Getting the opportunity to spot wildlife in different parts of the world can be considered something special, especially with the current situation of poaching in parts of Africa.
A lot of wild animals are already considered endangered species, while others are threatened to become endangered and the thought of not getting to see the beloved rhino, leopard or penguin is a travesty.
As such, the chance to encounter these wild animals is a great opportunity, and below is a list of the best wildlife experiences from around the world.
Where: Maru National Park, Kenya
Best place to see: The greater one-horned rhinos of India’s Kaziranga National Park are a rare conservation success story – their numbers are on the up and sightings are likely.
The same goes for Chitwan National Park in Nepal, where walking safaris are permitted and poaching has been all but eliminated in recent years.
The same sadly can’t be said of South Africa, though the poacher-troubled Kruger NP remains the undisputed king, home to some 10,000 white rhinos, about half that remaining in the world.
Just a handful of countries (South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia) are home to 98% of Africa’s black rhino, with Namibia’s Palmwag Concession in Damaraland one of few places where black rhino numbers are actually steadily rising.
Where: Southern Hemisphere
Some 18 penguin species live across the Southern Hemisphere, from as far north as Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, where you can snorkel alongside its endemic species year-round, to the shores of the Eastern Antarctic’s Ross Island and its vast colonies of tobogganing Adélie.
Best place to see: The sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia is perhaps the world’s most famous penguin-sighting spot; cruises (Nov–Mar) disembark on Salisbury Plain, home to some 500,000 king penguins, for one of the great wildlife sights (arrive Dec–Feb to see chicks hatching).
Where: Central and North America
Best place to see: Costa Rica is year-round sloth central – it’s even on the currency! Home to Hoffmann’s two-toed and Brown-throated sloths, you can see them anywhere but concentrations are highest in the forests of the Osa Peninsula; along the Pacific coast, such as Manuel Antonio National Park; or Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side.
Fun Fact: Sloths can hang in a stationary position from 8 to 10 hours – to the point where Algae will grow on their fur as a form of camouflage from predators.
Where: Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia
Best place to see: In Africa, sightings are possible year-round, though are easier later in the dry season (Mar–Nov) when the trees have fewer leaves and the grass has died back.
Top spots are South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, which is famous for its guided walking safaris; Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa, which has a high density of habituated cats; and the Okavango Delta in Botswana, especially its Moremi Game Reserve.
In Asia, Sri Lanka’s excellent Yala NP virtually guarantees sightings, though is best when water levels are low (Feb–Jul), while leopard numbers are rising fast in India’s Aravalli Range; visit Jawai in southern Rajasthan for good sightings.
5. Mountain Gorilla
Where: Western Equatorial Africa
Best place to see: In the north of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda, where three of the nation’s 11 habituated gorilla families live, extended visits (four hours) are permitted.
Elsewhere, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is famed for its gorillas, but visits come at a cost (permit: US$1,500 compared to Uganda’s US$450+). For a truly remote escape, Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo-Brazzaville has a trio of fly-in camps, with treks into its dense bio-diverse forests revealing families of western lowland gorillas – a truly wild sight.
Fun fact: A Silverback Gorilla is a formidable sight. You expect it to be ‘big’, but it’s the power that blows you away. And while there’s a whole lot of rules (sit low, don’t point, don’t stare) when you see one, it can be hard to recall anything at the moment.
6. African Lion
Where: Sub-Saharan Africa
Best place to see: The African Lion is the king of the jungle and is one of the biggest desired wildcats along with the leopard and the cheetah.
The African Lion is popularly located in Southern and Eastern Africa – mainly in Kenya and Tanzania, where visitors who go by guided safari are lucky to spot the wildcat either by itself, on the prowl for food or with its pride.
South African parks like the Kruger National Park, Okavango Delta, and Hluhluwe Game Reserve are great places to try your luck on finding the King of the jungle.