When the world finally reopens to travel, many of us may want to get close to nature after being cooped up at home for so long.
Here is our pick of some amazing wildlife-loving breaks that will transport you to all corners of the globe…
Scottish eagles and seals
Let us prey: A white-tailed sea eagle is just one of the species you could see on a trip to the Scottish Highlands
Seek out seals, dolphins, puffins, red deer and golden and sea eagles on this six-day trip through the Scottish Highlands.
Seals are curious and playful, and there is no better way to get up close than from the cockpit of a kayak on the shallow waters of Arisaig Skerries, a series of beautiful white-sand islands described as ‘Scotland’s Caribbean’.
Trips start at Loch Ness — in search of the most elusive creature of all: the long-necked monster said to roam its waters. Good luck!
Book it: A six-night trip including accommodation, meals and travel from £1,735pp (wildernessscotland.com).
Bears in Finland
Born free: Bears in Finland, where 2,000 of them roam free. You can learn about them at the wild brown bear safari centre
On Finland’s eastern border, Wild Taiga’s bear cabins are the perfect spot to see wild brown bears in their natural habitat.
With 2,000 of them roaming free, wildlife photographers will be in their element.
Learn about the creatures at the wild brown bear safari centre.
Book it: A night at Wild Taiga’s luxury bear cabin is from £431 in October 2020 (wildtaiga.fi).
September is the best time to visit the Isles of Scilly, pictured, for a bird watching holiday
Enjoy a guided tour of the Isles of Scilly, led by birdwatching experts, on eight-day trips.
You might glimpse Mediterranean golden orioles, bee-eaters, tree swallows and sandpipers in the spring.
Species come from as far as North America and Siberia — the islands have a bird list of more than 400 species. September is also good time to visit, when nighthawks, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and magnolia warblers can be seen.
Book it: An eight-day trip is from £1,095 pp, including B&B accommodation, ferries and guided tours (naturetrek.co.uk).
Wolves in Romania
The remote Carpathian Mountain in Romania, pictured, are among the European wolf’s last stronghold
The remote and beautiful Carpathian Mountains are one of the European wolf’s last strongholds. The animals are heavily protected and can be hard to spot.
Set out with local experts, who will bee looking for their tracks while keeping an eye out for bears in the woods and peregrine falcons circling above.
Book it: An eight-day hiking trip to the Carpathian Mountains is from £1,299pp (responsibletravel.com).
Lions and cheetahs
One of the camps that guests stay at during a nine-day jaunt to Kenya to visit the country’s spectacular national parks and private conservancies
Kenya’s spectacular national parks and private conservancies are home to some of Africa’s most critically endangered species.
Head off on a nine-day jaunt that includes game drives with cheetah and lion experts in the Maasai Mara, track black rhinos in the Lewa conservancy and stay at the Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu. It’s the dream insider’s guide.
Book it: From £1,625 pp per day for nine days, based on four travelling together (aardvarksafaris.co.uk).
Elusive snow leopards
The best place to try to catch a glimpse at the elusive snow leopard is in Ladakh, high in the Indian Himalayas
Snow leopards are challenging to spot even for the best wildlife experts. The world population is thought to be as low as 6,590, and Ladakh, high in the Indian Himalayas, is the best place to try to catch a glimpse.
Patience is required; guides set up camera traps and scan the foothills.
Book it: 14-day snow leopard experiences are from £3,450 pp excluding flights, with trips between January and March 2021 (naturalworldsafaris.com).
Costa Rica is home to half a million species – five per cent of the world’s total – including the red-eyed frog, pictured
Costa Rica is so biodiverse, it’s home to half a million species — five per cent of the world’s total.
The lush Monteverde cloud forest is the place to be for birdwatchers, with those happy to walk muddy trails for hours boosting their chances of seeing a rare Resplendent Quetzal. Its iridescent feathers and long tail are fabulous.
Book it: An 11-night tour including a stay in the Monteverde cloud forest is from £2,050 pp in 2021 (inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk).
Polar bears up close
One of the best places to spot polar bears is on a specialist sailing trip to Svalbard in Norway
BBC travel presenter Simon Reeve warns that the lockdown has left animals vulnerable to poachers – even in parks and conservancies
BBC travel presenter Simon Reeve, who says many rangers and guides at national parks across the globe are being laid off, leaving endangered animals unprotected
On the face of it, the lockdown should benefit nature. With humans stuck inside, pollution levels are plummeting, coyotes are retaking empty streets in San Francisco and goats are strolling nonchalantly through Llandudno in Wales.
Yet, sadly, many rangers and guides at national parks across the globe are being laid off, leaving endangered animals unprotected. Poaching is already increasing in some areas. Rhinos have been killed in southern Africa, in tourist areas normally considered safe havens.
So when tourism does return, why not book a ‘wild holiday’? From bear rehabilitation centres in Vietnam and Laos to orangutan sanctuaries in Malaysia, fish-breeding coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and game reserves in Africa, cash from overseas visitors can make a difference.
At sea, less money now means fewer patrol boats monitoring reefs and marine protected areas. The result is more illegal fishing, stripping out vital creatures that help to keep our oceans in balance.
On land, without rangers, the hunt for ‘bushmeat’ is another threat, and there are concerns that farmers will take areas of national parks for crops and cattle. I also know, from first-hand experience at the incredible Kicheche camps in Kenya, that to visit them is like stepping into the Garden of Eden: elephants, hyenas, leopards, baboons, topis and elands.
The camps are an important employer, too, with scores of staff providing for family members as well as funding schools and healthcare. A collapse in visitor numbers is a disaster for these parts of the Maasai Mara.
It’s a good idea during lockdown to research future visits to some of the world’s spectacular conservation camps. If you find a trip that’s right for you, put a deposit down: it will be a start.
After the virus has gone, go wild! And help protect great apes, big cats and other endangered life on this planet, as well as supporting communities.
- Simon Reeve’s television adventures are on BBC iPlayer. Step By Step, his autobiography, is available from bookshops and online.
As concerns grow about the effect of melting sea ice on polar bears, see these endangered animals on a specialist-led trip sailing through the summer ice floes off Svalbard in Norway.
Plus a chance to spot walrus colonies.
Book it: 11-day trips sailing from Svalbard between April and August 2021 are from £6,295 pp, excluding flights (naturalworldsafaris.com).
Gorillas in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a national park in western Uganda, is one of the best places to see mountain gorillas
Numbers have rebounded in recent years, yet mountain gorillas remain on endangered lists. But 400 of the 1,000-strong population can be found in the mountainous Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a national park in western Uganda, with 14 families living near the forest’s visitor centre.
The reward after a sweaty rainforest hike is an hour in the company of these hulking primates, one of man’s closest relatives.
Book it: Four-day Bwindi packages are from £3,000 pp, including three nights at Bwindi Lodge and ground transport (volcanoessafaris.com). Gorilla permits for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park cost £567 pp.
Indian Ocean reefs
Guests at the Sheraton’s Full Moon Resort and Spa in the Maldives can learn about coral growth in the Indian Ocean
Sheraton’s Full Moon Resort and Spa in the Maldives has a new programme in which guests can learn about and encourage coral growth by sponsoring dedicated coral frames.
The aim is to boost fish habitats, replacing coral damaged by ‘bleaching’, which is caused by rising water temperatures.
Book it: Deluxe rooms cost from £592 per night in January 2021 (marriott.com).
Drake’s Passage in Antarctica, where you can search for humpback and minke whales as well as penguin colonies
Antarctica’s ecosystem is fragile. Set off on a 15-day epic led by environmentalists and wildlife experts, sailing over Christmas 2021, to learn about it while seeing some of the world’s most remote landscapes.
You will cross Drake’s Passage from Ushuaia in Argentina, then search for humpback and minke whales while getting close to the penguin colonies.
Book it: A 15-day trip sailing on December 14, 2021, from Ushuaia, costs from £10,923 pp (auroraexpeditions.co.uk).
Peruvian giant otters
A giant otter swimming in Lake Sandoval in Tambopata Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon
With just 5,000 left in the wild, the giant otter is one of South America’s most endangered mammals.
But they are still found at Lake Sandoval, within the Tambopata Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon, where there are guided canoe tours. The otters are huge: 1.8m (almost 6ft) long.
Book it: A three-night stay at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, including a guided trip to Lake Sandoval, is from £1,029 pp, departing January 2021 (inkaterra.com).