If you could pick TEN places to have the BEST wildlife experience that Earth has to offer, where would you choose to go? Each continent has a diverse array of incredible fauna so it can be hard to pick ten, so we have picked the top ten places that also encourage mindful and sustainable travel that has minimal impact on the wildlife you are visiting. 

DISCLOSURE: There are A LOT of factors to consider when traveling for wildlife experiences. Firstly, your own safety. Many places won’t have the same standards as your home country may have, so this blog post and these locations are just a guide and you should always do your own investigation! 

Why do we travel to experience wildlife? 

Maybe it is to be immersed in truly wild places, to enjoy the sense of stepping into an unfamiliar environment without our human luxuries, to feel connected and aligned to nature, to bring inspiration into your art, to pursue a passion, or maybe to experience excitement, amazement and pure joy that comes with the experience of a lifetime. 

Whatever your reason to experience wildlife is, we all share one common factor and that is to be bewildered by the natural environment in all its beautiful, and sometimes stinky, glory. 

The BEST wildlife experience is one that is somewhat unpredictable and unexpected. You should try avoid going into nature with a list as you will no doubt be disappointed. Rather, lean into the unpredictability of your location and the passion of your guides or tourism operator. 

If you are mindful of the impact your travel may have on the locations and wildlife you are visiting, then you should pay extra close attention to your operator and the experience they are offering. If it seems “too good to be true”, it probably is. This will ALWAYS come at a cost to the animals you’re encountering. Not all ‘ecotourism’ operators are on the same playing field. With some using the title as a disingenuous means of gaining visitors, so it helps to put that little bit extra attention when booking. Look past the words they use on the homepage and look for specific information on the research or conservation efforts they do. 

Third-party reviews are an amazing way to gain a better insight into the location and operators too. 

To seek out a location and experience that will give back to the environment and community should be your top priority! In countries like Australia, there are organisations that will take the guesswork out for you, and have hand-picked experiences which leave a positive impact on you and the animals – https://australianwildlifejourneys.com 

 So let’s get into my top ten places around the world to experience wildlife. 

Starting in the Southern Hemisphere with whale watching in Australia: 

1. Western Australia; Whales

Western Australia whale watching is a hotspot! With whales passing our coastline year-round, there are endless watching opportunities. 

During summer, (January to April) explore the offshore continental shelf and encounter Orca, Sperm Whales, and other toothed whales in Bremer Bay, in W.A.’s south. Marine Biologists and wildlife photographers are onboard to educate and inspire! Naturaliste Charters conduct onboard data collection and facilitate marine research with international collaborations all while you are onboard. The orcas are the main attraction and with the highest sighting chance in the world of 96%, it should be at the top of your list. 

During winter, stay inshore and explore coastal waters with migrating great whales. Such as Humpback Whales Exmouth, Southern Right Whales, and Blue Whales. Naturaliste Charters also offer whale watching from May to December in the south-west of W.A. and it is a great coastal location to see all three of these animals in one half-day tour. 

2. Patagonia; Penguins and birds

A large region with so much to offer, you should try get off the beaten path with a qualified guide! The Patagonian National Park is on the eastern side of the Andes and showcases glacier-fed rivers with arid grasslands, wetlands and riparian forests. Magellanic and King Penguins reside in the region while flamingos, condors and woodpeckers also live here. Other Patagonian wildlife consists of Armadillos, Cougars, Mara, Tuco-Tuco, and the iconic Guanaco. 

3. Antarctica; Whales and Penguins

This location speaks for itself. A truly wild place where there is 24 hours of sunlight during the Austral summer.  As you cross passages you can spot various species of cetaceans and rare pelagic birds in the Southern Ocean and on arrival to the white continent the wildlife is sure to amaze! Penguins and seals thrive in the cold climate here, where you can observe them in kayaks and zodiacs throughout ice floats and maybe even get the chance to see a feeding whale! 

At the equator, where conditions are warmer! 

4. Kenya; Elephants, Rhinos and Big Cats.

Moving away from cold southern climates into the equatorial region, head out on safari to find iconic African megafauna at the “World’s Greatest Safari Destination”. With three wildlife conservancies working to protect these species you can achieve a new perspective through passionate land care-takers. These are Amboseli National Park, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Masai Mara National Reserve. Zebra, impala, gazelle, wildebeest, buffalo, rhino, and elephant; plus lion, cheetah, and leopard, as well as hippos and crocodiles along the riverbanks are on the list while being completely immersed in African culture.  

5. Uganda; Apes

Experience wild mountain gorillas face-to-face on a trekking adventure!  Even Sir David Attenborough described it as one of the most exciting wildlife encounters of his life! 

Move through the rainforest in search of the ape families, where critical conservation work is conducted to understand and help protect these species. Chimpanzee and endangered Golden Monkeys could be encountered as you are guided by field specialists. 

6. India; Bengal Tiger

Central India is home to one of the best places to see wild Royal Bengal Tigers in the Bandhavgarh National Park. With the highest density of any of India’s reserves there is an almost guaranteed chance of a sighting on a tiger safari. The first moments of seeing the yellow and black stripes will give you goosebumps. Here in the national park there is also a wildlife sanctuary which houses a healthy Tiger population. Leopard, deer, sloth, wild pigs, and a hundred or so bird species also call this region home. 

North hemisphere now, where the temperature drops again! 

7. Baja California; Gray Whales

Perfectly positioned between the gigantic Pacific Ocean and the nutrient-rich water of the Sea of Cortez, the Mexican state, Baja California is another epic destination for whale watching. Gray Whales, humpbacks, blue whales, whale sharks, and orcas can all be observed in this region. Summer is typically a better time of year as the migrating gray whales, the most commonly observed, fill the bay to give birth. 

8. San Juan Islands; Whales

Head further north and you will encounter the San Juan Islands, another whale watching hotspot. 

Killer Whales live here year-round while humpbacks, minkes, steller sea-lions, and more, also inhabit these waters. Being such a wildlife hotspot, there are many operators to choose from, so look for the ones who give the most back. Such as onboard naturalists and education programs, as well as orca conservation! 

9. Svalbard; Polar Bears

The symbol of the arctic – the polar bear is a fearsome animal. At the northernmost island is the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The world’s largest terrestrial carnivore, the Polar Bear can be spotted from a distance onshore, but the best way to observe them is to head onto the water during the Northern summer months. With climate change threatening this species’ habitats in many locations, Svalbard is seen to be acting as a refuge for the species, however care should be taken when booking. Ensure you incorporate other environmental and cultural experiences into your itinerary too. Exploring a polar wilderness will take your breath away.

10. Alaska; Whales, Bears

Sled dogs, humpbacks, orcas, bald eagles, tidal glaciers, bears, moose, lynx, and wolves! Alaska is a wild place with even wilder animals. With conservation and national parks throughout the region, there is an endless array of wildlife to witness here. Go without a list and a conservation priority, and you will have an experience to last a lifetime! 

So what are you waiting for?? Head out into the world and explore, remember to only take photos and only leave footprints! 

Written by Pia Markovic – Marine Biologist. 

Inspired by Nat Geo’s Expeditions https://www.nationalgeographic.com/expeditions/ and helped along by https://www.wayfairertravel.com/inspiration/wildlife-experiences-around-the-world/