As our busy, taxing modern lives place an even greater burden on our minds and bodies, we need the restorative power of the ‘wild places’ in the world all the more. And there are some truly awesome destinations available to wildlife lovers where they can experience the healing power of Nature and her amazing creatures in comfort and style!
Thanda Safari – the Big Five in luxury and comfort, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Thanda Safari truly stands out among private game reserves in KZN. Its name is the Zulu word for love and describes the reserve’s ethos of love and care perfectly. Situated on the Elephant Coast in KwaZulu-Natal, with its temperate all-year climate, it offers its guests luxury accommodation in a 5-star lodge, as well as in villas and superbly appointed safari tents. The main building also offers guests wonderful areas for relaxation, a library, a wellness center, kids club, wine cellar and superb cuisine that draws on Zulu culinary traditions.
Activities on offer include morning and evening game drives, delicious bush meals, walking safaris with experienced and knowledgeable game rangers, star gazing; and history, marine and cultural tours. Diving and snorkeling are also available. Apart from the iconic Big Five – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard- guests can also expect to see cheetah, wild dog, hyena, numerous species of antelope, as well as abundant birdlife.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands surely offer one of the most unique wildlife destinations in the world. This group of isolated volcanic islands in the Pacific offers the wildlife enthusiast a chance to see creatures that can be seen nowhere else in the world. The islands also boast more than 800 different species of plants, and close to 300 different species of fish.
Possibly the best way to experience these islands and to respect their fragile ecosystems is on a cruise with an experienced guide. Some of the animals that you will see include the giant tortoises (remember Lonesome George who was the last Pinta tortoise?) at the Charles Darwin Research Station, the famous sea lions that literally drape themselves all around the islands, and the island iguanas (that come in pink and yellow as well), and are up to three feet long. You will see the famous blue-footed boobies, (the females’ feet are a darker blue than the males’), the small Galapagos penguins and the vividly pink greater flamingos. You will also have a chance to snorkel and swim with the prolific marine wildlife and might well see some of the giant green turtles and manta rays.
Patagonia – from Pumas to Penguins to Humpback Whales
Patagonia is located at the Southern end of South America and holds the powerful lure of the utterly remote and unfamiliar. Most Patagonia tours are accompanied by an experienced naturalist and are designed so that visitors can see the three most iconic species that this region is famous for – the puma, the King penguin and those singers of the most haunting song of the sea, the humpback whales.
Torres del Paine National Park is one of the world’s most remote and magnificent wild places and harbors rich and varied wildlife, including guanacos and foxes. However, the elusive and beautiful puma is the undisputed ruler of these vast and barren mountain sides.
The best place to see the magnificent and colorful King penguin is Useless Bay in Tierra del Fuego. And the rich waters off Carlos III Island in the Francisco Coloane Marine Park offer the best opportunity to meet humpbacks, learn about their social behavior and observe their feeding strategies.
Swim with Blue Whales in Sri Lanka
Blue whales hold a mystique that is surely unrivaled in the animal world. We all repeat facts like the heart of a blue whale is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and they grow to more than a hundred feet – in awed and wondering voices. But to be able to swim with them? And photograph them in their natural habitat? This is what you can do in in Sri Lanka.
In March and April unique safaris, in very limited numbers per year and for no more than four people at a time, takes you out into the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka. And there you can swim with these magnificent creatures, the largest ever to have existed on this planet. You will do this with a small group of specialists that photograph them. You will stay in a small resort in a spot that is a closely guarded secret and only know to whale experts. You will hopefully see and swim with blue whales, (mostly pygmy blue whales, though at more than 80 feet they are hardly small!), but also various species of dolphin, pilot whales, sperm whales, sea turtles and marlins. Assuredly a magical, once in a lifetime experience!
Australian is a vast continent off amazing diversity, and the visitor to Australia also has a great variety of tour options available. Traveling from north to south, you can explore coastal wildernesses, rainforests and the vast expanses the desert Outback. National parks like the Kakadu and the Mary River National Parks provide unrivaled opportunities to see dingoes, brolgas, and saltwater crocodiles. Mungo National Park provides an excellent location for learning about aboriginal history and the Outback.
A drive along the amazing Great Ocean Road is mandatory for its truly breathtaking scenery. The lush rainforest of East Gippsland is simply a paradise for nature lovers, abounding in kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, prodigiously rich birdlife and seals and dolphins along the coast.
Bison and Wolves in Poland
Bison roaming wild is no longer a common occurrence in our modern world, and when this happens in one of the last surviving pieces of primeval forest in Europe, it is even more special. The Białowieża forest is a World Heritage site, situated on the border between Belarus and Poland. It is a huge tract of forest of coniferous and broadleaved trees, comprising almost 142,000 hectares, and it houses about 500 European bison.
Tour operators provide expert guiding to give visitors the best chance of seeing these iconic and magnificent beasts in their natural habitat. Visitors stay in comfortable accommodation in guest houses or hotels, and get to enjoy hearty Polish breakfasts, packed lunches and delicious local cuisine at dinner time. In summer, guided walks and bike rides through the ancient forest are available, and in winter guided wolf tracking through the snow is offered to hardy and intrepid souls!
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