You’d have to have been hiding, like a baby iguana under the hot Galapagos sand, to have missed David Attenborough’s latest offering: Planet Earth II, currently airing on BBC1. (Can we just say, we are STILL not over the racer snake scene).
It may be the most awe-inspiring wildlife programme for the last decade, but one of the reasons it captures our imaginations so much is not just because of the ground-breaking footage, or that it documents until now unseen animal behaviour, but because we as humans will always be fascinated by wildlife. It is – and will always be – the greatest show on earth.
Ask a child (and we speak from experience, here) what their favourite part of any holiday is and they invariably cite the time they stroked an orangutan, or witnessed a lion in the wild.
Here’s what our younger travellers have voted as their top 3 viewing encounters on family wildlife holidays.
1. Orangutans in Borneo
You go on Borneo family holidays for one thing and one thing only: the animals. The main draw is, of course, the orangutans, “old man of the forest”, which we come up close and personal with at the Sepilok rehabilitation centre, a fabulous place where orphans are cared for and returned to the wild. There’s other fascinating wildlife encounters too, though, like watching from a respectable distance as turtles lay their eggs, or witnessing thousands and thousands of bats fly out of ‘Bat Cave’ each evening. For whatever reason, you’ll be blown away by Borneo.
2. The ‘Big-Five’ in Africa
The quintessential – or perhaps the original – wildlife viewing experience, no African safari would be complete without the opportunity to see the ‘The Big-Five’ i.e. lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard.
Where you see this rite of passage wildlife experience is up to you, but we recommend Etosha Park (Namibia), The Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Park (Tanzania) the Masai Mara (Kenya) and Kruger National Park (South Africa).
3. Rainforest Wildlife, Costa Rica
Brightly coloured tree frogs. Turtles hatching in Tortuguero National Park. White-faced monkeys, 3-toed sloth, porcupines, blue crowned motmots and squirrel cuckoos. We could go on, but we think you get the idea….Costa Rica’s dense jungle, rainforest, coastline and volcanic areas are one of the most bio-diverse on the planet.
Mix up wildlife encounters with zip lining and forest canopy walking and you’re guaranteed the kids will never be bored.
4. Swimming with sharks, Belize
Let’s just say that again. SWIMMING WITH SHARKS!!! When it comes to bragging rights, anyone who says they’ve swum with sharks WINS EVERY TIME. Sounds dangerous, we know, but Shark Ray Alley, located just off the coast of Belize’s biggest island, Ambergris Caye, is fast becoming one of the world’s top dive and snorkelling sites due to the number of (docile) nurse sharks and rays which gather in huge numbers there. So far, it’s not over-run with tourists. Go now, before it is.
5. Washing elephants in Burma
Think elephants and Africa immediately springs to mind. A sanctuary in Burma, though, gives youngsters the chance to get about as up close and personal as is possible to these magnificent animals yet in a way that’s not exploiting them, rather, caring for them whilst educating us. Whilst feeding and bathing the elephants at Green Hill Elephant camp, an impressive eco-tourism project outside Kalaw, your kids will never have enjoyed getting soaked more.
For the best advice on family wildlife holidays do ring us for a chat or email via our online form. And if your kids have a different ‘top 5’ let us know and we’ll add these to our blog and make sure your budding naturalist gets a credit!
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel
I’m always interested to hear about your travels so do email me with your feedback and experiences about family wildlife holidays at firstname.lastname@example.org.