On 3rd March 2020, UN World Wildlife Day takes place to celebrate and raise awareness of our planet’s wild animals and plants. Some of the most rewarding travel experiences involve spending time in nature, getting close to native flora and fauna.
Providing travellers engage with wildlife responsibly, carefully and respectfully, wildlife travel can be an enriching and sustainable experience.
Hills Balfour outlines its pick of 2020’s best wildlife holidays…
- MEET MANITOBA’S BELGUA WHALES
- EXPLORE PUERTO RICO’S BIOLUMINESCENT BAYS
- EXPERIENCE THE GREAT MIGRATION IN KENYA WITH HERITAGE HOTELS
- DISCOVER CHILE’S ELUSIVE PUMA
- GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH THE CANADIAN MOOSE
- HEAD TO FLAMINGO ISLAND IN QATAR
- EXPERIENCE HAWAI’I’S CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HUMPBACK WHALE
- LOOK OUT FOR DESERT ADAPTED ELEPHANTS IN NAMIBIA
- CHECK OUT GAZELLES IN THE DESERT IN RAS AL KHAIMAH
Meet Manitoba’s beluga whales
In Canada’s Manitoba region, Hudson Bay is hailed as the beluga whale capital of the world. New in 2020, Frontiers North’s six day tour, Conservation Journey: Beluga Whales, combines field education and adventure, enabling travellers to witness up to 60,000 beluga whales embark on their annual migration. The trip ventures into the Churchill River estuary, where whales swim into the warm, shallow waters each summer to give birth and feed. The tour is accompanied by leading beluga whale researcher and ocean scientist, Valeria Vergara, who is on hand to teach travellers about beluga whale biology and ocean health, as well as the behaviour and vocalisations of Churchill’s beluga whales. Partial proceeds from the tour will be donated to Ocean Wise, a global ocean conservation organisation to help achieve its vision of a world where oceans are healthy and flourishing.
Explore Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bays
Those seeking a surreal wildlife experience will be awed by Puerto Rico’s spectacular bioluminescent bays. Home to three of the world’s five bays, these rare ecosystems occur when the concentration of plankton is high enough to produce a ‘glow in the dark’ effect when stimulated by movement. Plankton can be found throughout the ocean, but it is very rare for them to be present in concentrations high enough to be noticeable. Visitors should head to the sparkling waters of Mosquito Bay in Vieques, which boasts the brightest biobay in the world thanks to careful preservation efforts which prohibit boats, swimming and discourage the use hand creams, bug repellent and any lotion that could harm the organisms.
Experience Kenya’s great migration with Heritage Hotels
The Maasai Mara in Kenya is undoubtedly one of Africa’s finest safari reserves, and the Heritage Hotels ‘Mara Intrepids’ property is in a prime location near the Mara River, where more than a million wildebeest and zebra make their perilous migration crossing in July and August. With three daily game drives, Mara Intrepids offers the opportunity to see a host of large populations of elephants, rhinos, buffalo, and the big cats. Each private tent sits on a raised platform, with sweeping views over the riverbanks where a large variety of wildlife come to drink. As one of the Mara’s most established camps, Mara Intrepids enjoys a very close relationship with the local Maasai community, from which most of the staff hail. The camp is run on strict eco-principles, with hot water generated by burning used coffee husks, biodegradable waste mulched for compost, and all wastewater recycled through their own on-site constructed wetland.
A Patagonian Adventure: Discover Chile’s Elusive Puma
Any wildlife lover will be eager to catch a glimpse of Chile’s elusive Puma in Patagonia. Visitors can travel deep into the heart of the majestic Torres del Paine National Park, in the company of a specially trained team of trackers on Wild Frontier’s Puma Tracking in Patagonia Tour. Here, amongst the towering peaks of the snow-capped Paine massif, guests can spend four days amongst the stunning landscape of glacial lakes and spectacular granite spires, searching for the enigmatic Andean puma and the endangered south Andean deer. With the knowledgeable insight of an expert guide always close to hand, guests will also learn about the flora and geology of the park, taking in breath-taking sunrises and hypnotic sunsets across one of the most iconic natural landscapes in South America.
Get up close and personal with the Canadian Moose in Ontario
The moose is synonymous with Canada, so a sighting of one of these beautiful beasts makes for a quintessential Canadian experience. In the region of Ontatio, travellers can visit Algonquin Provincial Park, a gateway to Ontario’s beautiful wilderness to get up close and personal to the iconic Canadian Moose on Voyageur Quest’s Algonquin Park Moose Photography Safari. During the three-day safari, visitors will be given the opportunity to canoe through the mist and enjoy magical mornings learning how to ethically photograph the famed wildlife of Algonquin Park. The local guides set up camp, cook delicious meals and capture the spirit of the land.
Head to Flamingo Island in Qatar
Qatar may be known for its high-end hotels and bustling markets, but outside the vibrant city of Doha lies an impressive natural landscape not typically associated with the Middle East. Al Thakira mangroves, around 70km north of the capital, present a large expanse of natural greenery in sharp contrast to the surrounding rolling deserts. The area of vegetation has its own ecosystem that attracts resident and migrating bird life – nearly three billion birds from Europe and Siberia fly to Africa between September and April, with one-third of them using Qatar as their favourite stopover. In November visitors are guaranteed winter sun and warm climes of around 30 degrees, but are also likely to catch sight of flamingos that flock to Al Thakira’s wetlands. Visitors can explore the mangroves via kayak to spot the beautiful birds in a peaceful, responsible way.
Experience Hawai’i’s close relationship with the humpback whale
Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawai‘i to breed, calve and nurse their young, frolicking off the shores of the Hawaiian Islands from December through to May. Whales have great cultural significance for native Hawaiians and the return of the ‘kohola’ (humpback whale) is considered more of a homecoming than a visit, since humpback whales are born in Hawaiian waters making them kamaaina (native born). Some native Hawaiians also believe that the whales are family guardians, meaning that the gentle creatures are treated with the utmost respect across the archipelago. Humpback whales can be seen from all the Hawaiian Islands but the shallow Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai and Lanai is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world. In respect for the creatures, all boats must stay a minimum of 100 yards from the whales, but visitors be surprised at how close they feel when a 45-ton behemoth lunges out of the sea!
Look out for desert-adapted elephants in Namibia
Namibia, one of the least densely populated countries in the world, is home to one of the world’s two known groups of desert-adapted elephants. These fascinating elephants are very similar to the African bush elephant, but smaller with larger feet and longer legs than their savannah-dwelling cousins. There were once almost 3,000 desert elephants in the Kunene region which is where the nomadic Himba tribe resides. Poaching and hunting caused these numbers to plummet, but through the continued efforts of the Namibian government, where conservation is part of the constitution, as well as committed private groups, the desert animals are gradually growing in numbers each year. Travellers to Namibia can head out with a local guide to spot the animals in their natural habitat and learn about their connection with the land in southern Africa. Currently the free-roaming population of desert elephants in the Kunene region is approximately 600.
Check out gazelles in the desert in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
Located in the northernmost The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert offers a nature reserve spanning 500 hectares (1,235 acres) which is home to a range of diverse wildlife living freely around the resort. From more than 50 different species of birds, falcons, and owls, to camels, Arabian oryx, and over 130 sand gazelles, guests at the property can experience the breath-taking scenery of the secluded nature reserve. The area was recently selected as the new home for 80 new gazelles due to its ideal habitat for flora and fauna, as well as its current thriving gazelle and oryx population. The extensive natural underground water reserve helps to sustain a vast bio-diversity of wildlife, whilst the cooler climate enables this indigenous species to flourish.