Wildlife holidays can be fantastically rewarding, helping you to connect with the world around you and providing truly unique experiences. In this article we look at a few of our favourite locations and the wildlife that can be found. While some are happy to go to a beach or sit by a pool, these destinations are for those who want to get wild
Whale Watching – Iceland
The waters off Iceland’s southern coast are internationally famed for both the number and variety of whales that call them home.
During the summer months humpback whales are particularly plentiful. Adults can grow from 12 to 16 meters in length and weigh upwards of 35,000 kilograms and their habit of breaching and slapping the ocean’s surface makes them a site that is simply awe inspiring. Slightly smaller minke whales can be seen all year round and are similarly impressive, growing up to 10 meters long and known for their tendency to ‘jump’ above the surface. Visitors are also sure to be delighted by the scores of bottlenose, common and rissos dolphins that populate Icelandic waters.
Grizzly Bear Watching – Canada
From early May through the summer months to October, grizzly bear watching in British Columbia is a popular pursuit, taking tourists into the heart of the ‘great bear rainforest’. Grizzly bears, a subset of brown bears, weigh in at up to 360 kilograms, with a length of around 6.5 feet. Although variable in colour, their fur is generally a fawn brown with white tips and they are known for the pronounced hump above their shoulders. With claws measuring up to 4 inches in length and a bite strength of over 8 megapascals they are lethal predators that should not be taken slightly.
The power of the grizzly is what makes them such a spectacle. Courageous hunters they can take down large prey like moose and elk with relative ease, and seeing them move through the forest is simply majestic. Given their power, and relative aggression, prospective bear watchers should ensure that they heed safety advice, stick to clearly marked paths and, where possible, travel with a guide.
Elk, Wolves and Beaver Spotting – Sweden
Sweden is home to the world’s largest density of elk in the world, with the Bergslagen woods, around 100 miles north-west of Stockholm, a favourite site for locals and visitors alike.
Bergslagen is famed for its dense woodland and innumerable rivers and lakes: the perfect habitat for some of Europe’s most remarkable creatures. Elk ‘the kings of the forest’ are a particular draw. They are one of Europe’s largest mammals, weighing in at up to 700 kg, and though shy they are plentiful in number. When dusk comes, visitors can take to a canoe and enjoy the site of beavers at Lake Skarsjon. Although hunted to extinction in the 19th century, beavers were reintroduced and now number around 100,000. The final draw come out at night, their distinctive howl sending shiver of fear and anticipation in equal measure. Wolves are a stunning sight and are best observed from a forest hut, under the guidance of an expert. Notoriously hard to spot, visitors should perhaps not get their hopes up too much, however, they are advised to try their luck.
Sea Turtle Spotting – Costa Rica
Sea turtles are beautiful, though tragically rare, creatures. For many years the Galapagos Islands were seen as the best place to view them, however, in recent years Costa Rica has developed its turtle spotting facilities and is now a leading destination.
Particularly popular are volunteering holidays, such as those offered by the Pacuare Nature Reserve. Here tourists work alongside biologists and field assistants to manage the reserve, record sea turtle activities and, from May onwards, monitor their hatchlings as they emerge after two months incubation. The lodges at Pacuare at known for being eco-friendly and located in a breathtaking setting. Edged between jungle and forest guests are likely to see howler monkeys, sloths and even crocodiles, ensuring an unforgettable experience.