places are selected for quantity and variety of animals, certainty
and ease of viewing and splendour of environment.
Hire a guide or travel with a tour if possible as they will know
where and when to find elusive critters, when and how to protect
you where necessary and keep you comfortable .
Safaris are expensive and will usually be in organised groups. If
available, try a tented camp for the full safari monty.
game, big desert, big dunes: Etosha National Park, Namibia.
The great arid scrubland and salt pan of Etosha contains a massive
concentration of wildlife, particularly huge herds of zebra, various
antelope and wildebeest, but no shortage of elephants, giraffe or
birdlife either. Predators are tricky to find and depend on luck
There are three inexpensive, walled restcamps in Etosha, each with
their own waterhole attracting animals. Namutoni is less successful,
Halali's hole attracts a lot of elephants (picture above right)
and giraffes, while Okaukuejo is the hands down winner, with superb
huts (3, 5, 7 have the best views) and a wonderful waterhole with
endless action, occasionally even getting lion kills.
Drive-yourself safaris (gravel roads) visiting other waterholes
are excellent, with varied, stunning scenery. Cars can be rented
in the unattractive capital, Windhoek, about 5 hours drive away.
Cape Cross, on the Skeleton Coast also offers 100,000 seals that
you can get close to if you can stand the smell, the monstrous red
dunes at Sossusvlei are totally amazing and climbable - up to 600m
high, and Swakopmund town is pretty and relaxed. You can 2WD drive
Best June-September, OK May, October, otherwise incredibly hot. See the Namibia
game safari: Masai Mara National Park, Kenya.
Massive amount of wildlife in a huge savannah. Although it may have
too many tourists and it's not self-drive, it's probably the most
animal accessible game reserve (picture above left). Stay in a tented
camp for the real safari experience.
Very best July-October at (3 week)
wildebeeste migration; this varies so check it. Good weather December-March.
Avoid April-June (big rains).
Some say that recently too many jeeps are getting careless and scaring
off animals, and Samburu National Park is now better - less busy
and more romantic, though not the same quantity and variety of animals.
life: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
15 actively volcanic islands that constitute a 'living laboratory'
of mainly marine animals - sea lions, seals, iguanas, turtles, sharks
(you can snorkel with them too) giant tortoises, penguins and more
blue footed boobies than you can shake a stick at.
A bleak and blasted landscape but the local inhabitants are totally
unaffected by human presence and easy to approach and photograph.
Strangely it was the unassuming Galapagos finches that triggered
Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
Best January-March. Avoid July/August (busy, expensive, windy, rough),
and September - November (when the waters are coldest, roughest and services
Best to stay on a boat (smaller ones are better unless you get seasick)
that will move between islands at night. 7 nights at least needed.
For the very seasick prone there are some land hotels at Puerto
Ayora in Isla Santa Cruz, though wildlife viewing will be restricted.
pictures, map or tours.
a) Serengeti, Tanzania. The world's most famous big game
park and great variety of animals, though jeeps often have to follow
specific tracks, whereas they can go anywhere in the Masai Mara.
The general infrastructure is not as good as Kenya's.
Very best in June - early July before/beginning of wildebeest (more than 2 million) and
zebra migration which lasts 3 weeks (check the timing with tour operators). Good also December-
February. Avoid March-May (heavy rains).
b) Ngorongoro Crater (Conservation Area), Tanzania. Huge
concentration of prey and predators, spectacular scenery and no
migration. Better than Serengetti but relatively confined so tourist vehicles jockeying for pole postion can be a pain.
Best June-October, December-February. Avoid March-May (rains).
c) Selous Game Reserve, South Tanzania. If you want to have a walking with animals experience rather than
riding one, try this monster game park. Best June-October or January-February for bird watching. Avoid March-May
(rains). See Tanzania map
plus plus: Berenty Reserve, Madagascar.
80% of the plant and animal species are unique on this huge tropical
island. Berenty is where you'll get closest to more than 30 kinds
of lemurs including the scary aye-aye, chameleons, tortoises and
more. Also not far away are exotic plants of every description -
baobab trees for example, funky graves/tombs and weirdly eroded
Best May-June, September-November. Avoid December-March (rains,
Map | Madagascar Pictures.
and plants in various national parks, Costa Rica.
This tiny peaceful tropical country has dedicated about 15% of its
land to national parks containing a vast variety of wildlife - especially
birds (850 species)- and over 12,000 species of flowering plants.
In addition the country offers tourists volcanoes, hot springs, beaches and adrenalin activities.
There are around 70 nature parks, here are a few of the more interesting
ones, north to south:
- Santa Rosa NP, an old, well developed, dry tropical forest on
the NW Pacific coast not far from the Inter-American Highway, contains
the largest protected tropical dry forest in the Americas, home
to jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, turtles, monkeys, bats, iguanas and
more, as well as 260 species of bird. It's a bit of a hike from
- Rincon de la Vieja NP, NW, is reasonably easy to access from Liberia
and loaded with wildlife, especially monkeys, snakes and coatis.
- Palo Verde NP, NW, mostly for 280 species of water birds (best
- Tortuguero National Park on the north Caribbean coast is the spot for visiting/watching
green sea turtles, as well as other wildlife.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve (nearish to San José),
perhaps the most commercial and well developed park, this new scientific
upstart is home to 100 species of mammal, 400 species of birds (including
the quetzal and the emerald toucanet) and 420 species of orchids.
Not only is it a lot nearer to San José (3hrs) than most
others, but it also contains the biggest canopy walk - Skytrek (3hrs,
2km/1.25m) including one 400m slide and 80m suspension bridges.
It has 24 kms of trails, and 3 huts en route. But it's not called
a Cloud Forest for nothing! Blue sky may be in short supply but
water won't be...
- Cahuita and Manuel Antonio NPs (MA is nearish to San José),
on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts respectively, have good beaches,
snorkelling with innumerable species of fish and forests of monkeys,
iguana, coatis, birds etc.
- Braulio Carrillo NP (quite near to San José), on the Northern
Plains and loaded with wildlife and colourful plants but oddly difficult
to get to and around, though definitely worth the effort.
- La Selva Biological Station, also on the Northern Plains and offering
plenty of nature in tooth and claw is easy going.
- Corcovado NP may be Costa Rica's most diverse park, 200 sq. miles
with a large range of habitats from heavy rain forest to seashore
jungle, hosting 140 species of mammal from jaguars to tapir, 116
species of reptiles and 285 species of bird, from scarlet macaws
thru hummingbirds to fishing bulldog bats! But Corcovado is in the
distant SW and difficult to get to (fly to Palmar, then boat on
the River Sierpe to Drake village?), very humid and tough hiking,
but a superb wildlife experience.
Generally Costa Rica is best from December-April. Avoid May-November (rains),
tho' May and November may not be too wet and will be much less crowded. See the Costa
Rica Map or Costa Rica Tours.
wildlife safari: Kruger National Park, South Africa.
A massive reserve the size of Wales, offering all the usual wildlife.
Apart from the size, what makes Kruger different from most other
safari parks is that you can self-drive around in your own car at your own pace and have a great choice of
places to stay inside the park, from comfortable tented camps to
luxury lodges - assuming that you book in advance ifor high season!
Animals are habituated to cars so a fair number can be seen beside
roads, though you won't see massive wildlife groups that you do
in neighbouring Namibia's Etosha, or on East Africa's savannah.
Beware busy South African holidays and book your rooms in advance.
The private lodges are superb experiences if you can afford them
- beautifully designed and run, but ironically, because there's
less traffic in their private game areas the wildlife is less habituated
to vehicles so the private, guided game safaris are likely to be less successful than just self driving on public roads!
You can also walk in the park with an armed guard if you so choose.
Best June-September, the dry season, when animals are more visible due
to shorter grass and malaria is less/not a problem. OK May-October.
safari: Rwanda, Parc National de Volcans and Uganda, Mgahinga National
Park (same volcano as Democratic Republic of Congo's (previously
Zaire) Virunga) or Bwindi National Park (the worst option as vegetation is thickest here). Mountain gorilla
Not easy, heavy climbing and only one hour viewing, but
if you get close you won't forget it.
Best in January, February, June, July.
Kahuzi-Biega Parc (plains gorillas & other wildlife) and Virunga
National Park (mountain gorillas), DRC (Zaire), both currently closed
due to civil war. n.b take a rain poncho, very fast film or digital camera, a fast lens (2.8 or less) if possible and NO
Bear necessities, Alaska:
If you enjoy the unspoilt outdoors and want to wander in wonder among forests of snowy peaks, glassy fjords, crystal lakes and rivers jumping with salmon-fishing bears, then a summer trip to Alaska (far north USA) could be the place for you.
At this time there are also plenty of moose, deer, wolves, whales and marine lifeforms.
The weather in this part of the world is erratic but the months for bear-fishing-watching are July-September. Early September provides best weather, best prices and least trouble booking things.
See Alaska Map or Alaska Tours.
Next Page Wildlife
Wildlife by month
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December
South Africa Self Drive.
• Canada Polar Bears Safari, from Churchill.
• Alaska Wildlife especially bears.
• Namibia, Etosha Self Drive.
Africa, Kenya, Masai Mara.
• Tanzania Wildlife Safaris
• Madagascar Berenty, Lemurs and Chameleons.
• Gorilla Trekking,
Zaire, Virunga National Park.