This natural wonder straddles the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Tennessee-North Carolina state border and includes sections of the Appalachian Trail. The most-visited national park in the United States (10 million visitors a year) is home to 2,110 square kilometers of high-rise, fir-clad fantasy that reaches its climax at the 2,025-metre Cling man’s Dome.
Getting up close and personal with wildlife can be one of the best things about a trip, so when you’re planning on venturing into the big wide world, make sure you do it right. Offering rainforest walks in the daytime or by night, canopy walkways and guided wildlife visits, the center puts the natural environment first.
One of the most unspoiled places on the planet, the Peninsula is graced with some of the most spectacular wildlife found in the world, surviving in one of the most inhospitable environments. A trip into the Bale mountains in Ethiopia might just be one of the unique things that you’ll ever do, and with a whole range of wildlife on offer, you’re not likely to regret it.
The Nanette Plateau makes for incredible discoveries, and if you’re lucky enough, you might just catch a glimpse of the Ethiopian wolf, the rarest in the world. After a long day of nature scouting, treat yourself to a great night’s sleep, courtesy of the Bale Mountain Lodge.
You can rest assured that you’re helping to protect the local environment, all from the heart of one of the plushest spots in the area. As dedicated to unforgettable excursions as it is conserving the turtle’s environment, Bubbles Dive Resort helps the area to flourish, despite the changing times.
If you stay at the resort’s hotel, you can expect early morning wake-up calls to catch a glimpse of new eggs hatching, a sight that you’re unlikely to forget. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.
Happily everyone in our group remembered the golden rule: “Whatever you do, don’t run!” We didn’t and the lion, on seeing we were neither competitor nor prey, left us alone and padded off. But wildlife travel operators report that we are increasingly prepared to pay a premium if we know we are contributing to projects that protect endangered species.
The following 50 holidays cover the widest possible range of charismatic species across every continent, with an emphasis on the latest destinations, camps and experiences being introduced in 2018. Included is everything from polar bears in the Arctic to desert-adapted elephants and lions in Namibia, from orangutans in Borneo to butterflies in Malawi.
Alongside these are “citizen science” projects where volunteers devote both their time and a financial contribution to help scientists with their studies of endangered species. What this year’s selection of holidays also shows is that there are plenty of incredible wildlife experiences here in Europe.
You can spot wolves, wolverines, brown bears and lynx in Finland, elk and beavers in Sweden, or bison in Belarus. If you want to help lay down the foundations for such projects, included in our selection is a volunteer program looking at the viability of “rewinding” the Scottish Highlands with wolves and brown bears.
Over five days, you’ll be searching for elk, beaver, wolf, mountain hare and brown bears in the Bergslagen and Halsingland regions based in a lakeside guesthouse and including a thrilling night out in a bear hide. Join a conservation research program studying Mike whales, sharks, porpoises, dolphins, otters and seals on the Hebrides wildlife hotspots of Mull and Skye as golden and white-tailed sea eagles and falcons cruise the skies above.
Meanwhile, among the otters and birds of prey on the Lists in the Outer Hebrides, you can explore the wildflowers of the “machete”, seaside meadows that are one of the rarest habitats in Europe. About 1,000 brown bears live in the vast forests adjacent to Sumo, Finland, and Petals Nature Center is one of the best places to see these charismatic creatures.
The wild boreal forests that straddle the Russian border are also home to wolves, wolverine and lynx. This safari visits an eco-station where experts guide guests deep into the forest to spot wolves, bison, beaver, elk, grouse, golden and white-tailed eagles and black storks.
Staying in isolated accommodation, guests need plenty of energy as they’ll be out exploring at dawn (4am) and again at dusk when the animals are at their most active. In most of the Scottish Highlands, deer and sheep have significantly damaged forest habitats since wolves became extinct.
On land, you will get a chance to see birds such as blue-footed boobies as you walk past huge carbon cacti dotted among the sand dunes. The grizzly bears and whales of Alaska’s Inside Passage (rainforest, fjords, glaciers, prolific wildlife) are the central focus of this six-night twin-centre trip.
Watch as the glaciers groan, split and finally calve into the water with a thunderous roar. Based at the floating Knight Inlet Lodge, the surrounding maze of fjords and estuaries is one of the prime spots for bear watching in Canada.
Guests spend five nights at the lodge alongside legendary zoologist and photographer, Mark Awarding, and Wildlife Worldwide founder, Chris Been. Starting in neighboring Grand Teton National Park, the tour moves on to the legendary geothermal marvels of Yellowstone itself, where you will spend time looking for grizzly bears and packs of gray wolves as well as exotic birds including mountain bluebird, Williamson’s sapsucker and black rosy finch.
Other wildlife celebrities in the park include Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope, Cooper’s hawk and Clark’s nutcracker as well as bison and coyote. South & Central America Despite Cuba’s importance as a biodiversity hotspot, politics has too frequently stymied conservation.
The mountainous forests of Lamas de Banao Ecological Reserve and the wetlands of Tunas de Zaza Wildlife Refuge are home to vulnerable species only found in the Caribbean including the Cuban parakeet and the Cuban Amazon parrot. Volunteers will work with scientists to document rare birds and survey flowers and trees.
This cruise aboard a Superior First Class motor yacht, Beluga, carries a maximum of 16 passengers and explores the wildlife highlights of the archipelago on land and in the water. Join explorer Benedict Allen on this 10-day voyage along the Amazon River with Telegraph Exclusive Tours.
Guided by the explorer and three English-speaking naturalists, you will sail aboard the luxury Anaconda river boat and enjoy a hands-on experience of the Amazon’s legendary biodiversity, whether you are kayaking with pink river dolphins or spending a night under canvas at a tented camp. As well as South America’s largest cat, the Pant anal, which borders Bolivia and Paraguay, is home to around 300 bird species including hyacinth macaws, jaybird storks, ibis, guns, and parrots.
Combine this with a stay at a rainforest lodge taking guided wildlife excursions by canoe, horse, motorboat and on foot. Patagonia Explorer cruises down the Beagle Channel and visits the glaciers of the Fenian Archipelago and the Strait of Magellan before a final excursion at Islam Magdalena’s penguin colony.
Led by Exodus legend Valerie Parkinson, the tour is flexible to allow maximum sighting opportunities, but the walking distances are still moderate. Expect thrilling drift dives, schooling pelagic and sharks, while mandarin fish, bumblebee shrimp, turtles, Nudibranchia, pipe fish and pygmy seahorses patrol the coral reefs.
Sumatran tigers are critically endangered and this citizen science project run by Biosphere Expeditions, a non-profit conservation group, is being carried out by volunteers helping scientists in their work. As part of an international team, you will be living in a traditional timber house inside the rainforest and travelling by boat and on foot looking for tracks, kills, scats and setting camera traps while hoping for a rare sighting of these elusive animals themselves.
Known as the “land of fire and ice”, Kamchatka is characterized by windswept tundra, snow-capped mountains, geysers, hot springs and one of the highest densities of active volcanoes in the world. Nomadic reindeer herders roam the vast interior, while orcas and humpback whales hunt their prey in the surrounding seas.
When the winter snows thaw, brown bears emerge from hibernation to feast on migrating salmon. A rare opportunity to explore the most biodiverse marine habitat in the world at Raja Am pat in Indonesia.
Guests aboard the Tiger Blue (a 110ft Points yacht) can dive or snorkel with manta rays, barracuda, dog tooth tuna, dolphins, black tip sharks, pygmy seahorses and Nudibranchia. The itinerary also includes a stopover at NIH Samba Island (formerly Nihiwatu), one of the best wilderness lodges in the world, and rock pooling with the Sudanese villagers as they forage for octopus, fish and crab to use in their traditional cooking.
The program’s objective is to help local scientists assess biodiversity in the reserve and protect this relatively untouched part of Africa for future generations. Your base for a fortnight will be a rustic but comfortable field camp, from where you will venture out in off-road vehicles and on foot.
Many Botswana fans will have experienced a magical ride in a motor canoe when the Okaying Delta is in flood (May-October) but this adventure takes the experience to a new level. You’ll watch elephants and hippos swim across the river in front of you and may get a sighting of one of Africa’s rarest antelopes, the stating.
Opened in 2017, As ilia’s luxury Bali Ridge lodge in Ru aha is located on a rocky outcrop surrounded by giant baobabs and with excellent big cat viewing. Eight nights split between Bali Ridge Lodge and Soho ya Serous costs from £5,500 excluding flights (£600).
This unique air safari to study the plight of Kenya’s endangered wildlife will transport guests to the most remote and inaccessible parts of the country (Masai Mara, Waikiki, Hamburg, Look) while meeting world experts including Saga Douglas-Hamilton and the cheetah expert, Dr Elena Chelsea. Species studied will include lion, cheetah, black rhino, elephants, wild dog, Gravy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe.
This small group tour led by highly experienced guides explores some of Madagascar’s protected areas in a diverse range of habitats. You will see many species of lemurs, endemic birds, chameleons and giant butterflies as well as trees and plants from baobabs to orchids.
Many consider Odzala-Kokoua National Park to be the best place in Africa for gorilla sightings (though they tend to spend more time in trees than their counterparts further east). In 2018, the BBC will be screening a documentary on the highly endangered wild dog, sometimes called the painted dog, which was filmed over the course of two years at Funds Lodge at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of MANA Pools, Zimbabwe.
It’s also one of the best camps in Africa from which to track large wildlife on foot, with a reliable chance of being able to approach species such as lions and elephants. A trip to Susanna Bush Camp, in Value National Park, is combined with cross, hippos and bird life on the Lower Zambezi and a visit to Livingstone Island above Victoria Falls, staying at Toga Day camp.
You will learn everything from tracking skills and animal behavior to conservation with twice-daily bush walks or drives. Launched last year, this is a unique way to immerse yourself in the Okaying wildlife, accompanied by local backup staff.
You may find yourself cantering alongside herds of giraffes or surrounded by elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, lion and leopard. The haunt of desert-adapted lions, elephants, rhinos and magical onyx in a surreal landscape of giant dunes, Namibia is one of the best self-drive destinations on earth, with little traffic and superb roads.
The flexibility of combining self-drive and small planes to visit the country’s most stylish safari camps in some of the best wildlife locations (Sossusvlei, Skeleton Coast, Maryland, Elisha) is hard to beat. Opening in April 2018, Kuchen is a small Robin Pope Safaris bush camp in southern Malawi’s lush and virtually untouched Gironde National Park.
In Cape Town you’ll check out the two famous ocean aquariums, while the lodge at Monique has two family suites, babysitting, and activities for the youngsters. Seven elephant herds on the reserve have been collared to assist with managing the population and protecting it from poachers.
Australasia Snorkel alongside humpbacks in the company of Doug Allan (Sir David Attenborough’s legendary cameraman) on a South Pacific cruise. The boat is skippered by Colegio Lew, the only operator Doug will work with, due to his in-depth knowledge of whales.
In the wake of Blue Planet II, observing the creatures of the deep in their natural habitat is high on the wish lists of many wildlife enthusiasts. This pioneering new cruise around the Solomon Islands, a center of global marine biodiversity, anchoring most nights in sheltered bays and lagoons, will include snorkeling on some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs and diving with Fraser’s dolphins, whales and huge manta rays.
The islands are also home to bird species including sea eagles, cockatoos, and vocals. Focusing on three of Australia’s top wilderness and wildlife regions, this flexible self-drive itinerary visits the crocodiles and bird life of the wetlands of Keypad National Park in Northern Territory, followed by the koalas, possums, platypus and sea lions on Kangaroo Island, off Adelaide.
A hop across the water rounds the trip off with a visit to Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain, home to furry wombats, irresistible quills and those famous Tasmanian devils. Snares, Bounty, Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell, Macquarie and Chatham… these islands off the south coast of New Zealand will be music to the ears of all bird lovers.
Polar regions This pioneering new safari departs from Iceland under the 24-hour summer sun and crosses the Arctic Circle towards the east coast of Greenland, where guests will explore Scoresbysund, the largest fjord system in the world, and visit the Inuit settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit. The 16-berth MS Freya is small enough to see wildlife-rich areas that other ships cannot reach, home to musk ox and Arctic fox.
Lying within the Arctic Circle, Svalbard is one of the most exotic wildlife destinations in the world and home to nearly 3,000 polar bears. Led by guides ranging from Kate Humble to National Geographic photographers Andy Mann and Keith Babinski, you will sail aboard a six-cabin ship enjoying encounters with whales, seals, walruses and polar bears.