Today’s travelers are ever more aware of all that is going on in the world and they want to be a part of it. They want to get closer, learn more, go farther, experience more than previous generations. That is especially true of animal lovers. Seeing the great East Africa wildebeest and zebra migration is an awesome experience, yet for some that is not quite enough. For them, an eye-to-eye encounter is what they seek. There are more opportunities for that kind of close contact now than ever before. Here are a few of them.
The Galapagos Islands
There are few places better on the globe for really close wildlife encounters than the fabled Galapagos Islands. They sit some 650 miles west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Nothing quite compares to the thrill of observing wildlife on these natural volcanic islands, where the animals do not run or fly away when humans approach. The islands most famous visitor was, of course, Charles Darwin, who discovered conditions that helped shape his ideas on evolutionary theory. Life evolved on these islands in isolation, separate from the rest of the world. Distinctions exist even from one island to the next. You have options here to do a cruise of the islands, or actually stay on one of the islands – or both. Our Private Sanctuaries of Ecuador journey includes a stay at Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island for some land-based excursions and a five-night cruise aboard the M/C Athala II. You will come very close to amazing wildlife both on land and in the water including flightless birds, playful sea lions, a bounty of birds, reef sharks, rays and colorful reef fish – each specially adapted to the specific island habitat.
Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. The owners of Tswalu take conservation as an absolute priority. No more than 30 guests at a time are permitted. There are about 80 species of mammals and approximately 240 species of birds, but one of the perennial favorites here are the delightful meerkats. A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”. The meerkat is a small carnivora belonging to the mongoose family. It is the only member of the genus Suricata. A clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. They stand on their back legs to survey their surroundings, and are very inquisitive. You can get uncommonly close to these little guys to photograph them. And, they have been known to climb onto a visitor’s hat to get a better view. You also enjoy exciting animal encounters at Sabi Sands Game Reserve on our South Africa’s Unique Lodges journey.
Namiri Plains is located within the Serengeti National Park in an area that has been inaccessible to the public for some 20 years. It is in a beautiful region of the Serengeti that has been a safe haven for cheetah breeding and research. Today, the area has an exceptional population of big cats and it is one of East Africa’s best locations for observing cheetah. The Tanzania Cheetah Conservation has been carrying out the longest-running in-depth study of a wild cheetah population. Furthermore, as existing protected areas alone cannot ensure a long-term future for these beautiful cats, the project is investigating ways to help cheetahs and humans to co-exist in the larger landscape. Also the Tanzania Cheetah Watch Campaign is asking anyone who has photographs of cheetah in Tanzania to send them in, where they are matched with photos of cheetahs for identification, and as an additional aid to monitor the cheetah population size across Tanzania. You can get pretty close to cheetahs, and may end up, not unlike the meerkats, with a cheetah sitting on the roof of your safari vehicle. If you are staying at Namiiri Plains Camp, you will learn more about the academic research happening and various conservation projects supported throughout the region from the resident cheetah researcher. You can savor this exceptional safari experience on our Private Conservancies of Tanzania.
In the heart of Satpura National Park is the Panchmarchi Biosphere Reserve, which includes Bori Wildlife Sanctuary in the southwest and Panchmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary in the northeast. At Forsyth Lodge, the signature activity here is a Junior Naturalist Program, which is spread over three days, and is designed for children and interested adults, who want to learn the basic knowledge of jungle. The fun and interactive course led by the lodge’s enthusiastic and knowledgeable young naturalists encompasses use of equipment, basics of ecology, learn how to identify different species, use field guides, make field notes and sketches and basics of nature photography. Learn to recognize tracks, including tigers, and signs of animal presence. See how to measure prints, identify droppings and other jungle skills. Our Precious Journeys™ India – Saving Tigers adventure also includes Tadoba National Park, a Project Tiger Reserve, so your chances of a close encounter with the rare and regal Bengal tiger are pretty good.
Snorkeling with wild New Zealand fur seals in the shallow waters of the beautiful Kaikoura Peninsula is a unique experience. It reminds you of the sheer magnificence of our natural environment and its amazing inhabitants. This breathtaking natural activity brings you close to these curious, friendly and playful marine creatures. The Kaikoura Peninsula rests on the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, overlooked by majestic often snowcapped mountain. In addition to seals, you can also swim with Dusky dolphins that inhabit the coastal waters year round. These nature encounters as well as viewing a variety of whales, can be enjoyed on our 16-day New Zealand journey.