If you love travel and animals, a great way to enjoy both passions is to plan a wildlife viewing trip to some of the world’s best places to see amazing species that you don’t normally get to see if you don’t live there. From polar bears to sea lions and unique birds and reptiles, check out the following five places where you can see outstanding wildlife and enjoy a number of adventures while you are there.
1. Churchill, Manitoba
A small town located on the shores of the Hudson Bay in the Canadian province of Manitoba, Churchill is touted as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” The town gets its nickname from the large numbers of polar bears that migrate here every fall hunting for food in the bay. If you want to get a glimpse of the bears, you can arrange a tour in Churchill where they take you out in tundra buggies, a special vehicle that is used to protect both the bears and humans.
However, you don’t have to wait until fall to see amazing wildlife in Churchill. In the summer months, the town offers tours that take you out on the bay to see beluga whales that migrate here by the thousands. What’s more, Churchill is a bird lover’s paradise with numerous species such as tundra swans, stilt sandpipers, snowy owls and gyrfalcons.
While you are in Churchill, you may want to check out the town’s restaurants, museums and recreational complex, which features an ice hockey rink, swimming pool, theater, gymnasium and bowling alley.
2. Valley of Butterflies, Rhodes, Greece
There are many reasons to visit the gorgeous Greek island of Rhodes, and one more is the “The Valley of Butterflies.” This narrow valley is so named because of the millions of tiger moths that flock here every August, lured by the sweet-smelling flowers and lush vegetation that grow in the area. When you visit here, don’t forget your camera because you will be able to see some stunning scenery in addition to the butterflies. A maintained trail here leads you along the peaceful Pelecanos River to a beautiful waterfall that cascades into a natural pool. If you want to learn more about the valley and the butterflies, there is a nearby natural history museum where you can also have a bite to eat in the restaurant and shop for souvenirs.
3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Teeming in unique wildlife species not found anywhere else in the world, the Galapagos Islands are said to historically be the inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection after the British naturalist visited them in 1835. Isolated from the mainland of Ecuador in South America, the Galapagos Islands consist of about 19 islands that are all inhabited by amazing species like lava lizards, giant tortoises, fur seals, marine iguanas, frigate birds, red-footed and blue-footed boobies, Christmas iguanas, the Galapagos penguin, and flightless cormorants.
Only a few of the islands are populated such as the most visited one, Santa Cruz, which is home to giant tortoises and the Charles Darwin Research Center. It is in Santa Cruz where visitors will find most of the hotels and tour operations to help them view the wildlife. Home to the local airport, Baltra is where many visitors first arrive, and it is here where you can shop for souvenirs. The largest of the islands is Isabela, where you can walk along volcano trails, while the island of San Cristobol features a striking rock formation called, Kicker Rock, that you may want to check out. The island of Fernandina offers the most variety of species that you can see, which include marine iguanas, dolphins, whales and flightless cormorants. If you enjoy diving, the islands of Darwin and Wolf are regarded as two of the best diving spots in the world.
4. Río Platano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras
A tropical paradise of gorgeous beaches, magnificent mountains and lush rainforest, Honduras is a country still less touristed than many other destinations in Central America. This means that for nature lovers, there is no better place to experience some of the world’s largest undisturbed ecosystems and wide variety of outstanding wildlife species than in the Río Platano Biosphere Reserve, located on Honduras’s Caribbean coast. This massive reserve protects a diversity of ecosystems such as tropical rainforest, mangroves, savanna, marshes, plains and mountains that all are home to hundreds of wildlife species like crocodiles, iguanas, jaguars, howler monkeys, macaws and toucans. In addition to the wildlife, you can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and whitewater rafting. Also contained within the reserve are 200 archaeological sites that include Mayan ruins and the spot where explorer, Christopher Columbus, visited.
5. Peninsula Valdes, Argentina
Located off Argentina’s Atlantic Coast, Peninsula Valdes is an animal lover’s paradise because it is a major migrating spot and home to a large variety of birds and marine mammals like Antarctic pigeons, rheas, seals, whales and sea lions as well as land animals like gray foxes, guanacos (a type of lama), and maras (a hare species). This remote preserve also offers outdoor recreation like diving, snorkeling, hiking, mountain biking and fishing. Boat rides are also available for whale watching. For those wishing to visit Peninsula Valdes, you need to arrange a tour from the nearby town of Puerto Madryn because the peninsula is privately owned.