13 Best Destinations for Wildlife and Wilderness
Published on: September 18th, 2017
Last modified: January 24th, 2023
Our planet is absolutely bursting with beautiful landscapes and fascinating ecosystems, each with its own unique population of plants and animals. We believe that experiencing these environments up close is one of the most rewarding parts of travel. Whether you’re meeting orangutans in Borneo, seeing Komodo dragons in Indonesia or witnessing the Great Migration in Kenya, it’s hard not to fall in love with the world’s incredible wildlife.
When you think of wilderness travel, certain destinations might come to mind immediately – places like Sub-Saharan Africa or the Amazon. But there’s natural beauty to discover across the globe, from vast desert plains and towering peaks to pristine beaches and remote islands. These are a few of our top destinations for wilderness and wildlife.
1. The Okavango Delta, Botswana
For the ‘big five’, rare birds and dozens of other species
Without a doubt, the Okavango Delta is one of the best places in the world to see wildlife. It consists of massive plains that flood every year during the dry season, attracting animals from far and wide. Here you can watch herds of elephants gather, see endangered black and white rhinos in the wild and spot all kinds of other species, from the tiniest frogs to the fiercest predators. Stay at Vumbura Plains to be fully immersed in the wild heart of Botswana.
2. Sandakan, Borneo
For orangutans, elephants, rhinos and monkeys
On the northeastern coast of Borneo, you’ll find the wildlife haven of Sandakan. Surrounded by forests, lakes and swamps, this remote outpost is home to pygmy elephants, macaques, crocodiles and many other unique species. Visit the Sepilok Nature Rehabilitation Centre to meet rescued orangutans, Sumatran rhinos, gibbons, sun bears and more. Take a boat trip to Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort for an exclusive and eco-friendly escape.
3. Maasai Mara, Kenya
For wildebeest, cheetahs, lions, giraffes and hippos
Every year the Maasai Mara hosts one of the world’s most breathtaking spectacles: the Great Migration. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and herds of other animals thunder across the Mara River and through the plains. We highly recommend a trip to Kenya to see this stunning show, but it’s also a fantastic wildlife destination all year round. Visit Little Governors’ Camp for a cosy retreat right beside a large watering hole.
4. Southern Peruvian Amazon, Peru
For macaws, monkeys, caimans, giant otters and bird watching
The Amazon Rainforest is unimaginably vast, but you can get a small taste of its majesty in the Southern Peruvian Amazon. Just a short trip from Lima or Cusco, this region includes the Madre de Dios tributary, Manu National Park and Tambopata National Reserve. Here you can spot vibrant birdlife, river otters, enormous black caimans and endless other native species. Settle in at the elegant Inkaterra Reserva or the family-friendly Hacienda Concepción.
5. Ranthambore, India
For tigers, leopards, hyenas, bears and boars
There’s something truly magical about Ranthambore National Park – and not only because it’s one of the world’s best places to see wild tigers. These magnificent cats wander among the ruins of ancient temples and Ranthambore Fort, coexisting with nilgai (Asian antelope), chital (spotted deer) and other unique animals. At the luxurious Sher Bagh hotel, you can travel back in time to the opulence of 1920s-era safaris.
6. The Komodo Islands, Indonesia
For Komodo dragons, wild horses, deer, water buffalo and marine life
As you can guess from the name, these Indonesian islands are best known for their native population of Komodo dragons: fascinating creatures that must be seen to be believed. The islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar make up Komodo National Park, which is also home to dozens of other endemic species. Make sure to explore the gorgeous beaches and underwater ecosystems, and board a luxury yacht to make the most of your time here.
7. The Pantanal, Brazil
For jaguars, capybaras, toucans, tapirs, maned wolves, giant anteaters and otters
Right in the centre of South America, you’ll find a vast and stunningly diverse region known as the Pantanal. Although not as well-known as the nearby Amazon, this part of Brazil encompasses the largest tropical wetlands on earth – and a dazzling variety of wildlife. Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish reside in this remote paradise. You can see many of them around Casa Caiman, a fantastic refuge in the heart of the Pantanal.
8. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
For mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, spotted hyenas and birds
Tucked into the northwestern corner of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is a magical land of mountains and forests. It’s also one of the last remaining havens for the endangered mountain gorilla. Here you can traverse volcanic slopes and rainforests to see these majestic creatures in the wild. Don’t miss Bisate Lodge, with its distinctive thatched-roof mountainside villas offering panoramic views of Mount Bisoke.
9. The Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
For jaguars, pumas, tapirs, margays, ocelots, whales and dolphins
One of Costa Rica’s most inaccessible regions also happened to be among its most biodiverse. The Osa Peninsula has an incredible array of habitats, from mangrove and montane forests to swamps and prairies. It’s home to an abundance of flora and fauna, which you can experience up close in Corcovado National Park. In the calm waters of the Dulce Gulf you’ll find Playa Cativo Eco Lodge, surrounded by a private rainforest and a pristine beach.
10. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
For giant tortoises, sea lions, iguanas, rare birds and more
We can’t talk about the best wilderness destinations without mentioning the Galápagos. This archipelago far off the coast of Ecuador has unique conditions that have allowed many unique species to thrive, from enormous ancient tortoises to the iconic blue-footed booby. The absence of large predators and the animals’ lack of fear of humans makes for ideal wildlife experiences. To see as much as possible – in a sustainable way – we suggest a luxury cruise.
11. Bahía Bustamante, Argentina
For marine birds, humpback whales, sea lions and other coastal species
Bahía Bustamante is a wonderfully remote and rugged stretch of Argentina’s southern coastline. This Patagonian paradise is defined by its petrified forests and striking cliffs, which are home to a fantastic variety of seabirds – including penguins and flamingos. You’re also likely to spot orcas, dolphins and sea lions in the sparkling waters. Explore the white sand beaches or take a boat trip through the tiny islets that speckle the bay.
12. Tasmania, Australia
For Tasmanian devils, wallabies, kangaroos, platypuses, and other native species
Off the southern coast of Australia you’ll find the intriguing island of Tasmania, a treasure trove of natural beauty and biodiversity. More than one third of the island is part of protected wilderness areas, where many of its endemic species reside – including the famous Tasmanian devil. This is an ideal destination for adventurous travellers and outdoor enthusiasts. We highly recommend a stay at the incomparable Saffire Freycinet lodge.
13. The Cloud Forests, Ecuador
For sloths, monkeys, jaguars, pumas, bears and birds
The Cloud Forests of Ecuador feel straight out of a dream, with rich rainforests tumbling down the Andes toward the ocean. Blankets of clouds cover the hillsides, creating a mystical atmosphere that makes every experience unforgettable. There are seemingly infinite species of birds, mammals and reptiles, as well as thousands of types of orchids to discover. Mashpi Lodge is the perfect home base, nestled into the natural environment with unbelievable views.