We will be open at 9:00 am. Call 020 7590 0610

Top 10 alternative wildlife experiences

Article content

24 July 2023 by Norire Arakelyan

Ever felt overwhelmed by crowds when spotting wildlife at a popular destination? For many it leaves them longing for a more authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience. So, while the world's famous wildlife spots are popular for a reason, there are plenty of alternatives waiting to be discovered. From little-known national parks to destinations perhaps known for something else, below we round up the 10 best alternatives for amazing wildlife experiences away from the crowds. Read ahead for some hidden treasures which could just inspire your next trip!

1. Komodo dragons in Indonesia


A world away from the heavily frequented towns and beaches of Bali, a number of Indonesia's eastern islands are home to around 5000 Komodo dragons – a perfect option for fans of exotic wildlife. Thriving on the idyllic islands of Komodo, Rinca and Flores within Komodo National Park, these fearsome and somewhat otherworldly creatures weigh in at around 90kg and can grow up to three metres in length, comfortably making them the world's largest lizards. Using razor-sharp teeth, dagger-like claws and paralysing saliva to take down their prey, these beasts look like something from a bygone age. Come face  to face with these mesmerising animals on our Bali & Komodo: Cruise and Stay itinerary. The park is also home to some wonderful marine life, including whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays and the enormous ocean sunfish.

Discover our Indonesia holidays


2. Big Five in Zimbabwe


While the likes of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana steal all the headlines in southern Africa, and Kenya and Tanzania do likewise in the east of the continent, Zimbabwe often sneaks in under the tourist radar. Even though the country's darkest days are thankfully long gone, tourism has been slow in catching up, meaning fewer crowds and authentic safaris aplenty. And, you won't have to sacrifice any must-see wildlife. In particular, Zimbabwe's largest reserve – Hwange National Park – is home to a great number of elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, rhino, giraffe, blue wildebeest and impala. We recommend combining three of the most diverse and spectacular areas in Zimbabwe as on our Highlights of Zimbabwe itinerary; starting and finishing at Victoria Falls and including Lake Kariba and of course Hwange National Park.

Discover our Zimbabwe holidays


3. Jaguars in Brazil's Pantanal


Deep in southern Brazil lies the region of Pantanal, the world’s biggest tropical wetland. Very much overshadowed by the big cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo – and indeed the vast Amazon rainforest – the Pantanal is perhaps as impressive as it is underrated. A haven for all kinds of wildlife, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve covers a truly enormous area - larger than France and around 20 times the size of the Florida Everglades. The astonishing biodiversity in the Pantanal includes caimans, giant anteaters, tapirs, capybaras, ocelots, anacondas and thousands of species of fish and birds. However, the most iconic of all is surely the elusive Jaguar, native to the continent of South America. The Pantanal's fertile lands offer one of the best places to spot these rare big cats. For the best chance, travel during the dry season (July to October) when the ground is drier and the wildlife is more heavily concentrated around shrinking bodies of water. Knit it all together with our two-week wildlife-focussed itinerary.

Discover our Brazil holidays


4. Lemurs in Madagascar


With over 3,000 miles of coastline, vast tropical rainforests, some of the world’s largest coral reefs and an abundance of wildlife – Madagascar really has something for even the most discerning of travellers. But, across the world, the country is most famous for its lemurs – primates that looking something of a cross between a cat, squirrel and dog. Endemic only to Madagascar and neighbouring islands of Comoros, there are over 100 distinct species of these playful animals. Across their diverse species, they display a range of unusual behaviours, from prancing across the sand like ballet dancers (sifaka), to deafening whale-like calls from the treetops (indri). Our Lemurs of Madagascar itinerary showcases these unique animals across the country's best national parks. The most famous species – the ring-tailed lemur – can be seen in large numbers across most of the country's national parks. And, though lacking a dominant carnivorous primate or mammal has allowed lemurs to exist in relative peace until the arrival of humans, Madagascar is also notable for the unusual looking Fossa, the island's niche top predator, as well as a plethora of tropical marine life.

Discover our Madagascar holidays


5. Walrus in Svalbard


Simply, the walrus is an Arctic icon, and spotting this creature in its natural environment is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, although there’s only a smattering of populations spread across the northerly latitudes, the colonies on Svalbard are enjoying something of a resurgence, thanks to diminished hunting. Though they can be spotted all year round around the shores of Norway's arctic archipelago, we recommend travelling under summer's Midnight Sun for the best experience. Our recommended Svalbard & Tromso combination offers the perfect opportunity to spot these remarkable marine mammals. As well as Walrus', a visit to Svalbard can also reward you with sightings of arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer and even the mighty polar bear, all of whom are perfectly accustomed to the extreme living conditions on the islands.

Discover our Svalbard holidays


6. Elephants in Sri Lanka


Seeing wild elephants roaming their natural habitat is a truly special sight, wherever in the world. However, with many African safari destinations admitting more and more tourists and the likes of Thailand only getting busier, there aren't many locations where you can see elephants away from the crowds. Step forward Sri Lanka. With over 6000 elephants calling the island home, they are spread out across the country's national parks. Yala National Park is perhaps most famous for the best sightings of these majestic animals. Our Sri Lankan Wildlife & Whales adventure visits the best locations for elephants as well as offering the chance to spot monkeys, crocodiles, leopards, sloth bears, buffalos, storks and dolphins.

Discover our Sri Lanka holidays


7. Polar bears in Canada


Undoubtedly one of the most highly sought after travel experiences, seeing a polar bear in the wild is true bucket-list stuff. Living mostly on ice sheets, and swimming through freezing waters, they can also survive on land – making them the world's largest land carnivore. And, one small Canadian town shares its streets with these majestic animals – Churchill. In fact, so frequent are their encounters with polar bears that the town has earned the nickname of "polar bear capital of the world". Little surprise then that this faraway land perched on the shores of Hudson Bay is the best place to spot them up close. You can go in search of polar bears on our Birds, Bears & Belugas of Churchill itinerary. Also on the agenda are wolf, the arctic fox and herds of caribou.

Discover our Canada holidays


8. Kangaroos in Australia


With around 50 million of them across Australia – twice the number of residents – kangaroos are one of the country's most easily spotted native animals. This is why, for the best experience of spotting these large marsupials, we like to recommend following the road less travelled. With its unmistakable sanctity, rugged coastline and largely untouched nature, the aptly named Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia is the ideal location for witnessing these unique animals. Consider our Australian Wildlife Safari itinerary for the best experience, staying at our recommended Sea Dragon lodge on the island's quieter east coast. Other wildlife spotting opportunities include whale sharks, quokkas, koalas and sea lions.

Discover our Australia holidays


9. Fiordland penguins in New Zealand


With a population of barely 7000 birds, the tawaki – also know as the fiordland crested penguin – is one of the rarest penguin species in the world. They can be found in the depths of the rainforests of New Zealand's rugged southwest coast, living in small colonies. For a chance to spot these beautiful birds, embark a wilderness cruise amid the unspoilt beauty of Doubtful Sound in the company of a knowledgable guide. Our recommended Best of New Zealand's South Island itinerary includes all this and more. You'll also have a shot a spotting pods of resident dolphins as well as fur seals.

Discover our New Zealand holidays


10. Whale sharks in Mozambique


This endangered species is the largest living fish in the world and known to reach lengths in excess of 14 metres. These marine animals can be spotted throughout the year in the waters just off the coast of Mozambique, but they tend to be more often seen in the summer. We recommend travelling to the paradise archipelago of Bazaruto for the best chances of success. Our African Safari & Mozambique Beach Break links a classic South African safari with a few days of luxury in the tropical waters of the Indian ocean, where it is possible to enjoy diving in search of the many marine mammals that thrive in these warm waters. Among whale sharks, you can also find the rare dugongs, turtles and manta rays.

Discover our Mozambique holidays




Related offers

Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia

Bali & Komodo: Cruise and Stay

14-day tailor-made journey from £6,130 pp incl. flights

Enjoy an island-hopping cruise to the home of the Komodo dragon, bookended by luxury stays in two of Bali's most beautiful resorts – one in Ubud and the other in Jimbaran Bay.

The Elephant Camp, The Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The Highlights of Zimbabwe

11-day luxury safari from £9,770 pp incl. flights

This 11-day luxury tour of the highlights of Zimbabwe is ideal for families or couples wanting an authentic experience of the country's magestic wildlife and scenery.

Frog in Amazon Jungle

Brazil: Wildlife & Waterfalls

14-day tailor-made tour from £5,965 pp incl. flights

Starting in the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro, this curated tour takes in Iguaçu Falls, the Amazon and the Pantanal, bringing you to some of Brazil's most spectacular landscapes and wildlife on an unforgettable luxury holiday.

Lumur, Madagascar

Lemurs of Madagascar

15-day tailor-made holiday from £8,865 pp incl. flights

Having drifted away from the African mainland many millions of years ago, Madagascar has evolved along its own unique path, and more than 80% of its flora and fauna are found nowhere else on earth. By far the most famous are its loveable lemurs, of which there are 53 known varieties. As likely to c…

Polar bear in Svalbard

Svalbard & Tromso

6-day tailor-made holiday from £1,585 pp incl. flights

This twin-centre break is a superb introduction to the Arctic region, pairing the fun of a stay in Tromso with high adventure in Svalbard, just a short hop from the North Pole.

Elephants in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Wildlife and Whales

9-day tailor-made holiday from £3,175 pp incl. flights

Experience the best of Sri Lanka's natural world as you explore the Sinharaja Rainforest, Yala National Park, and go whale and dolphin watching off the palm-fringed south coast.

Churchill Polar Bear

Birds, Bears & Belugas of Churchill

9-day escorted tour from £11,030 pp incl. flights

Head out into the Arctic wilderness around Churchill, Manitoba to spot polar bears and beluga whales on a programme of expert-led tours. Then, in the evenings, return to your cosy lodge for roaring fires and gourmet food from renowned Canadian chefs.

Whale Shark, Ningaloo Reef, Coral Coast, Australia

Australian Wildlife Safari

16-day tailor-made journey from £6,410 pp incl. flights

Get up close to Australia’s famed wildlife, showcased across a range of included tours and excursions alongside stays in everything from beachside hideaways to luxury lodges.

Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound

Best of New Zealand's South Island

13-day tailor-made self-drive & rail journey from £4,655 pp incl. flights

Discover New Zealand's South Island on this in-depth road trip, which includes a glacier heli-hike, an overnight Doubtful Sound cruise and a journey on the iconic TranzAlpine train.

andBeyond Benguerra Island, Mozambique

African Safari & Mozambique beach break

11-day tailor-made holiday from £11,210 pp incl. flights

This is the definitive twin-centre getaway, combining a South African Big-Five safari with the white sands and relaxation of a private-island getaway in next-door Mozambique.

Why book with Wexas Travel?

At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

Contact one of our consultants on 020 7590 0610 to discuss how we can tailor your holiday.

Learn why Wexas is the leader in creating luxury holidays. What is tailor-made travel?

Expert advice & support

Visit us in our London office

Let our travel specialists curate the perfect holiday:

  • Inspirational ideas based on experience
  • Established for over 50 years
  • Tailor a holiday to your precise requirements
  • Personalised quotes and documentation

Every step of the way

Every step of the way

Our services are with you from start to finish:

  • Dedicated personal consultants
  • Free airport lounges on qualifying bookings
  • Care and guidance pre, post and during holiday
  • Full financial security: ABTA & ATOL protected