Countries You Didn't Realize Were Great for Seeing Wildlife
Anyone with an interest in observing wildlife in its natural habitat is aware of the fabulous safaris in South Africa, opportunities to see bison in Yellowstone National Park, and the many sea turtles in the Galapagos Islands. Yet, many other countries offer the opportunity to see spectacular wildlife. Best of all, seeing wildlife in these countries may not come with the big crowds of those more famous spots. Keep reading to learn about four countries you didn't realize were great for seeing wildlife.
When you think of Peru, you most likely think of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas. This amazing site draws millions of visitors to Peru each year, but Peru has far more to offer, especially in terms of wildlife viewing. Some of the more distinctive species you can encounter when you visit Peru include the Humboldt penguin, the Amazon River dolphin, and Andean condors. The Peruvian coast and coastal islands are some of the few places outside of the Antarctic where you can encounter penguins. The famous pink river dolphin, with a brain capacity 40 percent larger than humans, plays in the waters of the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, deep in the heart of the Amazon. Its color ranges from pinkish-gray to blush pink.
An Andean condor is a vulture known as one of the largest birds of flight in the world. Viewing its majestic wingspan requires hiking up Cordillera Blanca, Peru's highest mountain range. If you choose to explore the Amazon River Basin, keep your eye out for the giant river otters and caiman crocodiles on or near the Tambopata River close to the Peru-Bolivia border. Here you will also find South America's largest cat, the jaguar, who wanders along the riverbanks looking for prey. You'll also find at least six species of colorful macaw parrots during the dry season from May to October.
Bali, Indonesia, remains a favorite place for budget travelers who want a beach paradise or to enjoy the art scene and cultural wonders in Ubud. With more than 17,500 islands, you are sure to find exciting wildlife in Indonesia, but you can't miss a visit to Borneo. Because of its relative isolation, Borneo might not be on your radar as a vacation destination, let alone the first place you think of when you want to view wildlife. Borneo is the world's third largest island, and it is shared by the countries of Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. If you visit Borneo for wildlife you will likely be in Indonesia, but some tours, especially those to the island's Mount Kinabalu, might include time in Sabah or Sarawak, Borneo's two Malaysian states.
As you explore the dense rainforests and mountains of Borneo, you'll encounter proboscis monkeys and orangutans. You've probably heard of orangutans and perhaps seen one at a zoo, but didn't know the only place to see them in wild is Borneo. Proboscis monkeys are peculiar looking primates with extra-large noses and gray pot bellies. You might also come across an endangered pangolin, which some describe as an artichoke with legs. Borneo is also home to the world's smallest elephants — Borneo Pygmy elephants, which typically don't grow more than nine feet tall.
Africa remains a favorite destination to observe stunning fauna in natural surrounding, but many travelers head for game reserves in Kenya and South Africa to see the big five: lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo. If you are willing to make the trek to Madagascar, located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique, you will find distinctive wildlife species that live nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately, this also includes many endangered species.
Scientists continue to learn more about the island's unspoiled wildlife. In fact, they discovered more than 40 new species of mammals since 1999 and more than 60 new species of reptiles. Some of Madagascar's most unique and endangered species include the silky sifaka and ploughshare tortoises. Found in the mountains of northeastern Madagascar, silky sifakas, a type of lemur, are known as "ghosts of the forest." This is one of more than 30 types of lemurs who live on the island. The ploughshare tortoise is not only one of the rarest reptiles on earth, but also one of the most coveted. You can see this majestic creature on Madagascar's northeastern shores, but it remains in grave danger of extinction because of poachers who smuggle the tortoises to China, Japan, and Thailand.
Today's Rwanda is safer than it was in the past and it provides one of the best opportunities to track gorillas in the wild. Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park is home to 12 gorilla families. In an effort to preserve their natural habitats, Rwanda's government only allows travelers to hike with expert trackers. Additionally, local laws only permit very limited time with the gorillas each day so that they can live most of their lives undisturbed.
Although Rwanda has become famous mostly for the gorillas that reside on the country's bamboo-covered mountains, you can also encounter other wildlife if you go on a safari. These are led by many operators out of the country's capital city, Kigali. You might see giraffes, leopards, lions, hippos, chimpanzees, and more. Birdwatchers can find more than 700 species throughout the country, many of which are rare or endangered, such as the grey-crowned crane, the regal sunbird, and the red-faced barbet. Most avid birdwatchers prefer Nyungwe National Park in western Rwanda, or Akagera National Park in the east, but you can find colorful, endemic species throughout the small country.