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Best Destinations for Wildlife and Wilderness

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Written by
Emily Opie, Jennifer Richt & Rachel O'Leary

Our planet's waters and jungles are rich with wildlife just waiting to be discovered. Along with jaw-dropping landscapes, there are countless opportunities to encounter unforgettable wildlife experiences across various regions.

While some can be challenging to get to these extraordinary and often untouched destinations are well worth the effort.

From endangered orangutans in Borneo to Komodo dragons, discover all kinds of incredible flora and fauna in the best destinations for wildlife and wilderness.

Unspoilt natural scenery
Rwanda
Safari wilderness
Kenya
Marine haven
Indonesia

1) The Okavango Delta, Botswana

The vast flood plains of the Okavango Delta were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Spanning over 2 million hectares in northern Botswana the inland river delta floods every year and transforms into an oasis for the wildlife that calls it home. 

A local boat cruising through the river in Botswana

When you visit you’ll be able to see all of the ‘big five’ including, thanks to recent conservation and reintroduction programmes, both white and black rhinos. The Delta really is home to creatures great and small with everything from huge herds of elephants and flocks of beautiful birdlife to the tiniest of frogs. And where these animals go, their predators follow. 

An elephant crossing the river of The Okavango Delta in Botswana

2) Sandakan, Borneo

Sandakan is the gateway town to the Kinabatagan River wilderness and offshore islands in the Sulu Sea. Situated on Borneo’s northeastern coast, it’s well worth the journey.

The surrounding forests, mangroves, swamps and lakes are home to some of the island’s most unique and wondrous wildlife including Proboscis monkeys, macaques, pygmy elephants, lizards and crocodiles, as well as birdlife including kingfishers and hornbills.

In Sandakan itself you’ll find the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre where rescued or orphaned orangutans, as well as sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and elephants, can be seen up close before you embark on a trip into the rainforest in hope of spotting them in the wild.

3) Maasai Mara, Kenya

Every year around July and August the Maasai Mara hosts one of the most spectacular natural shows on earth and the epic herds of the Great Migration thunder across the Mara River in their thousands, avoiding the jaws of the waiting crocodiles. It’s an incredible sight and one that’s surely on the bucket list of any animal lover. 

The Maasai Mara has plenty to offer throughout the rest of the year too, with its world-leading conservation areas home to populations of cheetahs, lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and more. Located in the southwest of Kenya on the border with Tanzania, the reserve is named after the Maasai people who inhabit the area, and the Mara River which flows through the plains.

4) Southern Peruvian Amazon, Peru

Peru’s generous swathe of the Amazon rainforest and mighty river system has long been regarded as having the best and most frequent wildlife sightings in South America. There are two Amazon regions in Peru: the larger river systems around Iquitos in the North and the Madre de Dios tributary in the south near Puerto Maldonado.

The latter is where the best Amazon expedition lodges can be found, with plenty of land and water-based activities available to explore the Tambopata National Reserve and the Manu National Park.

5) The Komodo Islands, Indonesia

The three Indonesian islands Komodo, Rinca and Padar are what make up the Komodo National Park (marine and land), all typically remote and rugged and with only one village and no vehicles. The park was set up to protect and conserve many of the endemic animals such as the Komodo Drago, but also other species such as Timor Deer, wild horses, water buffalo and wild pigs. However its the waters and rich marine environment around these islands that afford the park its greatest renown and protection.

It has 250 recorded species of coral, plus many types of sponge, bone fishes, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, whales and even dugongs.  Those who make the journey here are rewarded with some of the most beautiful beaches too, unspoilt and solitary.

6) The Pantanal, Brazil

As the World’s largest wetlands, the size of the Pantanal is difficult to digest yet its size has much to do with its remote appeal and arguably the reason for remaining so unspoilt. With a rainbow array of habitats to support a varied and prolific collection of species, Brazil‘s Pantanal offers the best wildlife safari in all of South America on account of its wide-open terrain especially when you compare it to the Amazon rainforest.

It is home to many exotic and endangered species including hyacinth macaws, toucans, tapir, giant anteaters, giant otters, the maned wolf, jaguar and capybara. You can explore and observe the wildlife of these wetlands by jeep, plane, foot or on horseback.

7) Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park, tucked into the north-west corner of Rwanda, is one of the last remaining havens for some of our closest relatives: the mountain gorillas. The park gained international fame thanks to the American primatologist Dian Fossey who spent many years researching there and founded a centre to help protect the gorillas on the edge of extinction. Her work was immortalised in the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.

The Park is home to five out of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga mountains massif and has a beautiful and varied landscape. From gentle slopes and open bush to rainforests, bamboo forests, swamps and even lakes, the Park is the perfect habitat for other species too, including golden monkeys, spotted hyenas and many species of birds. 

8) Corcovado and the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

National Geographic calls this “the most biologically intense place on Earth”, based on the great array of habitats (montane, cloud, prairie, swamp and mangrove) and tree species that exist on this remote peninsula – and this really is one of Costa Rica’s most inaccessible regions.

Home to rare mammals such as jaguars, pumas, tapirs, margays, and ocelots plus abundant birdlife, not to mention the humpback whales and dolphins that cavort in the gulf inlet, the other highlight is that you won’t be bumping into many humans either.

9) The Galápagos, Ecuador

No list of wildlife and wilderness destinations could be complete without mention of the iconic Galápagos Islands. Situated some 600 miles from the Ecuadorian mainland, the island group has a distinct lack of large predators, allowing the unique wildlife to thrive. A bonus of this security is that the animals have no fear of humans, allowing you to get closer than you can almost anywhere else.

When you explore the islands on an expedition cruise you can expect to see giant tortoises, vibrant birdlife, playful sea lions, mesmerising iguanas and much more. A fantastic destination for the adventurous, you can go snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and even diving with sharks.

10) Bahia Bustamante, Argentina

Along this wild and remote stretch of Patagonian coastline in southern Argentina you will find some of the richest marine bird life to be found anywhere on the Planet. Its rugged coastline is pitted with petrified forests and stark cliffs, and is also where many marine mammals such as humpback whales and sea lions choose to frolic, mate and feed.

Way off the beaten track, Bahia Bustamante is a rewarding destination for marine wildlife and well worth the journey. Choose to explore the region and fauna by boat, horseback, bicycle or foot.

Talk to one of our expert travel designers and start creating your once-in-a-lifetime wildlife adventure.