Where and When to Go for Some of the World’s Best Wildlife Holidays in 2020
All year round there’s something exciting to see in the natural world. Here’s a month-by-month guide to choosing when and where to go for some of the best wildlife holidays and to see some amazing wildlife spectacles in 2020.
Atacama desert, Chile for flamingos
Photo credit: Raffaele Di Biase, BirdsChile, Andean Flamingos
Bordered by the Andean mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Chile is a beautifully biodiverse country. The flamingo is one of its most recognisable animals. It boasts three different species, the Chilean, Andean and James’ flamingo. Inhabiting the algae rich saline pools of the Atacama Desert their pink parades can be seen all year round. However, flamingo numbers reach their peak during the summer months (December to February). It is at this time of year that you will also see adult flamingos begin their mating rituals, performing their perfectly choreographed routines in order to attract a mate.
Białowieża Forest, Poland for bison, wolves and lynx
Photo: Bison, Poland
Białowieża is one of the most ancient and largest forests left in Europe. It straddles the borders of Poland and Belarus. Oak, elm and lime trees age in their hundreds here offering a beautiful habitat, unrivalled by anywhere else in Europe. Exploring this primeval world in January offers some of the best chances to see the continents largest land animal, the European bison. More than 500 of these giants happily roam the forest. The snowy winter months make them much easier to track. At this time of year visitors may also spy other winter wildlife like wolves and lynx.
Mangroves of Sundarbans, India, for Tiger Tours
Photo credit: Mangesh Desai, GoWild India, Tiger
With the vastest mangrove forest in the world, Sundarbans National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site, biosphere reserve and is home to a magnificent variety of bird life, salt-water crocodiles and the largest population of Bengal tiger. This is the only place that the beautiful orange and black stripes of the tiger can be seen exploring the mangroves, giving fantastic and unique photo opportunities. The best months to explore the area are between November and March, but the winter months around February offer the most comfortable temperatures. Monsoon season, July to October, should be avoided due to the less than perfect weather conditions, in fact many parts across India restrict access at this time.
Discover why India is one of the best destinations for tiger tours.
Mexico for monarch butterfly spectacular
Photo: Butterflies, Mexico
One of the greatest wildlife holiday spectacles in the world is the sight of millions of overwintering monarchs in the forests of central Mexico. These large butterflies have a wingspan of around 9cm and start arriving from Northern USA and Canada in November, reaching their peak in February. The 560km² Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve becomes a blaze of orange during this time of year as branches are full of these fluttering insects. The protected area is only a few hours drive from Mexico City and any good local guide will be able to take you on a spectacular hike in search of the monarchs.
Straits of Gibraltar for birds on migration
Photo credit: Simon Tonkin, Inglorious Bustards, White Storks
With its proximity to the African continent, the Straits of Gibraltar offers fantastic sights of migratory birds moving northward in the spring and again when they head south in the autumn. Many species rely on this area for their crossing, using the thermals to soar into Europe. Gibraltar and the south of Spain host hundreds of these migratory species including Egyptian vultures, booted eagles and honey buzzards. This birdwatching paradise is popular with visitors from around the world and doesn’t disappoint with its great variety of species that stop to rest here on their long journey.
Learn more about the diverse array of wildlife in Spain and the best regions for nature holidays.
Greenland for marine mammals
Covered in a permanent covering of ice and snow, the vast landscape of Greenland is breathtaking. The world’s largest island is a haven for multiple seal species, including the ringed seal, harp seal and hooded seal. Taking advantage of the frozen seas for protection from predators these marine mammals give birth to their pups early in the year. These endearing animals reside along much of the coast of this beautiful country. For the best chance to see them you need to travel through the ice coverings via boat. Although you will have to wrap up warm, seeing these seals frolicking in the water is unforgettable.
Extremadura, Spain for some of Europe’s most spectacular birds
Photo credit: Martin Kelsey, Birding Extremadura, Spring on the Extremaduran plains
Extremadura in spring is practically overflowing with bird species, from residents who are in the midst of courtship to the migrants arriving for summer. This eastern region of Spain is justifiably considered one of the best bird-watching locations in Europe. Visitors can expect to travel the area through differing habitats; being exposed to the colourful fields of wildflowers in Monfrague National Park, home to raptors such as Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black-shouldered Kite, as well as the grassland birds of the La Serena plains. April is also the peak time for witnessing the spectacular plumage of breeding great bustards as they attempt to find a mate.
Discover the best times and places to visit for birding in Extremadura.
Komodo Island, Indonesia for Komodo dragons
Photo: Komodo, Indonesia
One of the jewels of Indonesia, Komodo Island is home to the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon. April is the start of the dry season which runs until December and this is the best time of year for exploring the island with a local guide. It is also a favourable month as it is outside the dragons’ mating season when the beasts become more elusive. Komodo and its surrounding waters are a national park and can be reached by boat from many of Indonesia’s surrounding islands. In addition to seeing this amazing animal in the wild the journey there offers spectacular views at this time of year.
Puffin Island, North Wales for a seabird spectacle
Photo credit: Ruth Miller, Birdwatching Trips Wales, Atlantic Puffins
Named for the large numbers of this particularly charismatic animal, Puffin Island is a spectacular site where hundreds of sea birds nest each year. Due to its protected status visitors are not permitted to land on the island. However, boat trips regularly leave from neighbouring Anglesey which give ample opportunity for bird watching. Alongside the famous puffins found here, the island is also home to guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, all breeding along the iconic cliffs. The stunning scenery and abundant wildlife makes North Wales a wonderful destination for animal holidays.
Texas, USA for an impressive bat roost
Bracken cave in Texas becomes home to one of the largest gatherings of mammals anywhere in the world. Around 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost here between March and October every year. It is the location that expectant mothers choose to give birth to their pups. As they take flight in their millions at dusk on their nightly insect hunt, swirling in their masses, they offer a stunning and unforgettable sight. The bats here are protected and as such the area is not open to the public. However, wildlife enthusiasts can book an escorted tour.
Peru and its superlative birds
Photo credit: Green Tours, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Peru
The South American continent is teeming with wildlife and Peru is no exception. Boasting more than 1800 species of bird this paradise is a wonder for animal enthusiasts. Although the whole country offers many fantastic wildlife holiday opportunities the north of Peru is particularly good for its bird life. Roughly a quarter of the countries over 100 endemic species are exclusive to the region. June is a fantastic time to experience the birds in the area, just before the dry season becomes too hot to handle. Species to look out for include the charismatic and curious Andean cock-of-the-rock or the beautifully elaborate plumage of the marvellous spatuletail. Some travellers may also be lucky enough to spy South America’s largest cat, the very shy jaguar, as the mysterious animal stalks silently through the Amazon rainforest.
Learn where to go and the best times to visit for birding in Peru.
Cornwall, England for basking sharks
Photo: Cornwall, England
Measuring around 12m in length, the basking shark is the world’s second largest fish and is thought to live for up to 50 years. These seasonal visitors to the UK can be found feeding on zooplankton right along the coastline during the summer months. Sunny days in June around Cornwall offer great viewing opportunities with its clearer waters giving the best visibility. A variety of boat trips offer basking shark experiences at this time of year giving you plenty of chances to see these giants.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania for the wildebeest migration
Photo credit: Meg Katzman, Tanzania, Wildebeest Migration
The great wildebeest migration sees more than two million animals trekking across the Serengeti in search of green pastures to graze upon. In July the herds reach the northern Serengeti plains in Tanzania where one of the most dramatic parts of their journey occurs, the crossing of the Mara River. As well as offering the best chance to witness this incredible event, July is also one of the most popular times to visit the Serengeti because it has the best weather and lowest amount of rainfall.
Pacific Chocó Region, Colombia, for whales and birds
Photo: Humpback Whale, Colombia
Arriving every year in July as they migrate past South America, pods of humpback whales can be seen off the Colombian Pacific coast as they gather there in large numbers. Watching as these giant mammals soar out of the water and play with their newborn calves is on the top of many animal lovers’ wants list. After exploring the tropical coast of Colombia, visitors can travel further inland into the rainforests of Chocó. There, in the vast canopy, reside around 650 species of bird. For everyone willing to brave the damp conditions of Colombia’s rainforest there is a menagerie of wildlife holidays to enjoy.
Learn more about wildlife tours in Colombia and why it is one of the best places to watch birds and immerse yourself in nature on the planet.
Chobe National Park, Botswana for elephants
Photo credit: Letaka Safaris, Elephants, Miracle Rivers Tour
With more than 50,000 African elephants, Chobe in Botswana boasts the largest concentration of these giant mammals. During August, at the height of the dry season, these beautiful creatures congregate in large numbers along Chobe’s waterways, giving you the best chances of viewing family herds. Alongside elephants, many of Chobe’s animals, including giraffe and zebra, heavily rely on the rivers during this month and the weather is at its best for the most enjoyable safari.
Borneo for sea turtles
At the top of many a wildlife enthusiast “musts” list is to watch sea turtles up close. These hard shelled, ocean-dwelling, reptiles come ashore to nest, which offers one of the best times to see them. Green turtles and Hawksbill turtles pull themselves up the beaches of Borneo between the months of July and October to lay their eggs. Protected by local charities, the area offers phenomenal chances to see these magnificent creatures in the wild in an ethical way. This allows visitors an amazing wildlife holiday while ensuring the safety of the next generation of sea turtles.
Romania for bears
Photo credit: Diana Georgescu, Discover Danube Delta, Wild Brown Bears
The Carpathian Mountains cover some 1500km of Central and Eastern Europe, its pristine forests providing the perfect habitat for many of the continent’s most spectacular animals. Those wishing to see the magnificent European brown bear in its natural habitat shouldn’t look further than one of Romania’s bear reserves. There, during the summer months, the bears are at their most active. Usually solitary animals, they sometimes congregate in larger groups in areas abundant in food as they scavenge in preparation for winter. For the best chances to see the giant furry mammals, and for safest viewings, travellers should seek the help of local guides to lead them through the forest reserves.
Discover more wildlife experiences in Europe with our guide to the best wildlife holidays in Europe.
Otago Peninsula, New Zealand for albatross
Photo credit: Albatross Encounter, Albatross
Home to the only mainland colony of breeding albatross, the Otago Peninsula in New Zealand is a very special place. Visitors have the unique opportunity to witness them as they breed and raise their young and, if conditions are suitable, you may even see them take flight with their huge 3m wingspan. Fourteen species of albatross are known to breed in the area, more than anywhere else in the world. Visit in September to see the start of the breeding season, where the seabirds begin to arrive and build their nests. The previous year’s hatchlings also begin to take their maiden flight.
Following the red deer rut in the French Alps
Photo credit: Jonathan Guillot, Salva Fauna – Ethical Wildlife Photo Tours, Red Deer Rut, France
The French Alps offer a spectacular setting for the most wonderful photo opportunities. During the autumn months this backdrop can perfectly frame the silhouettes of the many red deer that live there. Witnessing the power and majesty of the stags as they fight for dominance in an annual competition for mates is truly breathtaking. The rut can be experienced across much of Europe, but seeing these large mammals as they congregate in this most picturesque and atmospheric location is unforgettable.
Wildlife Holidays in Madagascar for lemurs
Photo: Lemurs, Madagascar
Madagascar’s lush forests can be visited all year round, but October combines fantastic weather with the arrival of baby lemurs. The majority of animals on Madagascar are endemic to the island and so found nowhere else in the world. The amazing diversity of lemurs alone means that visitors will be inundated with wildlife. From the nocturnal aye-aye to the charismatic ring-tailed lemur, Madagascar will not disappoint wildlife enthusiasts.
Kakadu National Park, Australia for crocodiles
Photo: Crocodile, Kakadu National Park, Australia
Kakadu in north Australia is home to more than 10,000 crocodiles, both freshwater and saltwater. The heat of the summer months is the best time to see them as the shrinking waters force them to concentrate. They can either be spotted basking on the banks or keeping cool in the shade or the water. There are a few ways to safely see these phenomenal predators, either by one of the parks cruises or from purpose-built platforms over the waterways. It is also at this time of year that hatching freshwater crocodiles may be seen during their first days out of their eggs.
Alaska, USA for bald eagles
Photo: Bald Eagle, USA
At the top of many birders’ lists is to see the majestic bald eagle thriving in its natural habitat. With a wingspan of up to 2.3m across these giant birds congregate to take advantage of the feast that is produced by the spawning salmon in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. The largest known gathering of bald eagles is celebrated in November with a festival in their honour and the preserve is considered one of the best places in the world to see them as they soar across the rivers in search of food.
Ladakh, India, for a wildlife holiday in search of snow leopards
Photo credit: GoWild India, Snow Leopard
High in the Himalayas, in the mountains of Ladakh, India, prowls the elusive snow leopard. Its movements are strongly associated with those of its favourite prey species, such as bharal, as during the winter months these horned sheep descend to warmer valleys in search of their own food. As they are perfectly camouflaged against the snowy peaks, to see these beautiful cats visitors need a lot of patience, warm clothing and the help of a skilled local guide. As you trek across magnificent landscapes in search of the bushy tailed and piercing eyes of the leopard you may also be lucky enough to see Tibetan wolf or bearded vulture.
Learn about how saving the endangered snow leopards of India has become a life mission for one tour provider, and how by reducing the conflict between snow leopards and people, it is possible to work towards a more positive relationship among those sharing such a rugged and dramatic landscape.
Birdwatching in the cloud forests of Ecuador
Photo credit: Bellavista Cloud Forest, Booted Racket-tail, Ecuador
The cloud forests of Ecuador attract large numbers of visitors each year, enticed with hopes of catching a glimpse of some of the rare wildlife that calls it home. Located amongst the spectacular mountain views of the Andes, the luscious greenery is one of the world’s most unique environments. This paradise is home to some 500 species of bird, making it one of the best places on Earth for spying many of these beautifully diverse animals. Holiday makers can stay in lodges in many reserves throughout the forest, such as Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, which has recently become Ecuador’s SNAP first private reserve. The height of the rainy season is one of the best times for a wildlife holiday in Ecuador as the abundance of food means birds are at their most numerous and many of them are starting to mate. Amongst the splendour of species available are 35 types of hummingbird, making this one of South America’s best hummingbird spots.
Are you interested in a Wildlife Holiday?
For more information, contact one of our specialist wildlife tour operators and companies to book directly your next wildlife adventure.