One of the biggest highlights of travel for us has been the opportunity to get to see so much more of the natural world. Getting to know and understand so much more about wildlife from all over the world has been an experience we feel we’ve been so lucky to have.
Whilst we’ve definitely always been animal lovers, we didn’t start our round the world trip with a focus on seeing lots of wildlife. We knew (or hoped) we’d be encountering some interesting animals on our way but it’s only in recent months that we’ve agreed that wildlife adventures have been such a special part of our travels and have tried to include as many wildlife travel destinations as possible.
Galápagos Islands: Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas & More
It’s so hard to choose one wildlife experience from the Galápagos that we decided we just couldn’t do it. The animals we saw on our trip here were just incredible and it’s definitely the ultimate wildlife travel destination. With no fear of humans and so much work being invested in their protection and well being, we were able to get up close to so many species we’d only ever dreamed of seeing.
Just some of the highlights of our trip included seeing giant tortoises, blue footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, marine & land iguanas and flightless cormorants, but really there was too much incredible wildlife to count.
Australia: Snorkelling with Sea Turtles & Searching for Kangaroos
Australia’s more notorious wildlife may be better avoided for those who don’t have a fondness for dangerous jellyfish, snakes or spiders but there’s plenty of safer animals to try and spot on your travels. On our trip down the east coast we were lucky enough to snorkel with sea turtles and some amazing marine life, as well as hanging out with kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and more. The biodiversity here is incredible and there are many many animals that you just can’t see anywhere else, making it a great spot for wildlife tourism.
Philippines: The World’s Smallest Monkey & Some Pretty Special Bugs
We got to see some awesome creatures in the Philippines and it’s a surprisingly great wildlife tourist destination. The standout has to be heading to a Tarsier Sanctuary, where we got to see the smallest and cutest monkeys in the world. We also took a night cruise to see fireflies which was a really special experience. No pictures because iPhone… but one day we’ll hopefully see some again and will have a decent camera. Just imagine a regular tree looking like it’s lit up for Christmas with thousands of tiny lights floating around the branches and you’ve pretty much got what it’s like – I couldn’t believe how bright they were!
Although we sadly didn’t get a chance you can also visit spots where it’s possible to snorkel and dive with whale sharks and thresher sharks on Cebu and Malapascua respectively. Be sure to visit reputable spots which are environmentally friendly and don’t attract the sharks by feeding them – which makes them unnecessarily reliant on humans.
Borneo: Orangutans, Probiscis Monkeys & Pygmy Elephants
Probably one of the most famous wildlife travel destinations we’ve visited, Borneo was well worth the trip. The environmental damage that’s been done in Borneo is pretty devastating but there are sanctuaries working really hard to try and turn things around and protect what wildlife is left. Without a doubt the best spot we visited in Malaysian Borneo was the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary – watching these beautiful animals learn how to live in the wild before they are then released back to the jungle is just amazing.
Other highlights from Borneo included some awesome bird life, Pygmy elephants which we just about caught a glimpse of and the weirdly fascinating Probiscis monkeys.
Indonesia: Komodo Dragons, Manta Rays & Flying Foxes
There’s a reason that Indonesia is a world class snorkel and dive location – jumping into the ocean here is like diving straight into an aquarium. We were incredibly lucky and snorkelled with sea turtles, giant manta rays, stingrays and more tropical fish than we could count.
We watched dolphins swim alongside our boat in the morning and saw thousands upon thousands of flying foxes rising out of the mangroves en masse and making their way across the ocean to find fruit at nearby farms. Not to mention the most famous attraction of all – the rare and dangerous Komodo Dragons which are the largest lizard surviving on earth. Indonesia is one of the best wildlife travel destinations – second only to the Galápagos Islands in our opinion.
Sri Lanka: Elusive Leopards, Majestic Elephants & A Million Monkeys
Sri Lanka packs a mighty punch when it comes to wildlife when you consider how small it is. The relatively tiny island has tropical oceans, beautiful beaches, rainforest, plains and tea plantations to name just a few landscapes – meaning it’s packed with animals.
There are several elephant orphanages and sanctuaries you can visit – we went to Pinnewala although have sadly recently read that it’s standards when it comes to animals in its care isn’t the best. We also went on a fantastic jeep safari where we spotted a leopard (!), many beautiful tropical birds and some terrifyingly large crocodiles. While sitting and enjoying a cup of tea one day we also had a mongoose run by our table which was a bonus encounter!
India: Tiger Spotting & Sloth Bears
We very recently spent some time travelling in Northern India, and had planned in a couple of days spent in Ranthambore National Park – one of the best spots in the country for seeing tigers. Our morning safari turned up plenty of amazing creatures, from deer and mongooses (mongeese?), to peacocks and sloth bears, but we were slightly disappointed that we hadn’t managed to catch sight of a tiger.
Deciding to forget the budget – these safaris are mega expensive, especially for India – we gave it one last shot and booked ourselves in for an afternoon safari, where about 20 minutes before the end of our allotted time, we were lucky enough to see two beautiful tigers, sunning themselves by a small watering hole. It was honestly the most incredible thing, watching these enormous animals rolling around and stretching in the sunshine like house cats on a window ledge.
Wildlife Travel Destinations Still On Our Bucket List
Of course there are many places with amazing wildlife that we haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit (hopefully soon!). Here are some more brilliant spots that are currently sitting on our bucket list…
Kenya: Masai Mara, Giraffe Manor & The Wildebeest Migration
The great migration takes place around June each year and I’ve been avidly watching for people’s updates on Facebook and Instagram. The wildlife you can see in Kenya and many other controls in Africa is just behind words and makes it one of our dream wildlife travel locations.
For us, Africa is definitely a continent we haven’t seen anywhere enough of and we’d love to start our adventures here on a Kenyan safari. Incidentally I’m also desperate to visit Zambia where you can see mountain gorillas in the world and – bonus fact – where apparently the moon can be so bright that you can comfortably read by moonlight. If anyone could verify this for me before I book flights that would be great!
Madagascar: Ring Tailed Lemurs, Tropical Birds
Another African location on the list is Madagascar which needs no further explanation really – just watch the film!
A Note On Responsible Wildlife Travel
When you’re headed to any of these, or other, wildlife travel destinations, responsible tourism becomes even more important. I’ll hold my hands up and say that we’ve made our fair share of mistakes, from accidentally taking tours in Thailand that included elephant rides (that we sat out) to visiting the wrong Tarsier sanctuary in the Philippines that isn’t known for prioritising the welfare of its animals.
It’s not always easy to find out all the information when researching and planning these trips but it does make a huge difference to try and support companies and charities who are working to protect wildlife. So many of the species that people travel to see are endangered and everyone should have a chance to see these creatures so my belief is that we should all try to be a bit more responsible in an effort to do our bit.
Experiences to 100% avoid include anything where you can ride elephants, pose for close up pictures with tigers and similar. *Lecture over*.