The 8 Best Places to Go on Safari outside Africa
When you picture the perfect safari, chances are the first place that comes to mind is Africa. And for good reason – it’s one of the world’s top destinations for wildlife, with countless private game reserves and conservancies to visit. It’s also home to legendary spectacles like the Great Migration and iconic species, from giraffes and lions to mountain gorillas and monkeys.
There’s no doubt that the classic African Safari is an essential experience – but what if you want to explore other destinations? According to our travel designers, there are plenty of other places on earth where you can witness incredible animals in the wild.
Whether snorkelling through the Great Barrier Reef, trekking through the Arctic tundra or traversing the Amazon, here are a few of our favourite places to go on safari outside Africa.
The land down under is home to all kinds of unique wildlife, from kangaroos and koalas to Tasmanian devils and dingoes. The vast interior region also offers sweeping landscapes and endless skies, making it the ideal destination for a safari in Australia.
No trip to the Outback is complete without a visit to Uluru, a red monolith with historic and spiritual significance. But there are also adventures to be had in the remote Top End, the coastal Great Ocean Road, the Daintree Rainforest and of course the Great Barrier Reef.
If you’ve ever wanted to see tigers in the wild, India is the place for you. The country has several reserves and national parks dedicated to protecting these majestic animals, as well as a variety of other fascinating species.
Kanha Tiger Reserve and Panna National Park are among the best places for an Indian safari, promising sightings of not only tigers but also deer, sloth bears, leopards and hyenas. Or visit Ranthambore National Park to see wild tigers wandering through ancient temple ruins.
3. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a breathtakingly beautiful country with an eclectic mix of cultures – and ideal conditions for a relaxing safari. Head to Yala National Park to see the country’s apex predator: the leopard. The park has one of the world’s highest concentrations of this elegant feline.
Gal Oya National Park is an equally enticing option. It’s much more remote, creating a truly exclusive safari experience. Here you can see Asian elephants swimming between the lake’s islets, as well as other species like langurs, sloth bears, wild boar, buffalo and crocodiles.
This country may be best known for the Himalayas and Mount Everest, but the rest of Nepal also has plenty to offer. You can take a tropical safari through Chitwan National Park, whose forests are filled with hundreds of species – including the endangered one-horned rhino.
Bardia National Park is another great option, offering raw and untouched wilderness where you’re likely to spot elephants, leopards, crocodiles and even dolphins. But the park is best known for its Royal Bengal tigers.
The most iconic animal in Borneo is undoubtedly the orangutan – but this South East Asian island is also home to a variety of other rare species. Here you can see endangered pygmy elephants, Malayan sunbears, rhinos, monkeys and more.
From its soaring peaks and lush rainforests to its idyllic beaches, Borneo is a wholly unique safari destination. We recommend the Danum Valley for a thrilling night safari, and a trip to the Sepilok Nature Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan to meet rescued and orphaned animals.
Brazil is an essential destination for a South American safari, thanks in no small part to the enormous Amazon. Beyond the millions of animals we already know of, new species are constantly being discovered. You can see many of them in the wild on an Amazon river safari.
Apart from the Amazon, Brazil is also home to the world’s largest wetlands area: the Pantanal. This vibrant region features all kinds of habitats and hundreds of species, including jaguars, capybaras, tapirs, toucans, macaws and many more.
7. The Galápagos Islands
Whether by land or by sea, the Galápagos offer some of the most unique safari experiences on the planet. This remote archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is world-famous for its unique wildlife, from giant tortoises to blue-footed boobies and beyond.
If you choose to explore the islands on land, you can stay at a safari-style camp or luxury lodge. But we highly recommend taking to the high seas on a Galápagos cruise, which will allow you to see as many islands and animals as possible during your trip. However you explore, we recommend a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Centre for in depth insights into Darwin’s evolution research and current conservation studies.
8. Costa Rica
The Central American country of Costa Rica is a veritable paradise of sandy coasts, jungles, volcanoes and cloud forests. It’s also a fantastic place to see all kinds of animals, from capuchins, ocelots, jaguars and pumas to humpback whales and dolphins.
The Osa Peninsula hosts all of these species – and many more – in its incredibly biodiverse ecosystems. The Guanacaste Coast is also ideal for animal lovers, as it encompasses various wildlife reserves and national parks… not to mention absolutely gorgeous beaches.
Luxury safari lodges across the globe
Lapa Rios$$$$$You don’t have to forego luxury in favour of natural beauty at the safari-style eco-lodge Lapa Rios. Located in one of the most diverse primary rainforests in the world, the Corcovado National Park, this ethically-responsible hotel does all it can to blend inconspicuously into its delicate surroundings and to create as little disturbance to the environment as possible. Guests enjoy exceptional intimacy with nature in authentic comfort. Its lodgings are 17 simple, spacious and stylish open-sided thatch bungalows decorated with bamboo furniture, warm wood flooring, and private bathrooms with two showers. There are two spacious new lapa villas with plunge pools, and four new premier villas with balconies. As such Lapa Rios’ assimilation into its rainforest habitat means that you often get toucans visiting your bungalow balcony, and the adventure and wildlife activities have never been so close to hand. It’s the perfect place to escape and unwind. There is WiFi available throughout the lodge. The hotel and each bungalow have sweeping views of the Pacific and rainforest canopies, and it’s a short downhill walk to a quiet and beautiful beach for a dip in the ocean. The main lodge has a high roof and open sides, magically lit by candlelight in the evenings. Tuck into hearty meals made using responsibly-caught local seafood, ethically-sourced meat and fresh vegetables at Brisa Azul Restaurant and Bar. And sip on organic South American wines with your fellow guests as the sunsets.
Galapagos Safari Camp$$$$$A truly unique way to enjoy the wonderful nature of the Galapagos islands. Set in 55-hectare grounds in a remote corner of Santa Cruz island, the GSC camp has just nine large and very well appointed safari style tents. Each is appointed with private bathroom with a hot water shower. The tents are spaced well and have a large double bed and private balcony from which to enjoy the views. The new family suite has three bedrooms suite (master and two twins), and its location next to the main lodge makes it an ideal option for families who favour more private and cohesive lodging. All the tents surround the main and very elegant contemporary lodge complete with restored antiques and furnishings installed by its well-travelled owners. There is a large main communal area where meals are served and a lounge to relax in. The hotel also boasts an infinity pool from which to admire the landscape. A variety of activities to explore the island and surrounds are possible from the camp. The camp is also renowned for its sustainable and positive impact efforts, including projects aimed at reforestation and protection of endemic flora.
Barra Mansa$$$$$A wonderful lodge set a the wildlife rich Southern Pantanal. This is one of the most protected areas in the Pantanal, meaning the wildlife is more abundant and the flora unspoilt. The star of the show here are the activities which will be entirely personalised for you. You’ll talk with your guide at the beginning of the stay and they’ll help to put a program together for you, based on what you want to see and do. The lodge has just five rooms and is located on a stretch of the Rio Negro, it even has a small river ‘beach’ to relax by. Barra Mansa is probably one of the best places in all of South America to see wildlife.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge$$$$$This award-winning luxury lodge nestled deep in the Danum Valley’s pristine lowland rainforest setting is a truly wondrous wildlife experience undertaken in fine comfort. Thirty-one wooden chalets sit beside the Danum River and right in the heart of Orang-utan and Asian Elephant territory. Each come with private veranda as your own lookout point, en suite bathrooms, hot water and fan. Due to its impressive location, Borneo Rainforest Lodge offers exceptional wildlife activities and the small number of guests here make these more personal too. Explore the pristine flora and fauna on guided treks, trails and safari drives. The lodge, which is a two hour drive from Lahad Datu, carries out important conservation projects alongside a green policy to help protect its incredible surrounds.
Chena Huts$$$$$To the southern edge of Yala National Park, the luxurious Chena Huts sit overlooking a beach where turtles lay eggs at night and elephants venture down from the jungle to play in the surf. It is bordered by forest and a saline lake home to ibises, painted storks and even flamingos. There are just 14 thatched ‘huts’ set around the property, though calling these sweeping thatched pavilions – each with a living area, bedroom, freestanding bathtub and shaded outdoor deck with built-in 5m plunge pool – is an understatement. The Basses restaurant takes its name from the nearby reefs and lighthouse and is suitably nautical in its theme. Private dining experiences can be organised, whether on the beach under the stars or by a camp fire surrounded by nature. There’s also a swimming pool with poolside bar concealed behind a waterfall and an Ayurveda spa in which to unwind. As well as safaris into the Ruhuna block of Yala National Park, other nearby attractions include fabulous birding in Bundala National Park, and the Great and Little Basses reefs, off which blue and humpback whales congregate and dolphins frolic. Kataragama, an ancient forest shrine on the edge of Yala that attracts tens of thousands of Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims in July and August, is close by too.
Banjaar Tola$$$$$Overlooking the heart Kanha Tiger Reserve from the banks of the Banjaar River, Banjaar Tola is an African-style luxury safari camp with a dash of chic modern style twinned with local touches such as Bastar tribal artwork, hand-crafted furniture and rich block-printed Madhya Pradesh fabrics. The camp itself has 18 tents, split into two groups of nine to ensure an intimate safari experience. Each feature bamboo floors and canvas walls with glass doors leading out onto a floating veranda and beautiful views of the river. Delicious regional fare is served on the spacious dining decks or in the heart of the sal forest lit by lanterns. There’s also a swimming pool to watch wildlife from and library in which to find out more between twice daily game drives. You can also enjoy a personalized cookery lesson from the chef and enjoy a relaxing spa treatment in the wilderness.
Head into the cold for a Snow Safari
For an even more epic adventure, head to the winter wonderland of Antarctica. On a luxury voyage through the White Continent, you’re likely to spot seals, whales, penguins and other species that are uniquely adapted to survive in this extreme environment.
Our favourite snow safari hotels and cruises
Octola$$$$$The team at Octola pride themselves on welcoming you into a luxurious home-from-home, where you have the space to unwind and feel truly in touch with nature. This secluded haven is far removed from the crowds, but still affords you the best in comfort and personalised service. Octola’s has been inspired by the style of Lapp and Sámi tradition. Even the lodge’s shape has been derived from the traditional Lapp ‘laavu’ buildings, that in the past used to provide shelter for the people living the nomadic lifestyle. Settling into a wooden chalet is truly the essence of Lapland, offers you an authentic Arctic experience. Enjoy total privacy surrounded by the wilderness and spend your days enjoying some of the various outdoor Arctic activities on offer in the area. Octola’s team of wilderness guides, chef and butler will all ensure you have a memorable stay. Take a seat in the dining room and enjoy a sumptuous menu of Nordic cuisine featuring the freshest regional produce. With 10 bedrooms available, the retreat can either be booked out for exclusive use, or you can book a wing.
Jávri Lodge$$$$$Once the private lodge of Finnish president Urho Kekkonen, today Jávri Lodge is a beautiful hideaway located 250km north of the Arctic Circle, surrounded by the lakes and forests of the Urho Kekkonen National Park. The lodge is built in a traditional Lappish style and decor is simple and elegant but with the warmth and cosiness you would expect from a Scandinavian property. Windows in the bedrooms and the common areas look out over the forest and there is nothing more relaxing than curling up with a cup of coffee and gazing out across this magical landscape – keeping your eyes peeled for the northern lights that often make an appearance in the clear Arctic sky. Local, seasonal ingredients including fish from nearby Lake Inari and fruit from the forest are used in the kitchen to create beautiful and unique dishes. Enjoy with a glass of wine from the lodge’s extensive collection. There is an indoor pool and sauna and when you want to get out and explore, there is the option to go snowmobiling, snowshoeing or ice fishing.
Treehotel$$$$$More than simply cabins tucked away in a forest, the rooms at this contemporary treehouse hotel in Harads are marvels of engineering and works of art, designed with sustainability principles in mind. Whether you’re relaxing on the net patio of the Seventh Room, or gazing out over the forest from the Dragonfly, your stay will be exceptional, luxurious and truly memorable. The seven unique rooms are situated above ground in a pine forest, a celebration of design, taste and nature. The Seventh Room is located ten metres up in the trees, boasting panoramic windows, which offer views of the Lule River, and skylights in the bedrooms are ideal for admiring the Northern Lights. The patio level is a net, stretched around the trunk of a pine tree, allowing you to lie back and listen to the sounds of the forest. The room itself is luxuriously modern with Scandinavian wood and fine textures. The other vastly different rooms include The Cabin, The UFO, The Bird’s Nest, The Mirror Cube, The Blue Cone and the Dragonfly. Britta’s Pensionat, a short walk from the rooms, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a 1930s-50s setting. The menu changes daily according to what fresh produce is available. Guests can enjoy the bar, television area, sauna and relaxation area. There are a variety of activities for guests to participate in depending on the season, including hiking, mountain biking, moose safaris, fishing and photography.
Icehotel$$$$$When it comes to finding rooms with that little something extra, the Icehotel is hard to beat. This hotel and art exhibition was first built in 1989 and has been redesigned and built from scratch every year since. Water from the River Torne provides ice for the hotel and a team of skilled and hardy workers chip, carve and chisel until the building is complete. There is a mix of warm and cold rooms in which to sleep, the latter lingering between -5 and -8°C on the thermometer. The highlight for most guests is the chance to bed down in one of the cold rooms, where a thick mattress covered in reindeer skins sits on top of a huge bed of ice. Snuggle up in your thermal sleeping bag then wake up in the morning to a steaming cup of lingonberry juice before jumping in the sauna before breakfast. New for 2016 is the Icehotel 365, a permanent structure that is kept cool in summer by solar panels. Inside are luxury suites, each with their own bathroom as well as art suites designed and hand carved by artists from around the world. Despite its frosty nature, there are plenty of cosy corners in which to warm your fingers and toes. Set up camp in front of the crackling fire in the Jukkasjärvi Homestead, a timbered building that dates back to 1768. Here you can enjoy beef and salmon steaks hot out the charcoal-fired oven, or head to the hotel restaurant to sample traditional Scandinavian fare with locally sourced fish, game and berries. Then there is the ice bar, where everything from the glasses to the tables, chairs and bar itself is made from ice. Enjoy the totally unique surroundings and sip on what is likely to be the crispest glass of champagne or cocktail you’ll ever drink.
Trapper's Hotel$$$$$Decked out in a traditional trapper style with driftwood, sealskin and slate, this rustic hotel will perfectly set the tone for your experience in the wild lands of Svalbard. The thoroughly unique hotel has 16 rooms, each decorated in traditional trapper style with lovely views over the town and mountains. The cosy lobby is stocked with fascinating arctic books and the “Cognac loft” offers guests a comfortable vantage point from which to see the illuminated night sky and relax after dinner – Svalbard is one of the best places on earth to see the Northern Lights, both by day and night. Located in the heart of Longyearbyen, the Trapper’s Hotel is conveniently placed for easy access to the town’s restaurants, pubs and shops and your point of departure for expeditions into the wilderness. For skiing enthusiasts, there are several magnificent mountains just a day trip away from the hotel and bike rental is also easily arranged.
Hebridean Sky$$$$$In April 2016, the Hebridean Sky underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment and is one of the most sophisticated ships to venture to the White Continent. The luxury expedition vessel can accommodate up to 71 people, with 57 suites spread across five decks. All suites feature windows with exterior views so you can admire the beauty of Antarctica from the comfort of your room, as well as a sitting area and en-suite marble bathroom. During your voyage, you’ll be treated to world-class cuisine with daily changing menus and live entertainment. The spacious public areas include a wraparound deck and panoramic top deck observation platform to spot wildlife from, a library with computers, and a lounge which serves afternoon tea after expeditions. The ship comes with its own photographer to help guests and document your adventures in the White continent which include Zodiac cruising, hiking, camping and kayaking excursions.
Whatever you want from your safari around the world, our team of expert travel designers are ready to help.