Pick your hemisphere, choose your species, and check out one of these 5 best places to see exotic animals.
Rhinoceros, both black and white, have been decimated over the years by poachers, but Namibia has provided some sanctuary for them. Etosha National Park is the country’s most impressive wildlife reserve. You can see lions, giraffes, elephants, and rhinos, plus the occasional cheetah or leopard. A quarter of the park is a dried up salt pan which was once a lake and is only briefly filled with water each year during rains. It is part of the Kalahari basin. Alternatively, visit Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast to see a colony of over 200,000 Cape fur seals, which can only be found on this southern coast of Africa.
2. The Amazon Basin
Only 40 per cent of the area drained by the mighty Amazon River is in Brazil. So extensive are these forests and tributaries that you can visit them in several other countries, including Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, and Venezuela. The Napo River in Ecuador is but one of many places to find eco-lodges that put travellers in the jungles and along the waterways to see the vibrant local floral and fauna. Sacha Lodge, for example, offers a walkway above the canopy, jungle mud-and-boardwalk paths and a secluded lagoon just a short hike from the Napo.
The world’s third largest island, Borneo is part of the Malay Peninsula and is divided betweenMalaysia, Indonesia and tiny Brunei. It’s home to Asian elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros and sadly, one of the last natural homes to the endangered orangutans. Don’t bother trying to count how many species are here: the list grows every year as new ones are discovered. The bird species alone top 400. Head to the Malaysian state of Sabah at the north end where you can climb Mount Kinabalu, snorkel the surrounding seas or watch sea turtles lay their eggs on nearby Selingan Island.
4. Serengeti, Tanzania
More than just “endless plains” (which is what its name means in the language of the Maasai), the Serengeti also holds rich forest and swampland, and is home to a number of national parks and preserves in Tanzania. This is the place for the safari of a lifetime. Along with the massive herds of wildebeest (2 million), gazelle (half million), and zebra (quarter million), there are the predators: lions, leopards, cheetahs and crocodiles. Add the elephants and giraffes and the Serengeti is really a surreal dream for anyone who’s never ventured beyond their local zoo.
5. Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Set between the long narrow peninsular Baja California and the Mexican mainland, this nutrient-rich sea attracts a wide variety of marine life. Designated a World Heritage Site, the Sea of Cortez attracts whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, ten species of whales, sea turtles, colonies of sea lions, and a variety of shorebirds. Join a whale watching tour or paddle yourself in a kayak to get close to them. Snorkel with whale sharks or see the largest creature on earth: the blue whale.