Been there, done that with the Big Five? Safari doesn’t begin and end in the Serengeti – we’ve picked out six alternative safari experiences that will get you up close and personal with some of the world’s most impressive wildlife
Where: Costa Rica
What: Sloth, iguana, toucan, macaw, green turtle
Why: Despite being the same size as some of the more diminutive US states, Costa Rica packs a mighty punch when it comes to biodiversity. Its name means ‘rich coast’, and it’s not kidding: around a quarter of the country is dedicated to conservation refuges and national parks, and its rainforests and mangroves provide the ideal home for the notable numbers of exotic birds, sloths and sea turtles living within its bountiful borders.
Where: The Galapagos Islands
What: Blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, penguins, sea lions, hammerhead sharks
Why: The gorgeous Galapagos Islands off Ecuador, famed for their unusual endemic species (think giant tortoises and blue-footed birds), enjoys a year-round wildlife cycle, starting with the arrival of nesting birds and sea turtles in the first three months of the year. Towards the middle of the year, land iguanas and turtles begin hatching, and at the end of the year, whales and dolphins come out to play. Plus, you can swim with marine iguanas and even dive with large groups of hammerhead sharks throughout the whole year. It’s a world’s-worth of biodiversity, all in one small collection of islands.
What: Marine wildlife
Why: If you’ve exhausted the wildlife on land, head underwater to the famous Great Barrier Reef. It’s the world’s largest coral reef system, stretching almost 1,500 miles, and supports a massive amount of marine life. Large parts are protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact humans have on it each year. Everything from dolphins to dugongs (a water-dwelling mammal related to the elephant) live among the reef – grab a snorkel and dive in.
What: Orangutans, proboscis monkeys, birds
Why: Borneo is famous for its population of orangutans, but the island has one of the most varied ecosystems in the world, with marine reserves, pristine coral reefs and plenty of non-ginger primates, including the proboscis monkey, which is endemic to Borneo. As for those orangutans, there’s no better place to see them than in the sanctuary at Sepilok, which works to rehabilitate orphaned orangutans and reintroduce them into the wild. Visitors can actively get involved with conservation efforts.
Where: Northern India
What: Tiger, marsh crocodile, macaque, lemur, leopard, bison
Why: Thanks to India’s varied climate and terrain, it’s home to some of Asia’s most distinctive and exotic wildlife – including the majestic tiger. With around 80 national parks and 440 animal reserves set among lush jungle and rolling hills, there are plenty of opportunities to spot the myriad birds and beasts that call India home. Don’t miss Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, known for its tigers.
Where: South Africa
What: Marine Big Five: shark, whale, seal, penguin, dolphin
Why: After seeing the Big Five in Kruger, migrate south to Cape Town for South Africa’s marine Big Five. From July to November, South Africa’s Cape Peninsula is filled with migrating whales as well as plenty of seals and dolphins – they’re best seen in all their magnificent glory on a boat trip with a marine biologist. Not forgetting South Africa’s famous penguin colony and various seabirds living on the rugged cliffs of the Western Cape and Robben Island. And, for the ultimate aquatic adventure, get up close and personal with great white sharks in Gansbaai – famous for its shivers (yes, really) of great whites.
How to do it
South Africa: The South Africa Horizons tour with Bales Worldwide
India: The Wildlife of India tour with Virgin Holidays Worldwide Journeys
Galapagos: The Ecuador and Galapagos tour with Virgin Holidays Worldwide Journeys
Borneo: The Highlights of Borneo tour with Virgin Holidays Worldwide JourneysAustralia: The East Coast Explorer tour with Virgin Holidays Worldwide JourneysCosta Rica: The Highlights of Costa Rica tour with Virgin Holidays Worldwide JourneysVisit virginholidays.co.uk/tours, call 0844 557 3859 or book in store.
Photos by Alamy