Who doesn’t want to hang out with a cheetah? Or spot a red-eyed nocturnal tree frog? Our resident bloggers, Mike & Anne Howard of HoneyTrek, share their most adorable, exhilarating, funny, and remarkable safari moments. Take note and get your camera ready, these animal photos will make you want to take your own safari as soon as possible!
Seeing a cheetah on the hunt, dozens of vultures battling for lunch, and rhinos teaching their young to spar, these are moments in nature you won’t want to miss. Africa is the first safari destination that comes to mind, and while this continent holds some of the largest and most majestic animals, wild things roam all the continents. Even Antarctica, as desolate as it may seem, showed us some of our best wildlife sightings. If you have a love of animals, these places and pics will make you want to don your khakis and binoculars.
South Luangwa, Zambia
Said to be one of the last great unspoilt swaths of wilderness left, South Luangwa is a household name to the most avid wildlife enthusiasts. Known to be the birthplace of the African walking safari and a catalyst to change hunting to photographic safaris, it’s a place where the animal kingdom reigns supreme. With the mighty Luangwa River having never been dammed, the plains flood in the rainy season, making it a hippo haven. Hippo-honking is the soundtrack of South Luangwa, and to see their large bodies lumber along the banks and their wide mouths munch the reeds is a sight to remember.
Not just home to rare and unusual animals like the giant tortoise and bluefooted booby, the Galápagos Islands foster over 1,000 species that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Go scuba diving with hammerheads, kayak to islands filled with penguins, and snorkel alongside the Galapagos marine iguanas — the only swimming iguanas in the world. Head to Isabela Island and its Calera Channel, you can get the chance to snorkel with these serpentine cuties.
Kruger, South Africa
Kruger National Park not only boasts the “Big Five” (rhino, elephant, African buffalo, lion, and leopard) but also more large mammals than virtually any other park on the continent. Combine the rare opportunity of a DIY game drive with a classic luxury safari camp in the neighboring Sabi Sand Reserve for the best of both worlds. During our time with the safari pros at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, our guide got wind of a lion pride feasting on a kill. With our pro team, we were able to creep up to the cats, including this lioness and her cute little cubs.
Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica
At sea, you’ll spot countless whales and seals, but on land … penguins run the show! With few humans or terrestrial predators, Antarctica is the playground for tens of thousands of Gentoo, Chinstraps, and Adelie penguins. Take an expedition ship like Quark or One Ocean, and you’ll stop for hikes along their turf. You should never approach a penguin, but if you kneel down, curious chicks will often waddle right up to you.
Maasai Mara, Kenya
Kenya’s Maasai Mara is perhaps the world’s most famous safari destination and with good reason. The Big Five are on roll call year-round and the great wildebeest migration runs through its savanna every summer. We were on a game drive with our Mara Leisure Camp guide, and we saw a cheetah pacing nearby. He warned us, the cheetah might just jump on our car for a better vantage point. Just as we chuckled in disbelief — pounce! We had a cheetah on the ledge of our open-roof vehicle, standing inches from our heads! While this was slightly terrifying, the cheetah had no interest in critters like us and being in the company of the fastest mammal on earth was well worth the risk!
The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Yasuní National Park comprises less than 4,000 square miles of the Amazon Basin’s 2.9 million, but its species density crushes the competition. Yasuní is one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and where we saw pink river dolphins, manatees, macaws, troops of monkeys, and countless other species for the first time. One of our favorite sightings was a sloth hugging the trunk of a java cotton tree, dangling with red pods akin to Christmas ornaments.
Rhinos have been victim to some of the most devastating poaching; but thanks to places like Meru Rhino Sanctuary populations are on the rise. During a game drive across the 48-square-kilometer expanse, we spotted this white rhino teaching his son to spar. In a slow-motion battle, we saw the grace, skill, and sheer resilience of the rhino shine through.
Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Home to one of the largest sea turtle colonies in the world, the beaches of Tortuguero are filled with thousands of hawksbill, loggerhead, and green turtles from March until September. While turtles come and go over the course of seven months, rare birds, amphibians, and mammals are in abundance year round. In addition to toucans and spider monkeys, one of our favorite sightings was the fantastical red-eyed tree frog. They are nocturnal, so be sure to take a night hike with a knowledgeable guide, like those of the Tortuga Lodge.
A place of cinematic beauty and intense encounters, Samburu was a film location for Out of Africa and Born Free. What might normally be an average safari sighting, like elephants bathing in the river or sparring Grant’s gazelles, always escalated to a Darwinian drama in Samburu. Dozens of vultures ravaged this dead wildebeest — squawking, pecking, and dive bombing each other — while we watched the survival of the fittest play out before our eyes.
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Adjacent to the plains of the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater harbors some 25,000 large animals within the steep walls of an extinct volcano. We spent our days roaming the crater floor, spotting lions, zebra, hippos, and wildebeest right before their great migration (a must-see event each summer). Though even while relaxing in our hotel we felt like we were on safari — this elephant was munching the tree right outside our bedroom window!
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