For exploring exotic wildlife, Africa is a global destination. With promises of sighting the “Big 5”—African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros—in their natural habitats, many travelers aim to achieve the safari experience across many of the vast game reserves in Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa and more.
But with all that Africa has to offer, there are many, many other destinations that will delight wildlife enthusiasts from Peru to Borneo and even Norway—with its lively population of Polar Bears and Reindeer.
We’ve compiled our Tribu Top 10 wildlife encounters to share some of our favorite safari alternatives and destinations around the globe that should not be missed for those seeking to explore the expansive natural world.
10. Costa Rica
It’s known for its rainforest and widely varied terrain from beach to jungle, but Costa Rica is also mecca of wildlife including sloths, monkeys, frogs and dozens and dozens of bird species.
Head to the Oso Peninsula, off Costa Rica’s western coast near Panama, to visit the home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity including many endangered species among them. A colorful array of creatures gravitates to Costa Rica’s lush climate making it a true treasure trove of aquatic and marine life.
Here, you will find mammals from many types of monkeys to sloths and bats; hundreds of bird species such as scarlet macaw, chestnut mandible toucan and the black-cheeked ant-tananger; lizards; frogs; insects; and marine species.
Other common sightings include pump, jaguarundi, ocelot and margay, jaguar, weasel, armadillo, possums, otter, mice, rats, agouti, paca, skunk, crocodile, snakes, sea turtles, dolphins, whales and more.
Not often thought of as a wildlife expedition due to its inhabitable climate for humans, the least visited continent may not support human life, but it is home to some exquisite animal species, led by the Emperor Penguin.
The largest of penguin species on earth, Emperors have adapted to Antarctica’s extremely harsh climate, where the wind chill factor can bring temps well below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the coldest part of the year. Here, they huddle to conserve and protect the group’s collective warmth through particular group behaviors. Visitors during the extended two-month hunting season will find Emperor Penguins out on the ice forging for fish, squid and other small ocean life. These amazing animals are equipped to dive nearly 2,000 feet and can remain underwater for more than 20 minutes. They are a wonder in their natural environment, which can be explored by Antarctic cruise and excursions, alongside many other arctic species such as seals, sea lions, birds, bears and more.
8. Norway & Svalbard
Head to the arctic for excursion focusing on the breathtaking and rare polar bear in its natural habitat. There are only 19 subpopulations of the species worldwide, one of which is Norway and the nearby archipelago Svalbard—situated between Norway and the North Pole. Here, the great carnivores can be seen in their natural habitat by arctic cruise or land expedition. A stop in Longyearbyen, a small coal-mining town in Svalbard, can be the perfect vantage point for the breathtaking Northern Lights.
Also native to this region is the impressive reindeer species, most often found in Southern Norway and counting about 25,000 in total. Each year, hundreds of reindeer can be seen completing their great migration across Norway—a natural spectacle is a spectacle that is nothing short of majestic.
Many visitors opt for snowmobiling adventure across the landscape, allowing access to giant glaciers, frozen fjords and multi-colored mountain views. With in 8-day stay in Norway, the entire island can be traveled along with stops for the stunning sites of Spitzbergen, retracing steps or Artic explorers, and relaxing in the natural habitat alongside the King of the Arctic.
7. The Galapagos
Known as home to hundreds of wildlife species, the Galapagos is a natural destination for anyone who wants to see it all in terms of the vast array of flora and fauna worldwide. This Pacific archipelago is the collection of TK islands where renowned naturalist Charles Darwin spent much time researching and discovering the many yet known species native to the area.
Often explored by cruise, a visit to the Galapagos can be spent seeking the destination’s “Big 15” species: the blue-footed booby, Nazca booby, red-footed booby, flightless cormorant, American flamingo, frigatebirds, Galapagos hawk, land iguana, marine iguana, santa fe land iguana, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos sea lion, Galapagos fur seal and Galapagos giant tortoise. Such rare and unique creatures cannot be seen in such a wide array anywhere else in the world.
A destination for many types of travelers, Australia offers a plethora of wildlife unusual to other parts of the world, such as kangaroo and an expansive array of marine species that call the Great Barrier Reef home. Yet there are other destinations in Australia that will delight wildlife enthusiasts, such as the lesser known Kakadu National Park and adjacent Bamurru Plains—a private buffalo property equipped for just 20 guests.
Kakadu, set among floodplains and the neighboring savannah woodlands in the “top end” of the continent, can be traversed on foot or by jeep, and is the natural habitat for an impressive collection of reptiles, mammals, birds, and amphibians from wild pigs and buffalo to wallabies, wallaroos, dingos, crocodiles, water monitors and more.
Many visitors opt to explore the park via river cruise, from which one of the largest crocodile populations in the world can be seen. Others choose to venture via airboat, a trip which promises sightings of magpie geese, duck, egrets, Ibis and more—the local Mary River catchment is home to more than 200 bird species alone.
To experience one of the most vibrant and colorful ecosystems in the world, filled with rare and exotic wildlife, The Amazon and the Pantanal—which is one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands and spans Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay—head to Brazil. The expansive, 75,000-square-mile region is home to the famed Pantanal Jaguar and floodplain filled with a vast array of animals and plants.
One of the country’s—and the world’s—most coveted destinations is the Amazon Rainforest, with its thousands of rivers and accompanying river towns. Peruse hundreds of tiny islands, the Anavilhanas archipelago, and a tropical climate filled with wildlife, to experience the country and the many, many species that live within it.
4. Peruvian Amazon
For a glimpse of the famed pink dolphin, or neighboring sloth, cayman and snakes, look no further than the Peruvian Amazon—less visited than its Brazilian counterpart, but no less worthy in terms of its breathtaking riverscapes and vast wildlife. Many of Peru’s treasured Animal Kingdom can be spotted in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve—accessible only by water and nestled closely within the surrounding rainforest. Known as the “Mirrored Forest,” the reserve is home to mammals, birds and plants that call the 5 million reserve acres home.
Endangered pink Amazon dolphins hover nearby, with three-toed sloth hanging in the tree canopy overhead. Some are lucky enough to also catch a glimpse of the Amazon’s sleek black jaguar—a rare and exhilarating sighting.