Nothing can quite match seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, be it big game or small, birds and reptiles or marine life. Luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent offers a wide range of experiences for would-be naturalists and wildlife buffs. Here are their top recommendations.
The Amazon is the longest river on earth and is responsible for about one-fifth of all fresh water that flows into the world’s oceans. In Peru the Amazon region occupies a staggering 60% of the country’s total area and is an unmissable wilderness experience. The best way to experience it is from a small ship and with A&K, guests travel aboard luxury vessel Aria Amazon. On naturalist guided jungle treks and excursions by tender, guests venture deep into the five million acre Pacaya Samiria Reserve. This protected wildlife area teems with macaws, snowy egrets, laughing falcons and Amazon kingfishers in the air, squirrel monkeys and sloths in the trees plus pink dolphins, piranha and caiman in the water.
A journey to Antarctica is one of the world’s great adventures. As well as being the harshest, driest and coldest region on the planet it is also home to remarkable wildlife. The abundance of krill in the deep, icy waters feeds everything from the region’s celebrated penguins to its colossal whales. A&K are the leaders in polar expedition cruising so when travelling to Antarctica with A&K the expert Expedition Team introduces guests to the wonders of the white continent on a series of shore excursions and lectures throughout the journey. The exclusively chartered MV Le Lyrial carries just 199 guests in spacious, designer comfort and offers a fully inclusive experience.
At the opposite end of the world, a journey to the High Arctic Svalbard archipelago offers wildlife of a different kind. Travelling on MV Le Boreal, guests are within 1,000 kilometres of the North Pole and are also accompanied by A&K's seasoned expedition team. The mighty polar bear is king here and Spitsbergen is polar bear capital of the world. There are also Arctic foxes, walrus, reindeer, guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes and beluga whales. Also included on A&K’s expedition are visits to Greenland and Iceland with added opportunities of seeing musk ox, reindeer and a further array of sea birds.
One of the most extraordinary marine experiences on the planet is the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. The whale shark is the largest known fish species in existence and every year from April to July, these gigantic fish congregate along Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef. As filter feeders, they scoop up plankton (along with any small fish that happen to be around) with their colossal gaping mouths while swimming close to the water's surface. Ningaloo Reef is one of the only places on the planet they appear regularly in large numbers and the chance to snorkel with these gentle giants is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Botswana is rightly famous for the quality of its wildlife and its safari experience. Over 40% of the country is protected and conserved for wildlife and with A&K you’ll see it in abundance from rhino, lion and leopard to giraffe, buffalo, zebra and more. The most important areas for game viewing are the Chobe National Park, Selinda Reserve, Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, the Central Kalahari and Makgadikgadi Pans and there’s a variety of ways to appreciate both the animals and the landscape. There are trips by mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe), open-topped LandCruiser and motor boat plus walking safaris, quad bike trips and horse riding.
Living a solitary life in the mountainous temperate bamboo forests of southwest China, the giant panda is one of the rarest animals in the world. Severe threats from humans have left just over 1,800 in the wild. The mountainous province of Sichuan is one of the best places in China to see the giant panda and with A&K guests visit Chengdu’s Panda Research & Breeding Centre where captive breeding programmes and educational tourism are conducted, as well as important scientific research into the endangered and much-loved icon of China.
This small Central American country is a nature-lover’s paradise with around 1,200kms of coastline and vast stretches of protected wildlife reserves. It is renowned for its biodiversity with a wide range of habitats including rainforest and beaches, volcanoes and mangrove swamps each supporting a fascinating variety of wildlife. In Tortuguero National Park alone travellers can observe both Olive Ridleys and leatherback turtles as well as monkeys, sloths, caiman and incredible birdlife while the Arenal Volcano National Park supports populations of capuchin monkeys, jaguar, deer, coati and snakes like the fer-de-lance and parrot snake and the remote Osa Peninsula is home to the country’s largest population of jaguars and tapirs.
A cruise around the Galapagos Islands is the ultimate biology lesson. This truly unique wildlife haven is home to a remarkable number of birds and animals which are impervious to human presence and which A&K travellers get right up close to. There is the extraordinary blue-footed booby, prehistoric looking land and marine iguanas, centuries old Galapagos tortoises, sea lions, turtles, penguins and flamingos with unique wildlife highlights on each island visited. Comfortable yacht La Pinta ferries A&K guests around with week-long explorations of the many islands and their unique attractions.
India boasts some 89 national parks, 18 Bio reserves and over 400 sanctuaries created to protect its important wildlife. Its most famous wildlife attraction is the endangered Royal Bengal tiger. Though elusive, the tiger is still found in its native habitat in a number of national parks including Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Ranthambore, Panna and Pench. Other species found are leopard, Sambar deer, nilgai, wild boar, chinkara, sloth bear plus porcupine, jackal and wild dog. On an A&K safari in India, daily programmes include jungle drives by open 4WD with naturalist guides, nature walks and more.
The diversity of Madagascar’s wildlife reflects the fact that the island has been isolated for about 88 million years. It has some of the world's most interesting species, about 90 per cent of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Classified as a biodiversity hotspot, Madagascar is best known for its lemurs and there are over 100 different species of them plus an incredible birdlife and two-thirds of the world's chameleons. Still largely untouched by tourism, the wildlife found in Madagascar’s rainforests, clear blue seas and spiny forest habitat are guaranteed to amaze.
The Pantanal in southwest Brazil, though lesser known than the Amazon, offers an incredible wildlife experience. It is one of the world’s largest tropical wetland areas and covering almost 195,000 square kilometres. It is home to a vast number of birds, mammals, fish and reptiles and some 3,500 known plant species. Among the rarest animals to inhabit the Pantanal are the marsh deer and the giant river otter, the hyacinth macaw and crowned solitary eagle, the maned wolf, the South American tapir and the giant anteater. Other species found in the area include the capybara, caiman and jaguar.
In the southeast of the country, Yala is Sri Lanka’s second largest national park. Its habitat diversity supports an abundant array of wildlife including sloth bear, herds of Asian elephant, buffalo, monkey, sambar, mongoose, deer, crocodile as well as the world’s highest concentration of leopard. Bird watching is outstanding year round but one of the best times to visit is February to July when the water levels in the park are low bringing animals into the open.
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