7 trips for wildlife watching

Whether you want to track down tigers in India, wide-eyed lemurs in Madagascar or the abundant endemic species on the Galapagos Islands, these trips were made for wildlife watching
Two flightless cormorants and a marine iguana on Fernandina Island in the Galapagos Islands
Two flightless cormorants and a marine iguana on Fernandina Island in the Galapagos Islands

Calling all wildlife lovers; these luxury vacations are all about exotic animal-spotting. Insight Guides has you covered with these unbelievable getaways that'll put you right in the heart of the action. Here are six can't-miss trips for wildlife watching...

1. Rainforest adventure

Where? Costa Rica
What? Snorkelling with tropical fish, mixed with whale and bird watching
Which tour? Costa Rica's Wild South

Costa Rica is Heaven on earth for wildlife lovers. Hidden in the misty jungle are rare birds (like the resplendent quetzal), red-eyed tree frogs, vibrant butterflies, and too many other exotic creatures to count. This trip even takes you off the beaten path a bit, exploring squirrel monkeys, scarlet macaws and jaguars in Corcovado. After that, snorkelling off Cano Island is where it's at for spotting tropical sea life. Then it's time to head to Uvita Beach for some humpback whale spotting.

2. Wild tigers and can't-miss cultural attractions

Where? India
What? A unique blend of local wildlife and national landmarks
Which tour? India's Monuments & Tigers

The Taj Mahal is the must-do experience for most tourists heading to India. But what many often overlook is that this part of the globe is home to more than just awe-inspiring cultural landmarks. We're talking about wildlife watching, and it's in full force in India. This tour allows you to drink in the wonder of the Taj Mahal and the ancient forts of the Golden Triangle, while also experiencing close encounters with indigenous tigers at India's largest tiger reserve. Take a game drive and see them for yourself before jetting off to charming Jaipur.

3. Wide-eyed lemurs and endemic species 

Where? Madagascar
What? Desert canyons, lush rainforests teeming with wildlife, and treks through national parks
Which tour? Wild Madagascar

Madagascar is about as wild as it gets. The island is home to a plethora of landscapes, from lush jungles teeming with wildlife to stretches of glorious sand and rugged, rocky mountains. For wildlife watchers, it's a dream location. Take on nocturnal walking safaris, where you can spot crocodiles, chameleons and frogs. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to track down the island's iconic lemurs, as well as impressive birds likes the Madagascan serpent eagles, and exotic snake species.  

 Tiger in a beautiful golden light in Ranthambhore National Park in India. Photo: Shutterstock

 Tiger in beautiful golden light in Ranthambhore National Park in India. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Slow-paced animal encounters

Where? The Galapagos Islands
What? Luxury cruising and snorkelling
Which tour? Cruising the Galapagos

There's a reason the Galapagos Islands have a reputation for being a go-to hot spot for wildlife watching. This area of the world is positively brimming with untamed exotic animals. A luxury cruise is perhaps the best way to absorb it all. This trip introduces visitors to sea turtles, marine iguanas, fur seals, and even equatorial penguins. Fancy a spot of snorkelling? If so, you'll also catch the natural treasures hiding just beneath the surface—think exotic fish, sea lions and more.

5. Family wildlife fun

Where? Sri Lanka
What? Koggala turtles and a jaunt to an elephant orphanage
Which tour? Sri Lanka Family Adventure

Sri Lanka is shaping up to be a top family travel destination, and with good reason. This getaway is the ultimate in wildlife watching. Kick off your adventure on Negombo's family-friendly beaches. After you take in ancient architecture at the Polonnaruwa Ruins and the sacred temples in Kandy, head south for an "elephant bath" at a local elephant orphanage. Then it's off to Koggala, where you can steal intimate glances of monkeys and sea turtles in their natural homes. In other words, animal lovers would be wise to add this one to their bucket lists.

6. Immersive jungle exploring

Where? Thailand
What? Temples, beaches, and elephant safaris
Which tour? Thailand Discovery

Thailand has certainly earned its nickname of "The Land of Smiles." This whirlwind tour takes you everywhere from the holy temples of Bangkok to the divine and verdant national parks of Chiang Mai. But let's get to the real reason this destination is on our wildlife watching list—the elephant safari treks in Phuket are downright amazing. Learn about the area's conservation efforts before feeding one of these beautiful creatures for yourself. Then it's off on a trek through the Chalong highlands where you'll catch stupendous views of Phi Phi Island.

7. The ultimate safari

Where? South Africa
What? Bush walks, game reserve tours, and unparalleled whale watching
Which tour? Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explored

What better place to head off on safari than Africa? South Africa is arguably the best place to indulge in a spectacular wildlife adventure. In Cape Town, explore the peninsula's dazzling beaches, where you just might catch sight of whales in their natural habitat just off the coast. Venture up to Hoedspruit for some time at Kapama Private Game Reserve. Here, blood-pumping bush walks  and game drives await—as do up-close encounters with lions, rhinos, leopards and more.

Looking for an alternative trip? 

Let Insight Guides create a tailor-made holiday for you: simply tell us where you want to travel

Looking for more trip ideas?

Top 6 trips to explore iconic ruins

6 trips for all-out adventure

5 trips for new cooking experiences