Thursday, March 6, 2008

Top Ten Wildlife Experiences

There is an ever-increasing number of wildlife viewing opportunities available all over the world. For me and for many others, viewing wildlife in their natural environment is among the most rewarding experiences around. Sadly, many of the animals in the list below are endangered. Often, the money from travellers helps fund their protection and well-being, especially in countries which are much poorer than those of us who live in the first world countries.

Here is my top ten list.

1. Mountain Gorillas of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo

The most exceptional single hour of many people’s lives who have seen the mountain gorillas. Trek in Central Africa for some hours to spend an hour with an habituated group of mountain gorillas (group is typically between 8 and 20) including the alpha male – the silverback, characterised by a silver blanket of hair on his back. Only 700 of these remarkable primates (98% matching DNA with humans) exist across two areas in Central Africa.

2. Wildlife Safari in East Africa

Whether visiting Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa or another nearby African country, viewing the great wildlife of Africa’s rift valley is an experience to savor. Maybe see a large lion, cheetah or leopard hunt down its prey. Try to see the Big Five – the elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros, along with the familiar giraffes, zebras, baboons, flamingos, wildebeest and antelope. The single greatest experience is the great wildebeest migration between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. Give yourself time in these national parks as viewing wildlife is a game of patience.

3. Polar Wildlife in the Antarctic Peninsula

View several varieties of whales, seals (including Leopard, Fur, Elephant, Crabeater), penguins (Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo) and other birdlife (albatrosses and many more) in the least accessible and emptiest of the seven continents. The best location is the Antarctic Peninsula, which is a two day journey from Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of South America via an expedition ship. Smaller ships are better to help manage the number of travellers on board.

4. Bears and the Salmon Run in Canada and Alaska

See brown and black bears put on weight before your eyes as they gorge on the salmon swimming upstream to spawn. See large male bears, mothers and cubs all standing in the water only feet apart (typically near cascading water to slow the salmon down) using a variety of methods (head in the water, catching them in mid-air, catching them with their sharp claws) to satisfy their hunger. Great locations include Pack Creek and Anan Creek, though there are a number of others.

5. Galapagos Islands

View evolution in nature’s laboratory made famous by Charles Darwin. See the famous giant tortoises, extensive birdlife and the various animals that have adapted to the Galapagos Islands. Most popular journey are seven and ten day trips around the islands staying on board a boat. There is no accommodation on the islands themselves to protect the wildlife.

6. Whale Sharks in Western Australia

The largest fish species on our planet – these majestic sharks which measure ten metres and longer eat krill, algae and plankton, sifting them from the water through their mouth (over a metre wide) and out their gills trapping their feed. They can be seen in a few places around the world but you can snorkel with them off Ningaloo Reef north of Perth on the west coast of Australia, in the Seychelles, Belize and around Philippines.

7. Polar Bears in the Arctic

Around October and November each year, polar bears congregate in the small town of Churchill in northern Canada to await the freezing of the sea ice to help them catch seals. They are viewed from large purpose built vehicles called tundra buggies. Endangered with the change in climate, our largest land carnivore is fighting a battle for survival as the ice freezes are occurring later every year. Polar bears are also sighted in Greenland, Svalbard in Norway and parts of Russia and Alaska.

8. Tigers in India

The largest of the cat family is also seriously endangered and is most easily sighted in the wild in the Bengal Tiger reserves in India, though they are more elusive than most other wildlife on this top ten list.

9. Orang-Utans of Borneo

Generally viewed as the most intelligent creature on Earth outside of humans, these highly endangered primates provide a great wildlife experience as they clamber through the trees. Easiest place to see them wild is Sepilok in Borneo.

10. Lemurs of Madagascar

Endangered, these fun creatures so adept at climbing trees are only native to the large African island of Madagascar. Along with the chameleons, this island provides some most unusual wildlife.

I am sure my list will vary from other people’s views and there are certainly other great wildlife experiences around in this world of travel wonders. Please suggest some other great accessible wildlife experiences.


Bob said...

I don't think Whale sharks are the largest living animals on our planet. Blue Whales for example are much larger.

Mark H said...

@bob: You are correct and I have updated my article. Thank you.

Related Posts with Thumbnails