Enjoy an Exciting Wildlife Experience on Your Next Goway Vacation

Outdoors & Animals

Baby Galapagos sea lion looking at young woman on North Seymour Island, Galapagos National Park, Ecuador

It might possibly surprise you that there many alternatives in the world to game safaris. If you want a different kind of animal experience while travelling, check out the following suggestions for viewing wildlife on a Goway vacation

There is nothing like the experience of watching animals in their natural habitat. If you have ever been on a safari on an Africa vacation in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, etc., the thrill of being so close to wildlife can be exhilarating. However, if your next vacation does not include any of these countries, perhaps the following suggestions might help.

Mountain Gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda

Uganda and Rwanda are known for their mountain gorilla populations which draw visitors from around the world. It might surprise you to know that gorillas are generally gentle and shy, living in groups of between anywhere from 2 to 40. Unfortunately, mountain gorillas are an endangered species due to environmental issues plus they have a very slow reproduction rate. Famous for its gorilla trekking, Uganda is also home to a further thirteen primate species and also offers chimpanzee tracking. There are two places where the gorillas can be seen in Uganda. One is Mgahinga Gorilla Park, with its several volcanoes and mountains, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Uganda contains 60% of the total mountain gorillas left in the world, with about 400 of them residing in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. For a Rwanda Safari, you should head to the Parc National des Volcans which was made famous by the American naturalist, Dian Fossey, known for her studies of this primate. To view gorillas, it is necessary to join a guided gorilla trek through dense rainforest. This is at least a full day of trekking but it is well worth the effort. You will get muddy and sweaty but you will get the opportunity to just sit and watch for about an hour, as the gorillas go about their daily existence.

Encounter with a Silverback gorilla, Rwanda
Encounter with a Silverback gorilla, Rwanda

Whale Watching

You don’t have to be out at sea to watch these large, fascinating mammals. You can observe them from the shoreline. However, it is recommended that you have a pair of good field glasses to really have a “whale of a time.” (ugh!) I understand that there are over 100 countries where you can join whale watching trips. Here are some of the most recognized in Goway’s world.

Hermanus in South Africa, located 115 kilometres/70 miles south-east of Cape Town, offers some of the best whale watching anywhere. It even has what is known as a whale crier, someone who sounds a horn to advise of sightings off the coast. The best times to see the whales here on a Goway vacation in South Africa are between July and November from the shore, and from May to August on a boat tour.

Hermanus Whale Crier, South Africa
Hermanus Whale Crier, South Africa

Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, a 2 and a half hour drive north of Christchurch, is the country’s whale watching capital. Sperm whales can be seen all-year-round but the best time for humpback whales is in June and July, and for orcas, December or March. It is possible, on a New Zealand vacation, to see blue whales, southern right whales, and several other smaller species at various times. These are best seen on a catamaran tour.

If you are ever on an Iceland vacation, you can see humpback whales, blue whales, and orcas off the coast. There are whale-watching tours from Reykjavik, but the best place is from Husavik on the north coast.  The best time is between May and September.

Whale diving on the coast near Husavik, Iceland
A diving whale on the coast near Husavik, Iceland

It may surprise you that you can go whale-watching on a Goway vacation to Scotland. You need to head to the Isle of Mull off the west coast of the country. Here you can spot minke whales. You can take a boat tour with marine biologists and land on a remote islet to also observe seals, porpoises, puffins, and dolphins as a bonus. The best time, on Scotland vacations, is between April and September.

If you find yourself on an Antarctic cruise or in Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile, you have the possibility of seeing eight different species of whales. A small dingy-type boat will allow you to get close to them. The best time is from June to November.

Humpback Whale Encounter, Antarctica
Close encounter with a humpback whale

Penguins

Oh, those loveable little but not always, birds. There are many places where penguins can be observed. Here are just a few of my favourites. The first time I personally saw penguins in their natural habitat was on an Australia vacation  at Phillip Island, just outside Melbourne. You gather on the beach at dusk and watch the smallest penguins, known as fairy penguins, 12 inches tall, emerge from the sea after spending most of the day catching fish to feed their young who are living in nests along the shoreline.

Related Article:
Parading with the Penguins of Phillip Island on Australia Travel

Blue little penguin or fairy penguin at Phillip Island, Australia
Blue little penguins or fairy penguins at Phillip Island, Australia

My second experience was in South Africa at Boulders Beach just 40 kilometres/24 miles outside Cape Town where African penguins, also known as jackass penguins, reside. This small town has boardwalk viewing areas that keep the observers away from the penguins but not restricting the ability to see them. The funniest thing is that many of the locals are equipped with nets to catch any stray penguin that decides to leave the beach and explore the town. In the Galapagos Islands, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that penguins would want to live in the warm waters here, off the coast of Ecuador. Well, this is the only place where they do, year-round. You will see them on your Galapagos cruise but if you happen to be on Isabel Island, you could go swimming with them in the ocean. If in Ushuaia, Argentina, you can take a tour to view Magellanic penguins on Isla Martillo that nest here between September and April. It is said that the penguins here are very curious and like to come up to visitors.

African penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa
African penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa

Swimming with Sharks

My research tells me it is possible to swim with sharks but that it can be dangerous, so perhaps, we should err on the side of caution and consider a safer way of being up close and personal with this large fish. This is by way of what is known as Shark Cage Dives, underwater diving or snorkeling where the observer remains inside a protective cage designed to prevent sharks from making contact with the diver. Sharks are attracted to the area close to the cage by the use of bait. Places to try this adventure include Gansbaai, South Africa, 160 kilometres/100 miles from Cape Town, referred to as the “Great White Shark Capital of the World,” and possibly the best venue to do this. As well, you can head to the Galapagos Islands to see hammerhead sharks, and the Neptune Islands in South Australia (south of Port Lincoln which is east of Adelaide), where you will encounter Great White sharks which can be as long as 6 metres/19 feet and inhabit the islands year-round.

Great white shark cage diving, South Africa
Great white shark cage diving, South Africa

Orangutans

Orangutans, a species of apes, are native to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, where they live in rainforest reserves. However, the best places to see them are at rehabilitation centres and sanctuaries. Two excellent centres are in Malaysian Borneo. The Semenggoh Orangutan Centre, which is easily reached from the city of Kuching, and the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the largest of its kind in the world, located about 25 kilometres/15 miles west of Sandakan in the state of Sabah. These are sanctuaries for semi-wild orangutans which have been injured, orphaned, or kept illegally as pets. They are rehabilitated and then sent back into their natural habitat. This can take as long as seven years. On a Goway vacation to Malaysia, you can see them best at feeding times, as they swing through the trees and play with each other.

Female orangutan with cub in her native habitat, Borneo, Malaysia
Female orangutan with cub in her native habitat, Borneo, Malaysia

Giant Pandas

The panda is classified as an endangered species. These days, giant pandas only live in a few mountain ranges in central western and south western China, mainly in Sichuan Province. The best place to get close to them is the Wolong Nature Reserve, 120 kilometres/75 miles west of Chengdu, which is considered to be the real home of wild pandas. There are around 30 pandas here. It is the largest and best-known panda reserve in China. With its warm and humid climate – which is favourable to the growth of bamboo – the pandas’ favourite food, it is an ideal place for the survival and reproduction of giant pandas. In the reserve, there is a Baby Panda Zone, Grown-up Panda Zone, Breeding Zone, and Wildness Training Zone. On a China vacation, you may see them walking around slowly, eating bamboo, and climbing up the trees to give visitors a show. Snow leopards, red pandas, golden monkeys, and white-lipped deer can also be seen at this centre.

Hungry giant panda bear eating bamboo, Chengdu, China
Hungry giant panda bear eating bamboo, Chengdu, China

Komodo Dragons

No, these are not fire-breathing creatures. However, they are a very dangerous animal. They are, in essence, very large lizards, carnivorous reptiles, which can be as long as 3 metres/10 feet in length, and weigh as much as 150 kilograms/330 pounds. In the wild, they can live up to 30 years. As carnivores, they eat large prey such as water buffalo, deer, pigs, and even human beings. There are only around 6000 total Komodo dragons left in existence. The place I recommend to view them is Komodo Island in the province of East Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Komodo National Park was established in 1980. Although best known for its conservation of Komodo dragons, the park also has wildlife such as buffalo, civets, cockatoos, macaques, deer, wild horses, boars, as well as a variety of marine wildlife. Visitors on a Goway vacation to Indonesia must be accompanied by park rangers who use forked wooden sticks to fend off any approaching dragons. They also provide information about the islands and the wildlife here.

Komodo dragon in Komodo National Park, Kimodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo dragon in Komodo National Park, Kimodo Island, Indonesia

The Galapagos, Ecuador

The extraordinary Galapagos Islands have to be one of nature’s most important gifts to humanity. This is a true paradise for observing animals in their natural habitat. Totally unique, they consist of 127 islands and islets, 19 of which are volcanic and are located 1000 kilometres/620 miles off the coast of Ecuador. The UNESCO World Heritage organization calls it a “living museum and showcase of evolution.” The islands are also a national park and marine reserve to be experienced by nature lovers on a Central and South America vacation. The Galapagos National Park, which controls 97% of the islands, enacts strict regulations concerning where people can go, what they can do, and how many people can turn up in any one spot. As you will discover on your Goway vacation to the Galapagos, the islands are an ecological wonderland, populated with fearless and incredible wildlife. The largest living tortoise species, the Galápagos Tortoise, is famous for its long lifespan and can weigh over 400 kilograms/880 lbs. The distinctive blue-footed booby is synonymous with the islands, so too are the colonies of curious sea lions. Besides unique wildlife, there are also excellent beaches that welcome swimming, diving, and surfing. To maximize your experience here, there are numerous leisurely cruises from which to choose on Galapagos tours.

Blue-footed boobie, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Blue-footed boobie on the Galapagos Islands.