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WILDLIFE

From seeing prides of lions in Kenya and gorillas in Rwanda to tracking Bengal tigers in India, here's our top wildlife experiences for 2018.

by Tom Blakey

Whether you’re interested in witnessing the Great Migration in Tanzania’s southern Serengeti, tracking wild mountain gorillas in Rwanda, spotting lions, leopards and cheetahs in Kenya’s Masai Mara, or searching for elusive Royal Bengal tigers in India’s famous national parks and tiger reserves, our Luxury Travel Specialists can plan an unforgettable wildlife holiday based on your specific interests.

To help inspire you, here are six incredible wildlife encounters that you could experience on your next holiday.

1. Encounter the Big Five in Kenya’s Masai Mara

Often referred to as ‘The World’s Greatest Safari Destination’, the Masai Mara is one of the best game viewing destinations in Africa.

This iconic reserve offers phenomenal wildlife encounters and you can expect to see large herds of zebra, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, wildebeest, buffalo, rhino and elephant, plus lion, cheetah and leopard, as well as hippos and crocodiles along the riverbanks. If you venture out on a night game drive you may see nocturnal animals such as aardvarks and honey badgers.

On our Luxury Kenya & Zanzibar holiday you’ll stay at an exclusive luxury lodge or camp set in a breathtaking location in the Masai Mara. You’ll enjoy incredible game drives with highly experienced local guides, plus there may also be opportunities for guided bush walks, horse riding, black rhino tracking experiences, or a hot air balloon flight over the plains and forests of the Masai Mara.

Following your safari, you’ll fly to the exotic spice island of Zanzibar where you can spend a few days relaxing on the idyllic beaches.

2. Track the majestic Bengal tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park

Cradled amidst the picturesque hills of Central India, Bandhavgarh National Park is one of India’s premier tiger parks and the best place to see wild Bengal tigers. The healthy population of approximately 60-70 tigers means that this park has the highest tiger density of any of India's reserves and an encounter with the Royal Bengal tiger is almost guaranteed in Bandhavgarh. The park is also home to other wildlife including leopard, sloth bear, gaur, sambar, chital, jungle cat and wild pig, plus 150 species of birds.

On our Wild India, The Land of the Tiger tailor-made holiday you’ll visit the spectacular palaces and temples of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and explore the incredible national parks of Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna which are teeming with rare wildlife. Your personal itinerary will be designed to maximise your safari time in the parks to ensure that you have the best possible chances of spotting and photographing the extraordinary wildlife, including the elusive Royal Bengal tiger.

3. Track endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda

For many people coming face-to-face with wild mountain gorillas in their natural habitat in East Africa is the ultimate wildlife experience. Veteran broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough described meeting the mountain gorillas of Rwanda as “one of the most exciting encounters of my life”.

Our Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar holiday offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to track mountain gorillas in Rwanda, followed by an unforgettable safari in the Masai Mara and a few days relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar.

This phenomenal holiday starts in Rwanda where you’ll trek deep into the forests of the Parc National des Volcans with an experienced tracker in search of a specific gorilla family. When you meet the gorillas you’ll have the chance to spend up to one magical hour quietly observing them in their natural habitat. The family of gorillas are likely to be just a few metres away from you and they will continue to go about their daily lives - feeding and interacting with each other, under the watchful gaze of the silverback.

No wildlife experience on earth can compare to standing a few metres from these magnificent creatures and without doubt this will be a wildlife encounter that you’ll never ever forget.

4. Witness the wildebeest calving season in Tanzania

During February of each year, millions of wildebeest congregate in the Ndutu region of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania, part of their route in the wildebeest migration. An estimated 400,000 calves are born here during a three-week window which makes for an incredible sight on game drives.

You can expect to see newborn calves, and you might be lucky enough to witness a birth. The wildebeest encourage their newborns to get on their feet immediately and join the herd where there is safety in numbers.

Predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyenas, and rare wild dogs wait in the surrounding areas ready to prey on the weak and vulnerable members of the herd, which makes for very exciting game drives.

If you specifically want to witness this incredible wildlife phenomenon we recommend our Tanzania Great Migration Safari where you’ll spend time in the southern Serengeti during the wildebeest calving season in February, plus this holiday also offers an opportunity for game drives in the spectacular Lake Manyara National Park which is known for its large elephant population and tree-climbing lions, and the Ngorongoro Crater which offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa.

We offer our Tanzania Great Migration Safari throughout the year.

Whether you want to witness the calving season in Ndutu, dramatic river crossings on the Grumeti and Mara Rivers, or the wildebeest herds beginning their return journey from the Masai Mara to the Serengeti, we’ll ensure that you’re in the right place at the right time.

5. Snorkel with whale sharks on Mafia Island

The main attraction for many visitors to Mafia Island is the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks – the world’s largest fish at up to 20m long. During the summer season (October to March) whale sharks can be spotted swimming slowly close to the surface in the channel between Mafia Island and mainland Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

During these months the ‘kaskazi’ (north monsoon wind) pushes the water’s surface layer, full of plankton fed by the sun and nutrient-rich Rufiji River silt, towards Mafia Island, trapping it against the west coast.

The whale sharks hoover up their daily requirement on the surface, making them easy to find. Once spotted you can snorkel alongside them, but please ensure that you are patient and respectful so that the whale sharks can continue to feed.

Mafia Island can be added to most of our Africa tailor-made holidays. On our Remote Tanzania Safari & Beach Holiday you can combine Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park and Mafia Island, and on our Virungas, Primates and Mafia Island itinerary you’ll track gorillas and monkeys in Rwanda before flying to Mafia Island for some luxury beach time.

6. See the Big Five on safari in South Africa

Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Its high density of animals includes the ‘Big Five’ - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo - cheetah, giraffe, hippo, zebra, and numerous other species of wildlife.

This world-renowned park attracts huge crowds and unfortunately your game viewing experience may be restricted due to the large number of visitors (you may even find yourself in a 'traffic jam' as vehicles jostle for space along the road trying to get a glimpse of whatever animal has caused the traffic to grind to a complete standstill). For this reason we recommend staying in a private reserve outside of the park.

On our Luxury Kruger & Mauritius holiday you’ll stay in a private nature reserve 90km west of Kruger National Park. By staying here you’ll be able to escape the crowds and enjoy a more exclusive South African safari experience without encountering dozens of other vehicles. You’ll have the opportunity for early morning and late afternoon game drives with expert guides and trackers and you can expect to see an abundance of wildlife, including elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, white and black rhino, hippo, cheetah, crocodiles, hyenas, wild dog, zebras, giraffes, and several species of buck.

If you’d like to include an incredible wildlife encounter on your next holiday, please call our Luxury Travel Specialists on 0203 143 4293 or send an online enquiry to start your journey.

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