cherish forever.
India is home to more than three-quarters of the world’s tiger population, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to spot. A tiger safari is your best chance of seeing wild tigers and even then it requires patience and perseverance. On a tiger safari, you’ll be led by expert trackers, whose trained eyes and ears will ensure your tour is productive and safe.
Some of the best places to see tigers are Pench, Kanha, Ranthambore, and Bandhavgarh National Parks, and many tiger safaris will take you to several of them. This means you’ll have plenty of time to admire India’s gorgeous scenery, where the dense forests look straight out of The Jungle Book.
To find out more about the different types of tiger safaris you can take, as well as the national parks where most tigers are found, head over to the Natural World Safaris website.
10. Whale watching in Iceland
Boasting ice-covered volcanoes, glittering glaciers, bubbling mud pools, gushing geysers and the mesmerising aurora borealis, Iceland is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It’s also home to the world’s largest and gentlest mammal, the blue whale.
If you’re interested in whale watching, Iceland is unparalleled. Aside from the blue whale, sperm whales, minke whales, humpback whales, fin whales, and orcas all make their home in these chilly waters, along with porpoises and dolphins – so your chances of spotting at least one are very high.
Seeing one of these mighty mammals breaching the surface of the ocean before disappearing into its depths will take your breath away – as will the views of the dramatic coastline. Many tours combine whale watching with the northern lights, and others include city breaks in colourful Reykjavik, so there’s a holiday for everyone.
To find out more about whale watching – from the best times to go to the different types of tours you can take – check out the Visit Iceland website.
If you’re fascinated by nature and wildlife and want to spend your next break marvelling at wild animals and beautiful landscapes, there are all kinds of holidays you can take.
Or, perhaps you like the idea of exploring sultry jungles and observing intelligent, colourful animals in their own habitat. In which case, a tiger safari in India or an orangutan experience in Borneo might be up your street.
If you’re drawn to remote wildernesses and rare animals, you might want to visit either Patagonia or the Galápagos Islands, where you can spot the mysterious puma or the swimming iguana.
Alternatively, if you think landscapes covered with snow and ice are the most beautiful, you might want to go whale watching in Iceland, or penguin spotting in the Antarctic.
Whatever type of animal you’re most fascinated by, and whichever type of scenery you’re most drawn to, there’s a wildlife holiday out there for everyone.