This Guide to the World’s Best Wildlife Spectacles will Help You Plan Holidays in 2021 and 2022
As we anticipate an end to the Covid-19 pandemic, now’s the time to use our month-by-month guide to wildlife holidays in 2021 and 2022. All year round there’s something exciting to see in the natural world. We can help you to plan when and where to go for wildlife vacations to see some of the world’s best wildlife spectacles, starting in July 2021 and running through to June 2022.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, for Wildebeest Migration Wildlife Spectacles
Photo credit: Meg Katzman, Tanzania, Wildebeest Migration
This has got to be the world’s best of the best wildlife spectacles. The great Wildebeest migration sees more than two million animals trekking across the Serengeti in search of green pastures for grazing. In July the herds reach the northern Serengeti plains in Tanzania for the most dramatic part of their journey. There they have to cross the Mara River. July is one of the most popular times to visit the Serengeti for a wildlife holiday because it has the best weather and lowest amount of rainfall. And it’s when you have the best chance to witness the incredible migration event.
Pacific Chocó Region, Colombia, for Whales and Birds
Photo: Humpback Whale, Colombia
Pods of humpback whales can be seen off the Colombian Pacific coast in July as they gather there in large numbers. They are on migration and travelling past South America. These giant mammals soar out of the water and play with their newborn calves, putting them top of a nature lover’s wish list. Visitors can travel further inland into the rainforests of Chocó after exploring the tropical coast of Colombia. In the vast canopy around 650 species of bird reside. For everyone willing to brave the damp conditions of Colombia’s rainforest there are fantastic wildlife holidays to enjoy now.
Learn more about wildlife tours in Colombia and why it is one of the best places to watch birds.
Dragonflies in Spain
June to mid-August is a great time to look for insects. In Extremadura in Spain there is the possibility of seeing over 50 species of dragonflies and damselflies, as well as many different butterflies. Habitats vary from warm lowlands to cooler mountain regions, drawing species from elsewhere in Europe and Africa. Rarities such as the Green Hooktail and Faded Pincertail Dragonflies have been recorded in the region. It is also home to a range of birdlife including several species of heron and eagle.
Grasswrens in Australia
Australia’s winter season is the ideal time for birding and a popular group to search for are the grasswrens. These are endemic to Australia and mostly found in the Outback. A quiet, high-pitched contact call, camouflaged plumage and a preference for remote areas make them tricky birds to find. But the search is worth it for a glimpse of the secretive endemics. Their short bills are well adapted for crushing seeds. And because their wings are short and rounded they often run along the ground or bound between tussocks of grass instead of flying. In that respect they appear to act more like mice than birds.
Chobe National Park, Botswana for Elephants
Photo credit: Letaka Safaris, Elephants, Miracle Rivers Tour
Chobe in Botswana boasts the largest concentration of African Elephants, having more than 50,000 of these giant mammals. During August, at the height of the dry season, these beautiful creatures congregate in large numbers along Chobe’s waterways. This affords you the best chances of viewing family herds. Many of Chobe’s animals, including giraffe and zebra as well as elephants, heavily rely on the rivers this month. For humans, the weather is at its best for a most enjoyable safari.
Borneo for Sea Turtles
At the top of many a wildlife enthusiast’s wish list is the desire to see sea turtles up close. These hard shelled, ocean-dwelling, reptiles come ashore to nest, and this is the best time to see them. Green and Hawksbill Turtles haul themselves up the beaches of Borneo between the months of July and October. There they lay their eggs, which are then protected by local charities. The area offers good chances to watch these magnificent creatures in an ethical way and contribute to their conservation. This is an amazing wildlife holiday that also helps ensure the safety of the next generation of sea turtles.
Butterflies in Ghana
The rainforests in Ghana are home to over 950 species of butterfly. Some are unique to the area. One such is the Volta Pansy Butterfly, which was named after the Volta region in which it is found. Many visitors are drawn to the Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary, which is the only butterfly sanctuary in West Africa. Further south towards the coast is Aburi Botanical Gardens. There visitors can look for butterflies such as the Mocker Swallowtail among flowering plants and huge silk cotton trees. For the best weather conditions in southern Ghana visit between the two rainy seasons. If you arrive in August the air will be cooler.
Romania for Bears
Photo credit: Diana Georgescu, Discover Danube Delta, Wild Brown Bears
The Carpathian Mountains cover some 1500km of Central and Eastern Europe. Their pristine forests provide 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. They are usually solitary animals but sometimes congregate in larger groups. This is in areas abundant in food as they scavenge in preparation for winter. For the best chances to see the giant furry mammals, travellers should seek the help of local guides. These specialists will know where you can get the safest viewings and will lead you through the forest reserves.
Discover more wildlife tours 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. 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 seabirds begin to arrive and build their nests. The previous year’s hatchlings also begin to take their maiden flight.
Southern Right Whales in South Africa
Many people are drawn to South Africa for the savanna’s megafauna, but there is also plenty to see in the Cape Peninsula. This protrudes into the Atlantic Ocean with views across the Atlantic to the west and False Bay to the east. There is a range of marine wildlife there including African Penguins, Great White Sharks and Southern Right Whales. These huge baleen whales are unusual in that they don’t have a dorsal fin on their backs. They arrive at the Cape Peninsula from August to October to breed and can be seen close to shore.
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 perfectly frames the silhouettes of the many Red Deer that live there. It is truly breathtaking to witness the power and majesty of the stags as they fight for dominance in an annual competition for mates. 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 2021 and 2022 for Lemurs in Madagascar
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 so you have to visit if you want to see them in the wild. The island will not disappoint wildlife enthusiasts. 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, it’s a natural paradise.
Lizards in Namibia
The elephants in Etosha National Park, Namibia, are thought to be the tallest in Africa. They are a big tourist draw but there are just as intriguing creatures to be seen much closer to the ground. The Namib desert is the world’s oldest desert at 55 million years of age. Its shifting sands are home to several endemic reptiles. One of these is the Barking Gecko, which gets its name from its unusual vocalisations. October is the end of the dry season in Namibia and humidity can be high, but this is a great time for wildlife watching.
Kakadu National Park in 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. To see these phenomenal predators safely take one of the parks’ cruises or view 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 wildlife vacations with 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. These giant birds with their 2.3m wingspans congregate to feast on spawning salmon in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. The largest known gathering of Bald Eagles – one of the world’s best wildlife spectacles – is celebrated in November on the Preserve with a festival in their honour. This is considered one of the best places in the world to see them as they soar in search of food.
Endemic birds in Colombia
A good time to visit Colombia is just after the rainy season that occurs from April to October. There are nearly 2,000 species of birds in Colombia, featuring around 80 endemics. Some of these include three of the four species of helmet crest hummingbird. One of these, the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest, was considered extinct until it was rediscovered in 2015. The Santa Marta mountains are considered to be the best place to search for Colombian endemics including the Santa Marta Antbird and the Santa Marta Screech Owl.
Ladakh, India, for Wildlife Holidays in 2021 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. During the winter months these horned sheep descend to warmer valleys in search of their own food. These beautiful cats are perfectly camouflaged against the snowy peaks. So to see them 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 Snow Leopards you may be lucky to see Tibetan Wolf or Bearded Vulture too.
You can read here how the endangered Snow Leopards of India has become a life’s mission for one tour provider. Reducing the conflict between Snow Leopards and people has created a more positive relationship in a rugged and dramatic landscape.
Birdwatching Tours in the Cloud Forests of Ecuador for 2021 and 2022
Photo credit: Bellavista Cloud Forest, Booted Racket-tail, Ecuador
The cloud forests of Ecuador attract large numbers of visitors each year. They come with hopes of catching a glimpse of some of the rare wildlife that calls the country home. The luscious greenery amongst the spectacular mountains of the Andes makes for a most unique environment. This paradise hosts some 500 species of bird. It is one of the best places on Earth for seeing many of these beautifully diverse animals. On wildlife tours here you can stay in lodges in many reserves throughout the forest. One, the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, has recently become Ecuador’s SNAP first private reserve. The height of the rainy season is one of the best times for wildlife holidays in Ecuador. The abundance of food then means birds are at their most numerous and many are starting to mate. Amongst the splendour of species available are 35 types of the hummingbird. This is one of South America’s best hummingbird spots.
Parrots and cockatoos in Australia
Summer begins in December in Australia but temperatures are still comfortable, making this an ideal time to visit. Australia is a birder’s paradise and visitors can search for species in every colour of the spectrum. The southwest region is considered to have more rare and endangered species than anywhere else on the continent. It is home to 100 native birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs. One of the endemic birds is the Short Billed Black Cockatoo. This bird has mostly black plumage but its feathers are fringed with white, giving them the appearance of scales.
Atacama Desert, Chile for Flamingos
Photo credit: Raffaele Di Biase, BirdsChile, Andean Flamingos
Chile is a beautifully biodiverse country bordered by the Andean mountains and the Pacific Ocean. And the flamingo is one of its most recognisable animals. The country boasts three different species, the Chilean, Andean and James’ Flamingos. They inhabit the algae-rich saline pools of the Atacama Desert and their pink parades can be seen all year round. However, flamingo numbers reach their peak during the summer months (December to February). This is the time of year when you will also see adult flamingos begin their mating rituals. They perform perfectly choreographed routines in order to attract a mate and create one of the best wildlife spectacles in the world.
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 anywhere else in Europe. Exploring this primeval world in January offers some of the best chances to see the continent’s 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 such as wolves and lynx.
Wild Orchids in Colombia
There are more orchids found in Colombia than anywhere else in the world and the endemic Christmas Orchid became the country’s national flower in 1936. This white and lavender species is found in the cloud forests of the Andes, which provide the cool moisture that many orchids require to grow. There are around 4,000 different orchid species overall in Colombia including over 1500 endemic varieties found nowhere else in the world. Visitors can see the orchids in flower from winter to early spring.
Mangroves of Sundarbans in India for Tiger Tours
Photo credit: Mangesh Desai, GoWild India, Tiger
Sundarbans National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site and biosphere reserve with the vastest mangrove forest in the world. It is home to a magnificent variety of birdlife, Saltwater Crocodiles and the largest population of Bengal Tiger. This is the only place in India that the beautiful orange and black stripes of the tiger can be seen exploring the mangroves. This, of course, gives you fantastic and unique photo opportunities. The best months to explore the area are between November and March. However, the winter months around February offer the most comfortable temperatures. The monsoon season, July to October, should be avoided for this kind of wildlife holiday due to the less than perfect weather conditions. In fact, many parks across India restrict access at this time.
Discover why India is one of the best destinations for tiger tours.
Mexico for Monarch Butterfly Wildlife Spectacles
Photo: Butterflies, Mexico
One of the greatest wildlife holiday spectacles in the world is the sight of millions of overwintering Monarch Butterflies in the forests of central Mexico. These large butterflies have a wingspan of around 9cm. They begin arriving from Northern USA and Canada in November and reach their peak in February. The 560km² Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve becomes a blaze of orange during this time of year. The branches of every tree are full of these fluttering insects. The protected area is only a few hours’ drive from Mexico City. A good local guide on a wildlife vacation will be able to take you on a spectacular hike in search of Monarchs.
Blue whales in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s best locations for seeing Blue Whales, the largest living animal. Spotting them doesn’t necessitate venturing far out to sea, though. They can be seen off the coast of the town of Mirissa in the south of the country. The best time to look for them is between February and mid-March when they are drawn by small crustaceans called krill during their migration. As well as Blue Whales, Sri Lanka is known for other marine mammals. These include Humpback, Sperm and Fin Whales, the last of which is the second largest animal in the world.
Wildlife Holidays at the Straits of Gibraltar for Birds on Migration in 2022
Photo credit: Simon Tonkin, Inglorious Bustards, White Storks
The Straits of Gibraltar offers fantastic sights of migratory birds due to its proximity to the African continent. The birds move northward in the spring and 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. It never disappoints with its views of the great variety of species that rest here on their long journey. For birdwatchers, it is one of the world’s best wildlife spectacles.
Learn more about the diverse array of wildlife in Spain and the best regions for nature holidays.
Greenland for Marine Mammals
The vast landscape of Greenland is breathtaking, covered in its permanent covering of ice and snow. This world’s largest island is a haven for multiple seal species, including the Ringed, Harp and Hooded Seals. These marine mammals take advantage of the frozen seas for protection from predators as they give birth to their pups. They are endearing animals that 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.
Black Grouse lek in Wales
The high moorland habitat of north Wales is a great place to see Black Grouse perform an intriguing breeding behaviour called lekking. The lek begins in spring, reaching its peak in March and April. Male Black Grouse gather at a lekking site and compete with each other for females. They make bubbling calls and leap at their rivals. Males have glossy black plumage with a scarlet patch over the eye and a distinctive white fan tail. It’s extremely important not to disturb the grouse during the lek. Their numbers have declined rapidly in recent years so successful breeding is vital.
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 courting residents to 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. There are the colourful fields of wildflowers around Monfrague National Park, home to raptors such as Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black-shouldered Kite. And the grasslands and their 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
Komodo Island is one of the jewels of Indonesia and home to the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon. April is the start of the dry season which runs until December. 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 offers spectacular views at this time of year.
Butterflies in Peru
Peru is home to around 3,700 species of butterfly, which is more than any other country in the world. Tambopata National Reserve in the Amazon Basin of southeast Peru holds over 1,000 of these, including the Menelaus Blue Morpho. This species blends seamlessly into its surroundings with its wings closed. But it reveals a shimmering sapphire colour when it takes flight. Morphos are some of the biggest butterflies in the world with wingspans reaching up to 20cm. April is a good time to visit Peru when temperatures are cooler after several humid months.
Puffin Island, North Wales for Seabird Wildlife Spectacles
Photo credit: Ruth Miller, Birdwatching Trips Wales, Atlantic Puffins
Puffin Island was named for the large numbers of this particularly charismatic animal that visit there. It is a spectacular site where hundreds of sea birds nest each year. Visitors are not permitted to land on the island due to its protected status. However, boat trips regularly leave from neighbouring Anglesey and these give ample opportunity for bird watching. The island also hosts guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, alongside the famous puffins, all breeding on the iconic cliffs. The stunning scenery and abundant wildlife makes North Wales a wonderful destination for wildlife holidays.
Texas, USA for Wildlife Vacations to an Impressive Bat Roost
Bracken cave in Texas becomes home to one of the largest gatherings of mammals anywhere in the world in May. Around 20 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats roost between March and October every year. It is the location that expectant mothers choose to give birth to their pups. They make a stunning and unforgettable sight as they take flight in their millions at dusk. They are out on their nightly insect hunt, swirling in their masses. The bats here are protected and so the area is not open to the public. However, wildlife enthusiasts can book an escorted tour.
Black Rhinos in South Africa
Featuring in Africa’s Big 5, Black Rhinos are seen in-game reserves of KwaZulu-Natal, a South African coastal province. Unlike White Rhinos, which have square lips adapted for grazing, Black Rhinos have triangular upper lips. These enable them to grasp onto leaves and shoots. The best time for a safari in South Africa is the dry season, from May to October. Temperatures then are cooler and more animals are drawn to watering holes. The population of Black Rhinos has fallen by 97.6% since 1960. South Africa is a particularly important stronghold – 40% of the world’s remaining Black Rhinos are found there.
Waterlilies in Romania
Waterlilies have a strong presence in mythology, symbolising peace, creation and immortality. With 5,500 species of fauna and flora, the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve spans across Romania and Ukraine. It is the third largest area in the world for biodiversity and provides essential habitat for many different varieties of waterlily. In spring, the best time to visit for flora, huge numbers of flowers can be seen blooming among the reeds. As well as looking beautiful, the flat leaf beds on the surface keep the water cool. They also shelter fish from the sun and predators.
Peru and its Superlative Birds – a Perfect Wildlife Holidays in 2022
Photo credit: Green Tours, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Peru
The South American continent is teeming with wildlife and Peru is no exception. This paradise boasts more than 1,800 species of birds and 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 country’s more than 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 admire the beautifully elaborate plumage of the marvellous spatuletail. Some travellers may also be lucky enough to spy South America’s largest cat, the Jaguar. This shy and mysterious animal stalks silently through the Amazon rainforest.
Learn where to go and the best times to visit for birding in Peru.
Cornwall in England for Basking Sharks
Photo: Cornwall, England
The Basking Shark measures around 12m in length and is the world’s second largest fish. It is thought that it can 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. This is when the waters are clearer, giving the best visibility. A variety of boat trips offer Basking Shark experiences at this time of year so there’s plenty of chances to see the giants.
Raptors in Mongolia
Mongolia is an excellent place to look for raptors including Golden Eagles, Long-legged Buzzards and the endangered Saker Falcon. The latter is the country’s national bird. Raptors feature heavily in Mongolian folklore and history and are still trained by nomads to hunt game. Vultures are another attraction in Mongolia.The tradition of a “sky burial” is most common in Tibet but also occurs here. This involves leaving a body in the open to be scavenged by vultures. If the birds feed on the remains it is considered good luck for the person’s soul. June is a good time to visit Mongolia when sunny summer days combine with refreshing rainfall.
Red Squirrels in Scotland
Scotland also has a Big 5 list that includes the charismatic Red Squirrel. Despite being outcompeted for food and habitat by the larger invasive Grey Squirrel, the native Reds still have a stronghold in the Scottish Highlands. Around 75% of the remaining Red Squirrels in the UK are found in Scotland. These bushy-tailed forest dwellers actually help regenerate woodland habitats. They do this by feeding on small seeds found in conifer cones and dispersing them throughout the forest. As well as Red Squirrels, Scotland is also a popular choice for those looking for Golden Eagles, Otters and Red Deer.
Are you interested in Wildlife Holidays in 2021 or 2022?
For more information, contact one of our specialist wildlife tour operators and companies to book your next wildlife vacation adventure in 2021 and 2022.
Written by Lewis White and Rebecca Gibson
Updated: February 2021
Originally Published: 22 Feb 2020