The Best Places To Go Wildlife Watching Around the World
Once you’ve indulged in a little local birdwatching or spotted all the city foxes in your area, it can be tricky to know where to head next for a glimpse of the wild and free. But whether you’re a bird lover, primate appreciator, or underwater enthusiast, the world is truly your oyster. Here are our top global wildlife watching spots, from jungle locations and coastal attractions to archipelago highlights and towering mountains.
One of the most impressive natural spectacles on earth, the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti National Park is a must-see for any animal enthusiast. Each year, well over a million wildebeest, zebra, and other brave grazers set off in search of greener pastures, crossing crocodile-infested waters and being pursued by lions along the way. The seasonal show is best enjoyed over a few days—multi-day safari tours offer an intimate glimpse of the more hair-raising moments, while hot-air balloon tours reveal the sheer scale of the mass migration.
Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia
One of only two places you can see orangutans in the wild—and also home to endemic elephants, monkeys, wild cats, and tropical birds—Borneo’s ancient rainforest is a wildlife watcher’s dream destination. Explorers can enjoy a close encounter with the great ape at one of the many reserves set up to protect this endangered species, or head deep into the jungle with a guide to optimize chances of spotting its wild residents. Several tours offer multi-day packages, including accommodation and meals.
Another bubble of biodiversity, Madagascar is best known for its forest-dwelling lemurs, though its highlands, swamps, and reefs are also home to an often-overlooked cast including mongoose, birds, insects, and whales. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a popular day-trip destination, thanks to its close proximity to the capital and large population of indri lemurs, while multi-day tours are a great way to gain an island overview.
Great Barrier Reef
It’s hard to pick just one wildlife watching destination in Australia, but the world’s largest barrier reef is certainly a frontrunner. One for the water babies, this UNESCO-listed natural landmark is best explored on a snorkeling or scuba-diving excursion, though helicopter flights can reveal the true extent of the reef system. Cairns is the main gateway to the reef and not far from other wildlife attractions such as the Daintree Rainforest, making it a convenient stop on multi-day tours.
Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin on these Ecuadorian islands, best known for their endemic giant tortoises, cormorants, and marine iguanas. Given the distance from the mainland, visitors often use Santa Cruz Island as a base and depart on day trips to the many wildlife-watching hotspots around the archipelago. Tours typically include trekking or snorkeling experiences, with many multi-day options providing a comprehensive overview of the region’s rich biodiversity.
Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda
Home to the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas, the idyllic landscape of the Virunga Mountains borders three African nations: Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park all offer gorilla trekking permits under strict guidance, as does the slightly farther afield Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. The region is also home to golden monkeys, forest elephants, and even lions, making this a prime destination for wildlife-watchers from around the world.
Brazil, Peru, and Colombia
With the highest biodiversity on earth, we’d be remiss not to mention the Amazon Rainforest. Sprawling across nine different countries, there are plenty of ways to access the tropical paradise, though highlights include Amazon River cruises in Brazil, camping in Peru’s Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, or hiking where the Amazon meets the Andes in Ecuador’s Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. As for flora and fauna, there’s plenty to spot all over the region, including jaguars, sloths, spider monkeys, and pink river dolphins.
Papua New Guinea
Home to the vast majority of the world’s birds of paradise, Papua New Guinea is—somewhat unsurprisingly—a paradise for birders. Varirata National Park, just on the outskirts of the country's capital, is a premier destination for birdwatching, while multi-day treks through the island’s dense rainforest offer an intimate glimpse of the island’s colorful flora and fauna.
Bears, whales, wolves, and caribou call this remote peninsula home, making Alaska one of North America’s top destinations for wildlife watching. The Kenai coastal fjords are a must-see, with boat tours offering close encounters with all manner of marine life, including sea lions, porpoises, and even orcas. Further north, the rugged terrain of Denali National Park and Preserve lends itself to off-road exploration, whether by ATV, boat, on foot, or by plane.