If you’re passionate about wildlife, it’s likely that one of the reasons you travel is to catch a glimpse of an exotic animal in its natural habitat. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to spot a leopard stalking its prey, while on safari in the Kruger National Park or the Common Shelbruck, which, despite its name is actually quite rare, while birdwatching on a luxury journey to India.
Now that we’re all wondering when it will be safe to travel again, we can dream of our next vacation and the possibility of seeing something in the wild that we’ll never forget. We have time on our hands to learn more about these remarkable creatures that have roamed the earth for thousands of years. We can explore how to travel sustainably so that we preserve and conserve their spaces and ensure that the next generation can admire them as we have.
Incredible India – Home to a Vibrant Wildlife Population
Discover the remarkable wealth of wildlife that India has to offer. This enormous sub-continent, the second-most populous country in the world, is the perfect place to search out the elusive tiger. India is home to almost 3,000 tigers, which is a boost on figures from five years ago, suggesting that conservation measures are proving successful. The Bengal tiger is native to the country, although it is still threatened by poaching and encroachment on its habitat. Ranthambore National Park is home to many of the creatures and although they prefer to lurk among the trees for camouflage, the abundant prey and lakes of the park do lure them into sight on occasion. Take an early morning game drive to see if you can spot one, and you’ll also encounter spotted deer, playful rhesus macaque monkeys and wild boar feeding on the wild fruits and plants that grow in the park.
Many visitors see leopards, sloth bear and nilgai on their safari, and graceful gazelles can be observed from time to time grazing on the wild growing flora. While exploring the park, don’t miss the 1,000-year-old fort, which is where many different species often hang out.
If you’re a fan of birdwatching, you’ll be spoilt for choice with more than 300 species of bird found in the park. Painted storks and egrets wade around the wetter areas of the park, while cute parakeets can be spotted sitting in the trees. Colourful kingfishers and black eagles also populate the park. During the winter season, from October to March, plenty of migratory birds visit the park, including the sarcus crane and falcons. This is a splendid time to visit, but note that safaris can be hard to arrange on your own so it’s best to visit with a recognized company. Choosing a company such as Luxury Gold supports sustainability travel and means you’re making an ethical choice that encourages protection of our planet and wildlife.
The dry, deciduous forests of the park are also an ambling ground for the Asian elephant, with sightings delighting travelers who visit any time of year. These magnificent creatures may be smaller than their African counterparts, but they still weigh in at around 2,000 – 5,000 kgs each!
A sad reality is that elephant welfare awareness isn’t common in India, which has led to the mistreatment of the beautiful animals. They are used for processions, performances and manual labor. Through their partnership with TreadRight, Luxury Gold has helped support Wildlife SOS to build a permanent training facility that trains staff in proper elephant management and laws around animals, to improve the situation between humans and elephants and protect these magnificent creatures.
Even wandering the streets of Jaipur, cows are a frequent sight. This is because cows are revered as a symbol of life in Hinduism, and almost 80% of the country identify as Hindus. It is worshipped as Gaumata, mother cow, because it provides milk, so it’s seen as life-giving. There are also more cows here than anywhere else, it’s estimated that there are approximately 45 million of them roaming around India. It’s an odd sight to see them ambling unguarded wherever they please and travelers never fail to get a kick out of it.
Stunning Safari in South Africa
Travel deep into the wilderness for the opportunity to see the Big Five in their natural terrain. One of the most immersive experiences you can enjoy is staying right in the heart of the African bushveld at the Lion Sands Game Reserve, which forms part of the ecosystem that contains the largest concentration of wild animal species in the entire Southern hemisphere. Stay in contemporary African luxury and admire the animals that congregate near the Sabie river, a world away from busy city living.
Here you’ll have an excellent chance to see a pride of lions roaming through the reserve looking for prey. Awaken early to catch the animals at feeding time – experienced rangers and trackers will take you on a fascinating drive where you pass cunning crocodiles lounging in the sun near the water. Nearby some hippos may be lying half-submerged as they try to cool down from the heat of the day. Hear more about the ruthless and predatory hyena, who has been miscast as a coward throughout history, but in fact is brave and intelligent, which has led to their survival when competing with lions for prey.
The white rhino is far more commonly seen than its near relative, the black rhino, although its name doesn’t directly relate to its color. White rhinos are larger than their relatives and love to graze on the savannah. They are less aggressive than black rhinos too but can run surprisingly fast given that they weigh up to 2,000 kgs and have remarkably short legs.
If you’re a big cat fan, the Lion Sands reserve boasts frequent sightings of the elusive leopard. They are happy roaming around the plains of Sabi sands, and it may be a rare opportunity to observe the stealthy, agile animals. By day they lie in trees for camouflage, but during the morning they can be seen at their most active, crouching before they attack.
One of the world’s most endangered mammals, the African wild dog, lives in the park too. They are commonly found hunting in packs of six – 20, with the size of the pack increasing their ability to hunt down larger prey. Each African wild dog has a unique pattern on their coat, which helps trackers and rangers to identify them individually.
The graceful oribi, a small antelope, is a rewarding sight for visitors to the reserve. They have fascinating dunging ceremonies and are social creatures within their herds. Their young are born between October – December and it is less likely they’ll be seen then, as the young are hidden away from any prying eyes.
Hear the booming call of the grey-crowned crane during breeding season, named for its glorious headpiece of stiff golden feathers. If you’re extremely lucky, perhaps you’ll be treated to a show of its courtship display, which involves dancing, bowing and jumping. This fantastically feathered bird is threatened by a loss of habitat and use of pesticides. Other birds you can see in the Kruger national park include the Greater blue-eared Starling and the White-headed Vulture. The Yellow-billed Oxpecker is more commonly sighted here than anywhere else.
The Extraordinary Wildlife Wonders of Down Under
The smallest continent on earth boasts some of the most fascinating sights and wildlife that you’ll ever see. This enormous country possesses over 80% of species that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet, which means that it is a must-visit for nature-lovers. Added to that is the fact that it’s lockdown measures have successfully controlled the coronavirus, it means that traveling across the country is permitted here, where it may be challenging elsewhere. Here you can go completely off the beaten track, but even if you choose a more urban center as your base, there’s an incredible amount to see within a short drive.
The Inspiring Australia 13-day journey lets you experience a plethora of amazing encounters. Join a Local Expert to visit UNESCO World Heritage Site, Daintree National Park. Pass by some farm dams to see a shy platypus making its way through the waters and plenty of kangaroos that will be out in force during the day, feeding in the daylight hours. If you’re taking the Jindalba Circuit track, the rare Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo that is only native to these parts, may make a special appearance in early morning or late afternoon. Wallabies and possums live in the park too. Daintree is an amphibian’s dream, visiting during summer will expose you to the incredibly loud frog chorus. When you hear that Queensland boast 54 species of frog native to the area, the chorus makes sense!
Birders will love Daintree, as 430 bird varieties have been recorded in the park over the years. Come to see the mesmerising dance of Victoria’s riflebird, which is endemic to these parts and Macleay’s honeyeater, which hangs upside down to eat.
The Great Barrier Reef is a bucket list item that many travelers regard as one of the most extraordinary phenomena they have ever seen, a gigantic coral reef that is visible from space. Cruise to the Outer Reef to snorkel in underwater gardens and marvel at the remarkable variety of aquatic life in its depths. The coral is a complex ecosystem that is home to more than 1,500 species of fish and over 400 kinds of sea mammals, including the vulnerable dugong and many different starfish.
Insight Vacations has recently launched new Local Escapes for those who live in Australia. If you’re itching for your next getaway, these premium escorted tours are a chance to get out and explore your country, while travelling sustainably and supporting local businesses trying to get back on their feet after almost a year of bushfires and lockdowns. Perhaps a visit to Western Australia would be a good pick, as you can get off the beaten track or visit Rottnest Island to meet the happiest animal on earth, the quokka.
Wherever you choose to go on your next journey seeking rare wildlife, remember that your travel choices affect the communities and landscapes that you visit, so be sure to choose wisely and make travel matter.