Let’s face it, it’s great to make our travel dollars go farther by looking for deals and sticking to a budget – but there are some experiences that are in the “expensive but worth it” category.
When it comes to marveling at the wildlife on this magnificent planet, consider these animal-loving luxury wildlife experiences for your next adventure.
SAFARI IN KENYA
Ah, Africa! The wildlife-viewing experience here is second to none. From the time you hop out of the Cessna to greet your personal Masai guide, to the moment you lay your head down in a luxury tent, you will be seeing and hearing the animals all around you.
Your guide will escort you in an open-air Land Rover through the African conservancies to see wildebeest, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, leopards, rhinos, hippos, hyenas, vultures, crocodiles and the incredible birds! You can also go on a walking safari and a night-time safari – both add extra adventure to the chase!
One of our safari trips ended with a “sundowner”, a private lounge area set up outside with the African sunset as the backdrop to enjoy a libation while discussing the wondrous sights and sounds of the day with other camp guests.
PENGUINS, SEA LIONS, TORTOISES & MORE IN THE GALAPAGOS
It is said that “the Galapagos cannot be explained – only experienced!” This archipelago of 21 volcanic islands in the waters off Ecuador was made famous when Charles Darwin visited in the late 1800s and was inspired to write his historic book “The Origin of Species”.
The Galapagos is an area of the world so remote and well-protected that the animals are not afraid of humans.
Each island is a unique experience with different animal habitats. You will find sea lions by the hundreds lazing about on San Cristobal Island and a surreal scene of thousands of marine iguanas seemingly frozen on the rocks on Isabela. There are blue-footed boobies galore, albatross, giant tortoises, frigate birds and bottle-nosed dolphins.
The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has been declared a marine reserve. It is the second largest protected area on the planet after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
GORILLA-TREKKING IN RWANDA OR UGANDA
Picture yourself hiking into a remote forest with a tracker as your guide. After a rigorous trek that can take several hours through the thick underbrush of Volcanoes National Park, you will come across your assigned troop of gorillas.
There are usually 25 to 30 individuals with a lone silverback (male) in control. He will permit you and your small group to hang out for a golden hour!
This experience is simply unbelievable! It is like being in the same room with these splendid animals! We visited Rwanda specifically for this thrill and we were delighted to also see the Golden Monkeys on a separate outing.
Be prepared! Recently the Rwandan “license” to go gorilla trekking for the day increased from $750 to $1500 per person.
You may find Gorilla Trekking in Uganda to be more reasonable. However, much of the money is used towards preventing poaching and preserving the habitat of these magnificent creatures.
CROCODILES & HOWLER MONKEYS OF BELIZE
Belize is a Central American country that borders the Caribbean Sea. In the same vacation, you can stay in a tree-top chalet in the jungle and then venture out to the sea to snorkel with the shark rays! The national language is English and the people are very friendly.
One of the most popular excursions in Belize is boating down one of the many rivers to explore the jungle and discover crocodiles, iguanas, tropical birds, and manatees.
My fondest memory of Belize is going tubing through one of the gigantic caves of its extensive cavern system.
Caves Branch Resort offers a number of exciting activities including zip-lining in the jungle, horseback riding, exploring Mayan ruins, snorkeling, diving, birding, and nature walks. Caves Branch has amazing tree-house accommodation. Your luxury chalet is located high in the forest canopy.
But be aware! The howler monkeys might startle you from your sound sleep! Howler monkeys are the loudest land animals and the first time you hear a male vocalizing, you will be astounded!
GRIZZLY BEARS IN BELLA COOLA, BRITISH COLUMBIA
The scenery from the inside passage ferry up to Bella Coola in British Columbia, Canada is simply breathtaking – and very remote. There are only a few passengers on the 10-hour trip.
When you dock, your personal chauffeur will be waiting and during the short ride to your resort, you will be briefed on the history of the area. The other way to go, of course, is a 70-minute flight from Vancouver right up to Tweedsmuir Park Lodge.
This eco-friendly lodge is located close to the Great Bear Rainforest where the outdoor adventures include scenic river drifts or perhaps a guided hike to get within camera range of the grizzly bears.
You can see bears from the veranda of your own chalet. I loved the viewing platforms where I can climb the stairs to the top for a spectacular view of the river and the critters!
About the Author:
Shannon Lee is a physician, musician, foodie and globetrotter from British Columbia, Canada. In her spare time, she can be found performing with her band, INGLEWOOD, doing the New York Times crosswords or planning her next luxury vacation!
Follow her on her website.