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10 of the best n wildlife encounters

10 of the best n wildlife encounters

of the furred kind est: wildlife encoun ters n Polar bear family

1. Face to face with polar bears The encounter: Experience the thrill of seeing the Arctic’s most powerful predators on a polar bear safari in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, or on a cruise off Norway’s Spitsbergen. What’s involved: View polar bears from the safety of tundra buggies as they migrate along the Hudson Bay coastline during October and November ahead of the winter freeze. Cruise ship company Hurtigruten’s expedition-style Spitsbergen field landings take passengers close to polar bears and other Arctic wildlife. Do it: Tailor Made Travel’s five-night Polar Bears of Churchill tour costs from £2,437* including three nights in Churchill and two days’ tundra buggy polar bear viewing. Windows on the Wild’s six-night polar bear tours, from £3,275, include four nights in Churchill. Hurtigruten’s eight-day Explorer Voyage costs from £2,488.,,

n Tiger safari Exodus/Paul Goldstein

to see tigers and other wildlife, with multiple tiger sightings possible. Do it: The Exodus Land of the Tigers trip costs from £1,899 for 16 days, with departures from autumn to spring. The itinerary includes a sleeper train and stays in Agra, for the Taj Mahal, and Delhi.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, from £3,195 including flights. Aardvark Safaris offers gorilla tracking in Rwanda, including three nights at Virunga Lodge, from £2,343, and G Adventures’ five-day Uganda Gorillas and Game trip costs from £1,579, both ex-flights. Brown + Hudson’s luxury, 13-day East African Extravaganza, from £225,000 for two, includes helicopter flights to Bwindi, for a gorilla trek and overnight stay, and to other African safari destinations plus a bespoke documentary film of the trip.,,,

3. Gorillas in your midst The encounter: Witness the magnificent, gentle giants of Uganda and Rwanda’s mountain rainforests. What’s involved: Trek to view mountain gorilla families in their natural habitat in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to over 300 gorillas. Trips often visit the grave of murdered conservationist Dian Fossey, author of Gorillas in the Mist. Do it: Wildlife Worldwide’s 10-day Gorillas, Wildlife and Chimps trip includes two nights in a lodge in the


10 of the b

Windows on the Wild/Robert R Taylor

We love watching them in zoos and on TV wildlife programmes, but there is nothing quite like confronting some of nature’s most feared or enchanting creatures in the wild. Here’s our pick of encounters to set the heart racing

4. Cage diving with great white sharks The encounter: Experience a breathtaking underwater brush with the fearsome stars of Jaws diving in a

n Great white shark

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n Magnificent: mountain gorilla

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n Close encounter of the feared kind

tlm n the travel & leisure magazine

South African Tourism

The encounter: The chance to view majestic and endangered Bengal tigers on safari in central India’s national parks. What’s involved: India’s tigers are under threat from poaching and loss of habitat. Exodus offers a Land of the Tigers safari holiday that takes in three national parks where tigers still roam – Pench, the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Kanha and Bandhavgarth, where an Exodus project involves rebuilding a school bordering the national park. Jeep and optional elephant game drives give a great chance

Wildlife Worldwide

n Meeting a polar bear in Canada

Tailor Made Travel

2. Tiger, tiger burning bright


10 of the best n wildlife encounters

Frontier Canada

n Walking with lions in Antelope Park, Zimbabwe

n Close up with killer whales

The encounter: Paddling a kayak alongside killer whales, or orcas, is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. Johnstone Strait, off mainland British Columbia, Canada, is the best place on earth to sea kayak with killer whales in the wild. Most of BC’s 220 resident orcas return there between July and October each year. What’s involved: Stay in a permanent tented wilderness camp with an experienced paddler guide and encounter pods of the friendly orcas close up from your sea kayak. Among other wildlife you may see are dolphins, sea lions, harbour seals, minke whales, otters, eagles and black bears. Do it: Frontier Canada offers five-day Orcas & Wilderness Camping kayaking trips from Campbell River, Quadra Island or Port McNeill, costing around £800. They include paddling on three days in search of the killer whales.

rehabilitation project aims to return them to the wild. Several projects let you help look after lions. Walking safaris with armed guides, possible in some n Cub countries, give close-up views on foot. feeding Do it: Acacia Africa’s seven-day Rediscover time Zimbabwe trip, from £641, incorporates a stay at Antelope Park. Classic Retreats offers walking safaris on Remote Africa Safaris’s Chikoko Walking Trails as part of a seven-day trip, from $3,655. Norman Carr Safaris has walking safaris on its eight-night Luwi River Trail, privately-guided trip to Zambia’s South Luangwa, from $3,960. Under BUNAC’s Wildlife Conservation South Africa programme, volunteers can look after lions and cubs at a South African wildlife reserve for 18 or 32 days, from £1,099, while i-to-i offers volunteering with lion research work in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, from £1,199 for two to six weeks.,,,,


Peter Ellegard

n A sperm whale off Kaikoura, New Zealand

7. Whale meet again The encounter: Marvel at the oceans’ leviathans on whale-watching trips from the Azores to South Africa,

6. Walking with lions The encounter: For sheer adrenalin, track lions on walking safaris or walk and work alongside them on volunteering projects. What’s involved: Walk with lions at Zimbabwe’s Antelope Park Private Game Reserve, where a lion

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n Whale hello there

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Starwood Hotels and Resorts

5. Kayaking with killer whales

Acacia Africa

steel cage in Shark Alley, off South Africa’s Dyer Island, near Cape Town. What’s involved: Dyer Island is one of the world’s best locations to encounter great whites as it is home to 50,000 seals, their main food. Trips to Shark Alley include viewing the sharks from onboard the boat and diving in the cage. Divers should hold a minimum of PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent qualification and have logged 40 dives. Do it: Regaldive offers a great white shark diving extension with its six-night East Coast Shark Diving holiday from £2,144 for both. The four-day Gaansbaai extension includes an extra three nights’ accommodation, two days’ great white cage diving, a guide and transfers.

10 of the best n wildlife encounters

Offbeat Safaris

n On horse-back with a tusker

Mozambique, California, Hawaii, Newfoundland, Quebec, Cape Cod, Dominica and New Zealand. What’s involved: Boat trips take visitors out to where whales congregate or pass on migration. Some can be viewed from the shore, such as off Mozambique (humpbacks) and along South Africa’s Cape Whale Coast, where common species are Southern right (pictured, previous page) and humpback whales. Hermanus even has its own whale crier. Sperm whales are a big draw off Dominica, the Azores and New Zealand’s Kaikoura, with grey, blue and humpback whales off US and Canadian coasts. Do it: Five nights in Monterey, California, with Bon Voyage costs from £1,095 and includes two half-day whale-watching trips. To Escape To has seven nights at Mozambique’s Nuarro Lodge from £1,819. Local operators’ whale-watching trips include Dive Dominica, costing about £30 (children £16), and Whale Watch Kaikoura, at about £75 (£30).,,,,,

8. Horse-riding with the Big Five

meerkats on safari in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana. The inquisitive creatures may even clamber onto your head to watch out for predators. What’s involved: The meerkat experience forms part of a stay at Jack’s Camp, a palatial tented camp in Makgadikgadi Pans in the heart of the Kalahari. An ongoing habituation programme means the fascinating creatures have lost their fear of people, happily using them as lookout posts. Other activities at Jack’s include game walks with a bushman guide, quad bikes and tracking elusive brown hyena. Do it: Owned and run by Botswana-based Uncharted Africa Safari Co, Jack’s Camp is featured by Aardvark Safaris, with three nights there costing from £2,920.

10. Jumbo encounters The encounter: Get close to working elephants and see wild ones in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, or do volunteer work in South Africa. What’s involved: Family holidays take in a training camp in India and riding them and visiting an orphanage

n Meerkat lookout Uncharted Africa Safari Co

n Comparing the meerkats in Botswana

Uncharted Africa Safari Co

The encounter: Ride tall in the saddle on horse-back safaris through Kenya’s Masai Mara or Amboseli National Park, galloping alongside zebra, giraffe and wildebeest herds and viewing elephants, buffalo and wallowing hippos close up. What’s involved: Seven or eight-night horse-riding safaris take in rides of up to 50km per day between camps through mostly open plains where big game is abundant. Riders must have good riding ability and be fit enough to ride up to six hours a day. Do it: Offbeat Safaris offers 10-night safaris, including eight nights riding in the Masai Mara staying in four different camps, from £4,600. Alternatively, biking safaris are offered by operators including Classic Retreats and Adventure International.

9. Compare the meerkats The encounter: Get up close and personal with

Autumn 2011

tlm n the travel & leisure magazine


10 of the best n wildlife encounters

*Packages vary; for details of what is included, check individual companies.

n Splashing about

Families Worldwide

Do you know of better wildlife encounters? Tell us on tlm’s Facebook page: – and see our suggestions for 10 of the rest.

in Sri Lanka. Adults can go elephant trekking, bathe them and be a mahout in Thailand or help with research and elephant care at a sanctuary on South Africa’s Garden Route. Do it: The Adventure Company’s 16-day Elephant Paradise holiday to Sri Lanka, from £1,699 for adults and £1,599 for children, includes elephant riding, seeing wild elephants on safari and visiting an orphanage. Families Worldwide’s Backwaters of Kerala tour, from £1,699/£1,484, visits an elephant training camp. Funway Holidays’ Elephant Hills Jungle Safari, in Khao Sok National Park, costs £342 for three days including elephant trekking and bathing with a twoday elephant driving course costing £289, while i-to-i’s Elephant encounter volunteering in South Africa costs from £799 for two weeks.,,,

2. Deer rutting: Exmoor, Devon

Home to one of Britain’s largest Atlantic grey seal breeding colonies, in spring and autumn up to 1,000 seals haul up Ramsey’s beaches to pup. Return boat trips go from St Justinians, where a 14-bed bungalow costs £1,475 per week to rent from Quality Cottages (

See the spectacle of Exmoor’s magnificent wild stags during the annual rutting season. HF Holidays’ new two-night deer rutting weekends, from midOctober, include full-board accommodation at Holnicote Country House, travel to rutting sites, nature reserve entrance and National Trust guides, for £225pp.

4. Red squirrels: Isle of Wight/Durham

Scotland is the stronghold of the osprey, a summer visitor which has seen increasing numbers since returning in 1954. Stay at the Bird Watching & Wildlife Club’s Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown-on-Spey and view them at the Loch Garten Osprey Centre, from late March to August/September.

See resident red squirrels on a Wildlife Safari walk around the Isle of Wight’s Alverstone Mead nature reserve, near Sandown – one of the walks highlighted in ferry company Wightlink’s free Wight Safaris guide ( Also view them at Durham’s Killhope lead mining museum.

6. Wildlife safari: Port Lympne, Kent

Otters are notoriously elusive, but stay in the 23room hotel on the tiny, private Isle of Eriska, near Oban, and you stand a good chance of seeing them as they are resident year-round. Other wildlife include white-tailed sea eagles, deer and seals. Marked trails have information boards.

Go on safari with Port Lympne Wild Animal Park’s African Experience and view giraffe, black rhino, wildebeest, zebra, ostrich, antelope and other wildlife roaming free. Feel even more like you are in Africa by staying overnight in the new Livingstone Safari Lodge.

Some 6,000 pairs of the charming “Pembrokeshire Parrots” breed on the island from mid-March to July each year. Skomer is also home to the world’s largest colony of Manx shearwaters. Arrive early to catch the boat (April to October) – there is a daily quota for landing visitors.

David Rolfe

5. Otters: Isle of Eriska, Argyll

Gigrin Iain H Farm LeachRed Kie Centre

Jo Sime


3. Ospreys: Highlands of Scotland

7. Puffins: Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

Gigrin Farm Red Kie Centre

HF Holidays

1. Seals: Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire

8. Bitterns: Nottinghamshire Just 87 males of this rare overwintering visitor were recorded in the UK last spring, seven of them at Attenburgh Nature Reserve. The shy, secretive heron species, known for its deep booming call, can be seen in the reserve’s reedbeds from a hide from November to January.

9. Red kites: Powys

10. Dolphins: Moray Firth

The red kite is one of nature’s success stories, having recovered from near extinction in the UK. Kites are fed daily throughout the year at Gigrin Farm, near Rhayader, attracting up to 600 birds. View from five hides. Rent its Red Kite Cottage from £300 per week.

Chanonry Point offers one of the best viewing opportunities in the UK for bottlenose dolphins. The playful mammals come right up close to the shore on incoming tides and can be seen yearround. Boat trips also operate from Inverness. Base yourself at Grantown’s Grant Arms Hotel.

Peter Truelove

Dennis Hardley Photography

Phil Smith

Jo Sime

10 of the best UK wildlife encounters

l WIN a four-night wildlife stay at the Grant Arms Hotel in the Scottish Highlands, worth £850. See page 27.

76 tlm n the travel & leisure magazine

Autumn 2011

10 of the best - wildlife encounters  
10 of the best - wildlife encounters  

10 of the best n wildlife encounters