There’s something undeniably special about heading out into the wilderness in search of rare exotic wildlife, the quiet wait for a lion, tiger, or gorilla to step out into the open for you to see all its glory. Wildlife holidays and safaris are also crucial conservation tools, with economies built on wildlife tourism far more likely to want to protect their precious ecosystems and wildlife. In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the worlds rarest wildlife on holiday and tell you where to travel to find them.
The Big Five – Africa
The vast ecosystems of Africa are home to some of the planet’s last surviving wildernesses, with great stretches of the Serengeti in Tanzania, Okavango Delta in Botswana, and other such sites in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and more providing refuge for the iconic African Big Five. The term describes lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo, which used to be the five critical creatures on game hunter’s kill list. Nowadays, they are much more popular with travelers who want to see these magnificent creatures alive in the flesh, powering many African economies through safari holidays in vast national parks.
The Masai Mara in Kenya is home to one of the densest populations of lions in Africa, while Chobe National Park in Botswana has a healthy population of elephants. The heavily persecuted rhino is rare across much of Africa. However, black and white rhinos can be found in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, thanks to dedicated conservation work and poacher protection.
Mountain Gorillas – Uganda & Rwanda
Hidden in the dense jungles of just four national parks in Rwanda and Uganda, slightly more than 1,000 mountain gorillas survive, living in family groups led by one large alpha male silverback. A conservation success story, the gorillas, have risen in number from the brink of extinction, thanks to a dedicated effort to protect their jungle home from logging and guard the animals against poachers.
Travelers to the countries can now pay for a gorilla trekking experience, taking them deep into the jungle where they can watch the gorillas from a safe distance. As well as being an incredible experience, these travelers contribute to the continued survival of the gorillas by funding the rangers and guides that protect them.
Tigers – India
Another conservation success story is the revival of tiger populations in India. Once on the brink of extinction, numbers in many parts of the country have risen in recent years, thanks to the foundation of national parks and the education of local communities to prevent tigers from being killed by people.
Tiger numbers in India are now relatively stable, and they are even being translocated to neighboring countries to help boost numbers there. Many reserves, such as Ranthambhore National Park, now offer tiger safaris, where travelers can head out in open-topped jeeps in search of the majestic big cat, the true king of the jungle.
Lemurs – Madagascar
Madagascar is the place to head for a wildlife holiday like no other. Its 110 species of lemur are endemic to the island, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth. Many species are endangered, as the lemur’s forest home is chopped and burned, and the poor Malagasy people hunt the creatures for food. Despite this, several conservation initiatives are underway to protect the lemurs, and visiting some places where they endure is a great way to ensure their continued survival.
Ranomafana National Park in the center of the island is a great place to visit, with guided tours offered through the rainforest, which is home to rare species, including the Golden bamboo lemur and the creepy-looking Aye-aye.
Orangutans – Borneo
One of our closest relatives, the orangutan, is a truly magnificent creature. Its flame-colored hair and incredible intelligence are famous all over the world. Unfortunately, in a now familiar story, the orangutan is in trouble. Once found throughout Southeast Asia, the species is now confined to fragmented pockets of surviving forest, the most significant number of which can be found on the Indonesian island of Borneo.
Here there are dedicated conservation groups working in the face of the growing threat of logging to protect the species. Several rehabilitation centers across the island are home to rescued orangutans. These individuals are looked after at the center before being returned to the wild where possible. Seeing one of these great apes in its jungle home is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which conservation organizations are working hard to ensure will be possible for generations to come.
Rare Wildlife Holiday Recap
A common theme for the species discussed in this article is that they are under threat from the activities of humankind. As a community of travelers, it is vital that we ensure we visit these animals in the wild on safari holidays and help to contribute towards their conservation for future generations to enjoy.