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The Best Wildlife Watching Destinations around the World

Check out the top places to see wildlife in each continent according to travel bloggers!

When trying to decide the best places to see wildlife, the task can be daunting if you want to see key animals at the right time of year. 

Gaining inspiration and knowledge from those who have experience visiting various places around the world, we asked our fellow bloggers where their favorite places are to watch animals in the wild. The responses were phenomenal, and each highlights a great diversity of wildlife. From sea to land, creatures great and small can be enjoyed from a safe and respectful distance.

When selecting a wildlife watching destination, make sure you research ahead of time to ensure that the location and guides exhibit ethical watching and touring practices, and conduct ethical bird and wildlife watching practices in your travels. 

Here are some of the best wildlife watching destinations around the world!

--> Best Wildlife Watching in South America

--> Best Wildlife Watching in Asia

--> Best Wildlife Watching in Antarctica

--> Best Wildlife Watching in Europe

--> Best Wildlife Watching in North America

--> Best Wildlife Watching in Africa

--> Best Wildlife Watching in Australia and Oceania

Best Wildlife Watching in South America

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

When it comes to wildlife spotting, very few places offer more opportunities than the magical Galapagos Islands. Home to a whole manner of rare and exotic animals, this is one place where the animals outnumber the humans and reduce all mammals on two legs to mere paparazzi. 

Depending on the islands you visit, be prepared to see everything from sea lions, marine iguanas, penguins and of course, the famous giant tortoises that roam these lands. There are two main options for visiting the Galapagos Islands, either a land-hop tour or a cruise. 

The best time of year for a cruise is in December to January or June till August. These are the two high seasons and the seas will be calmer. If you are land-hopping and are willing to deal with cooler temperatures, visiting outside of high season will enable you to haggle for accommodation and tours. 

As well as the vast array of wildlife you can see on land, the surrounding ocean also offers incredible viewing opportunities. A great spot for snorkeling is the Lava Tunnels trip, which can be arranged on Isla Isabela, and it is even possible to swim with Hammerhead Sharks on a visit to Kicker Rock!

Contributed by Sheree at Winging The World

Lake Sandoval, Peru

We visited the beautiful Lake Sandoval in Puerto Maldonado to spend a few days viewing the wildlife. Lake Sandoval is a lake created off a tributary of the Amazon river and is home to an amazing amount of wildlife, that has been kept safe by the Tambopata Reserve.

At dawn, hundreds of macaws collect at the chuncho clay lick in the reserve, although the reason is still not completely known by scientists. By day, you can view squirrels, spiders and howler monkeys in the trees, as well as a huge variety of birds, including the Hoatzin, an unusual grunting bird with an enigmatic genetic background. 

By night, the caimans can be found at the edges of the river banks - their eyes aglow in the water. And a night trek through the forest will reveal tarantulas, bullet ants and potentially some snakes. The whole experience brought us so close to nature, that we slept like our fellow animals at sunset, rose at dawn, and left with our minds rejuvenated at the end of the 3 days. 

It is possible to see wildlife year-round at Lake Sandoval. Note that the rainy season is from November to April, and the forests can be quite muddy.

Contributed by Shimona at Sidecar Photo

Peninsula Valdes, Argentina

The Peninsula Valdes in Argentina should be on every wildlife lover's South American itinerary. This corner of northern Patagonia is famous for its whale watching, but there is so much more to see here. Southern right whales, sea lions, elephant seals and Magellanic penguins all come here to have their young, making the Peninsula Valdes the prime wildlife destination in Argentina. You'll also see orcas, dolphins, guanacos (cousin to the llama), and much more.  

It's best to visit when the whales are there from April to December, but the absolute best months are September through November. 

Try to spend at least two days at Peninsula Valdes, as the peninsula is much larger than you would expect and you'll be grateful for the time. If you only have one day, there are day trips departing from nearby Puerto Madryn that take guests to all of the wildlife viewpoints. All of the animals can be seen at a safe distance from well-constructed viewpoints and decks. The one paid tour that is worth every penny is a whale-watching boat excursion. These tours depart throughout the day from the small town of Puerto Piramides.  

Contributed by Erin at Sol Salute

Best Wildlife Watching in Asia

Bukit Lawang, Sumatra

Orangutans are native to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, which is where you will find lots of tour agencies arranging trips to see these elusive animals.

Bukit Lawang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the northern jungles of Sumatra, offers Orangutan watching yet is more difficult to get to than other more popular sites in Borneo. I chose this destination based on reviews from other travelers I had met during my time in Indonesia, and I wasn't disappointed.

The journey through Bukit Lewang is done primarily for seeing Orangutans, but other species of monkeys, birds and lizards are also common in the jungle. The trips can be arranged over a single day, although I chose to overnight camp in the jungle. You can also do extended tours based on personal preference and how long you have to visit. Seeing wild Orangutans was certainly one of my wildlife highlights I've ever experienced, and I would highly recommend adding this to your bucket list if you are a wildlife enthusiast. 

March to October is the dry season in Borneo, making it the best time to visit, however, tours operate year-round. Because Bukit Lawang is a rainforest, it is possible for it to rain throughout the year.

Contributed by Becki at Backpack Becki

Ramthambore National Park, India

Ranthambore National Park is located in Rajasthan, India. A visit to the park can be easily combined with a 2-week Rajasthan itinerary that takes you to other famous places like Jaipur, Udaipur and the world-famous Taj Mahal in Agra. 

The tigers are the main stars of the park, and the rangers estimate that 62 tigers are living in Ranthambore.  There are only a few places left in the world where you can find tigers, so most visitors hope to catch a glimpse of at least one of them. We were lucky and spotted one on our 3rd safari. 

The park can be visited year-round with the exception of the Monsoon season that lasts from July to September. Your experience in the park will be completely different depending on the season you’re coming. In the post-monsoon months of October and November the park will be a lush green. We visited the park in October and loved the ravishing scenery, but the dense vegetation makes it very hard to spot wildlife.  

If you want to increase the odds of spotting a tiger, plan your visit for April when the park is dry and the animals need to gather at the few remaining water holes.

Contributed by Sylvia at Wapiti Travel

Kinabatangan River, Borneo

The Kinabatangan River in the Sabah, Malaysia region of Borneo, is a prime wildlife viewing area. The reason there is such a concentration of wildlife here is not a good one - palm oil plantations have spread across most of Borneo, leaving a thin strip of jungle on both sides of the river and effectively pushing more animals into this small area. It does, however, make the fact that this jungle exists even more precious and important. 

Wildlife is viewed from small boats on the river, so it is very non-invasive. There are several river lodges upriver, and they have programs of early morning, late afternoon and nighttime trips on the river with guides to see the wildlife. 

We saw dozens of proboscis monkeys, with their large noses and long, straight tails; macaques playing on the banks of the river; crocodiles swimming in the river; and brightly colored hornbills flying overhead. The highlight, though, was an afternoon river safari we took further upriver in search of pygmy elephants. Seeing these rare animals, the smallest species of elephants in the world, as they came down to drink and eat by the river's edge in the later afternoon, was a real treat! 

The best time of year to visit is March – October when it is driest. I went in May and the weather was great.

Contributed by James at Travel Collecting

Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka

Lots of people don’t realize that Sri Lanka has one of the highest densities of leopards in the world, providing you with a high chance to see these beautiful creatures in the wild. 

There are around 500-650 leopards in the wild in Sri Lanka. The majority of these reside in Sri Lanka’s largest national park, which is the Wilpattu National Park. It’s a beautiful place to camp close by for a night after heading out on safari to  spot leopards. 

Of course, there is the chance to see other wildlife such as the Sri Lankan sloth bear, spotted deer and much more, but people visit here for the awesome chance to spot the beautiful leopards. Sri Lanka's other national parks, including Yala National Park (probably the most well known of them all) also has leopards. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see them the first time out, as they’re difficult to find, but once you do spot one, it’s totally worth the wait! 

There is a chance to see leopards year round as Wilpattu is open all year, but May to September is the dry season thus has a better chance of seeing leopards.

Contributed by Bradley at Dream Big Travel Far

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

Khao Yai National Park is a gem of a wildlife watching destination, just a few hours' drive north of the bustling city of Bangkok. Animals such as wild Asian elephants, gibbons, macaques, hornbills, and many other birds can be seen in various places throughout the Park. 

We highly recommend going with a guide to optimize the time spent exploring the rainforest, as Khao Yai is massive in size, and having a knowledgeable local guide to assist in finding the best wildlife watching locations is essential. Jay at Khao Yai Jungle Tour, who can be booked directly or through Tontan Travel, was a phenomenal and knowledgeable guide, providing us the opportunity to see animals we had only dreamed of seeing in Thailand!

The best time of year to visit Khao Yai National Park is between November and February, after the very wet and rainy monsoon season has passed in Thailand. 

Contributed by Christa at Expedition Wildlife

Bandipur, India

Bandipur is a beautiful and unapologetically wild terrain in Karnataka, a south Indian state blessed with stunning biodiversity. It is one of the 4 border-less national parks spread across three South Indian states which is home to the largest population of tigers in India. Once the favorite hunting-ground of the Royals of Karnataka, Bandipur was turned into a protected area, a safe haven for the wild, including leopards, bears, Indian Sambar, spotted deer, elephants, peafowls and many other exotic species, including the tigers.

It's difficult to spot tigers in the dense forests, so the best time to visit is during the summer when the leaves dry up due to the scorching heat and animals come out of the dense forests to quench their thirst in the lakes and rivers. 

Monkeys, peafowls, and deer can be spotted easily on a safari. You can also spot a group of wild elephants hiking in the forests. However, to see tigers and leopards you need luck and time. We booked a 6-hour Bandipur tiger safari which was split into two sessions of 3-hours each, one in the afternoon and one in the early morning.

Other similar forests nearby are Nagarhole tiger reserve (closest), Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad tiger reserve in Kerala. 

Contributed by Sinjana at Backpack and Explore

Best Wildlife Watching in Antarctica

Half Moon Island, Antarctica

Without a doubt, Antarctica is the one of the most unique wildlife watching destinations in the world - dramatic landscapes, covered with snow and ice for millions of years. Thanks to the Antarctica Treaty, which, among other things, controls the human impact on this continent, wildlife thrives here. The Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands are located just two days by ship from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in South America. It's an adventure itself to cross the infamous rough seas of the Drake Passage.

During your trip to "The Last Continent," you will find several species of seals, whales, penguins, and other birds. My favorite excursion was a visit to Half Moon Island, located next to Livingston Island. Here you will find (and closely observe) three different species of penguins: Chinstraps, Gentoos, and Macaronis. Although you are not permitted to approach wildlife in Antarctica, that rule doesn't apply the other way around. So if you can find a good place to sit down and stay still, very often curious penguins may waddle your way to check you out (penguins don't obey treaties.)

The tourist season in Antarctica begins during summer in the southern hemisphere - between November to March. During this time, the temperature hovers around the freezing point, making it the most comfortable time to visit. Check out these affordable packing gear tips for Antarctica for your adventure there!

Contributed by Halef at The RTW Guys

Best Wildlife Watching in Europe

Danube Delta, Romania

The Danube Delta in Romania is one of the top three biosphere reserves in the world where the Danube river ends its journey from Germany the Black Sea. It's a birdwatcher's paradise, with over 350 different species of birds, such as the pygmy cormorant, various terns and herons, among others either resident or passing through. The elusive Dalmatian Pelican also calls the Danube Delta home. 

The best time to visit is in late April or May. I'd recommend skipping the summer months unless you want to be ravaged by mosquitoes.

Most visits to the Delta start from Tulcea, where there are numerous options for day trips or longer excursions deeper into the Delta, staying at places such as Sfantu Gheorge or Sulina.

Contributed by Haley at Borderlass

Madeira, Portugal

Madeira is a real paradise for outdoor and wildlife lovers. The island has gorgeous cliff edges, stunning coastline, impressive mountains and interesting fauna and flora. Being an island it is, of course, a place to observe marine life. 

There are whale, seal and dolphin watching boat tours starting from Calheta, and there are different types of whales that you can see in Madeira throughout the year. The best time to visit Madeira for wildlife is from May until October since the most species are present at that time. 

Birdwatchers will be pleased to know the island is home to some unique birds. Zino's Petrel is an endangered species and breeding endemic to Madeira. Between April and August, it's possible to visit one of the island's highest peaks on a tour to Zino's Petrel breeding grounds. 

If you go hiking in Madeira to the mountains of Pico Ruivo, you will most likely encounter red-legged partridges. They like to spend their time there and are not afraid of people. Some of the other birds you might see on your holiday in Madeira are gannets, herons, Eurasian kestrels, moorhens, oystercatchers, terns, gulls and even European bee-eaters.

Contributed by Eniko at Travel Hacker Girl

For more bird watching destination inspiration, read more on the best bird watching destinations in Europe.

Shetland Islands, Scotland

Shetland is a small collection of islands off the north coast of Scotland.  It is wild and remote, and while the town of Lerwick is bustling, the rest of the islands are relatively uninhabited.   

In the south at Sumburgh Head there is a large colony of puffins, while the far north at Hermaness is one of the largest gannet colonies in the UK.  From the cliffs it is possible to see them diving and there are some areas where you can watch from water level.  

Shetland also has sea otters, which are shy and reserved, but with patience these otters can be watched from a distance.  Given its position in the North Atlantic, Shetland also sees passing whales and orca as well as has numerous resident dolphins and porpoises.  

The islands are great for wildlife all year round but it is cold and dark in the winter months with unpredictable storms.  In the summer there are 20 hours of daylight, making wildlife watching an almost full time occupation.

Contributed by Suzanne at Meandering Wild

Lake Skadar, Montenegro

Today, Lake Skadar features a special ecosystem and an incredible range of wildlife, with about 20 endemic animal and plant species. What makes this site so unique is that it is one of the most important birding sites in Europe with more than 280 species of birds to see. One of them includes the rare Dalmatian pelican, which is also a symbol of the National Park. You can see storks, herons, and egrets, as well as snakes, wild boar, and tortoises. Furthermore, this is also a place rich in wild and medicinal herbs.

This natural gem is surrounded by dramatic mountains, old traditional fishing villages, special architecture and islet monasteries.

The best time to visit Lake Skadar is spring or early summer when the lake will impress you with blooming water lilies. When visiting do not forget to take a unique boat ride around the lake and explore the wild beauty of Montenegro.

Contributed by Leo at Safari Nomad

Best Wildlife Watching in North America

Anse Noire, Martinique

Martinique, a French island in the Lesser Antilles, is a prime destination for spotting sea turtles. The warm Caribbean sea is a snorkeler's paradise because the water is warm and crystal clear. That means you can spot all kinds of native wildlife from abundant coral reef, to black and white sea urchins, to tropical fish and sea turtles. 

The best beaches in Martinique for spotting sea turtles are in the south of the island, and if you go out into the water far enough you may spot more than one! You'll be amazed at how big they are in person. They are also much faster than they look! 

There are certain times in the year where they hatch their babies on the shore, which is a spectacular treat. If you witness this miracle of life, please do not touch them! They are sensitive creatures. Another tip, please remember that it may be your vacation, but this is their home. Take all trash, especially broken glass and plastic, back with you when you leave. If you want to be especially kind, feel free to pick up any additional trash that others may have left behind.

Contributed by Francesca at One Girl One World

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States

If you're looking for the best place to see roaming wildlife in the United States, Yellowstone National Park is the spot for you. Depending on the season, you can find everything from large elk, herds of bison, brown bears and black bears with their cubs, mountain goats, fox, wolves, and so much more. 

Just driving around Yellowstone will allow you to see some great wildlife. The elk were lounging around in the city center as soon as we pulled in, and the bison roam around and like to hang out near the streets. 

We recommend trying to visit Yellowstone in the Spring, as that's when the wildlife starts coming back out from their winter slumber. The weather is better, and animals will tend to show themselves more during this time of year. The Summer and Fall seasons also have some good viewing as well, so if you can't make it during the Spring, you'll still be able to see lots of animals. 

Don't forget your spotting scope or binoculars, and be patient while looking for them all around.

Contributed by Sara at Our Kind of Crazy

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada 

The Canadian Rockies offer wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities! Whether you are driving along the Icefields Parkway, or exploring the National Parks in the region, you will almost certainly see wildlife, especially if you visit in the spring, summer, or fall, and venture out in the early morning or late evening.

One of the best things to do in Lake Louise Village in Banff National Park is to ride the ski lift to the top of the mountain. The lift passes directly over the roaming grounds of the grizzly bear, and almost daily sightings are common. When we rode the lift we saw several grizzlies, some with cubs. It was wonderful to view them below us, feeding and wandering freely.

Other wildlife you will likely see here are black bear, elk, moose, coyote, deer, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, as well as small creatures like pika and marmot. We saw all of these species when driving the Icefields Parkway in June.

Be sure to follow park regulations! View animals from the recommended distance or from the safety of your car, and watch for traffic when you pull over to view wildlife.

Contributed by Darah at Not About the Miles

Skagit Valley, Washington, United States

Washington is an incredible place to see wildlife, and the Skagit Valley is one of the best for spotting all variety of bird life. Throughout the year, different species can be admired from the region's marshy waterways and expansive agricultural fields. 

The winter is a fabulous time to spot snow geese in the thousands, which overwinter in the region and forage on the remains of agricultural till. This time of year is also best for spotting Bald Eagles in the region, especially near Rockport, where eagles flock to capture salmon running in the rivers.

At other times of the year, the marshes teem with all manner of marsh, shore, and sea birds easily viewed from areas such as the Skagit Wildlife Area, and if you're patient, owls can be seen foraging for food at dawn and dusk over the fields. 

Contributed by Christa at Expedition Wildlife

Need a hand figuring out how to select a bird watching destination? Check out our bird watching destination guide!

Best Wildlife Watching in Africa

Chobe National Park, Botswana

If you're looking for a top wildlife watching destination, Chobe National Park in Botswana is one of the best. You can find out more about planning a self-drive itinerary around Chobe and other National Parks within Botswana here.

The peak season for Chobe is from June to August, but during this time the game drives can be overcrowded. A good time to visit is between April to May when the daily temperature is lower, and there's still plenty of wildlife to see.  If you can stand the 40-degree heat the best time to spot wildlife though is during September and October.

No matter when you visit Chobe you'll almost definitely spot large herds of elephants; the park is home to over 120,000 of them and watching elephants bathe in the river is spectacular. You'll also find a plethora of other wildlife, including the big 5, giraffes, zebras, antelope and over 500 species of birds.

For the best wildlife watching experience make sure you go on a game drive either in the early hours of the morning or in the late afternoon.  While you're in the area, I'd also recommend taking a cruise down the river Chobe, where you can get up close to the hippos and some spectacular birds.

Contributed by Fiona at Passport and Piano

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Namibia is one of the best wildlife watching destinations around the world. The entire country is populated with a wide variety of animals, and while on the Skeleton coast you get to see one of the largest colonies of sea lions in the world, one of the unmissable things to do in Namibia is visiting Etosha National Park, in the north of the country. 

Etosha National Park is a great place to see the Big Five, though in some cases (including leopards) you really have to be lucky. Giraffes and zebras are easily spotted, as well as elephants - especially as they all go to the many water holes to drink and bathe. Lions can often be heard roaring at night, and at times even mating. Hyenas are harder to spot but not impossible. Rhinos have a taste for crossing the road in front of cars. And when the season is right, you even have a chance of seeing a female cheetah with her cubs. 

Etosha can be visited throughout the year. Keep in mind that the winter season (between May and October) is dry, and it may be easier to see animals at water holes.

Etosha National Park is massive, and you can visit it on guided safaris or independently if you rent a SUV. You can sleep at either lodges or the very well equipped camping sites. 

Contributed by Claudia at My Adventures Across the World

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Seeing the wildlife of the Serengeti National Park is one of the most beautiful things to do in Tanzania. 

The best time of year to visit the Serengeti is during the dry season, which runs from June to October. The wildebeest migration also occurs in June, making this an optimal time to visit.  

Use a tour company who will give you a guide and a safari jeep with a pop-up roof. Having your own guide and jeep is essential for the maximum viewing experience and comfort. Ensure you bring a pair of good binoculars or a camera with a large telephoto lens as some of the animals are well camouflaged against the scenery. Spotting them with the naked eye if they are not close is virtually impossible.

The primary wildlife you will encounter are lions, cheetahs, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, buffalo, ostriches, hyenas, jackals, crocodiles, hippos and many more.

Contributed by Martin at Breaking Barriers

Bwindi National Park, Uganda

Bwindi National Park in Uganda is one of the few countries where you can meet our closest relatives in the animal kingdom face to face in their natural environment. 

The best time of year to visit Bwindi is during the dry seasons, which are June to August and December to February.

It is possible to self-drive through Uganda, but the easiest way is to organize through a company that will arrange the permits for you. The permit cost is around $600 for the gorilla trek and $150 for the chimpanzee tracking.  

Good hiking boots, long socks to tuck your trouser legs into (to avoid fire ants), walking sticks are all essential pieces of gear to bring to Uganda, but these are also available at the parks for sale.

To do the gorilla trek, your fitness level needs to be good. It’s advisable to hire a local porter to help you, plus it supports the local community. Also note that if you have a cold or other contagious illness you will not be allowed to go to the gorillas. You may also encounter chimpanzees, red colobuses, black and white colobuses, and forest elephants.

Contributed by Martin at Breaking Barriers

Best Wildlife Watching in Australia and Oceania

Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria, Australia

Is there anything more thrilling than watching animals in the wild? Hands down, it’s better than seeing them in a zoo or wildlife park. And for us one of the best wildlife watching destinations is Wilsons Promontory National Park. Located at the southernmost point of mainland Australia, it’s the largest coastal wilderness area in Victoria

Wilsons Promontory is a remote wilderness area filled with a labyrinth of walking tracks that range from gentle strolls to more demanding multi-day hikes. The park is pristine natural haven that offers the chance to spot kangaroos, wallabies, emus, wombats and even spiky echidnas. But the fun doesn’t end there, as the water and islands surrounding the Promontory is a protected area. Visitors can expect to see penguins, Australian fur seals, dolphins and, in winter, Humpback Whales! 

Tidal River Caravan Park is the only accommodation available within the national park. It gets crazy busy in summer and school holidays and it’s essential to book ahead - overall, Wilsons Promontory can be enjoyed year-round. And keep an eye out for animals when driving through the park as it’s not uncommon to see wombats and echidnas on the road.   

Contributed by Audrey at Gumnuts Abroad

Maria Island, Tasmania

If you want to see Australia's unique wildlife, head to Maria Island just off the east coast of Tasmania. Although it used to be home to a prison, some farms and a small town, the entire island is now inside Maria Island National Park and has had no permanent residents since the 1960s. 

That means that the Island is teeming with kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons, possums, wombats, echidnas and many different species of birds year-round. Since 2012, Maria Island has also been an important part of the efforts to save endangered Tasmanian devils. Captive-bred devils are released into the wild on the island!

To get to Maria Island you need to take a passenger-only ferry from Triabunna. It runs all year but there is reduced service in the winter. You can go over for a day trip and explore the historic buildings and trails. However, for your best chance of seeing wildlife, stay overnight since most of the wildlife is nocturnal. You can book a basic dorm room in the former penitentiary or bring a tent for the campground. Once the sun starts to set, the grassy fields near the campground are overrun with pademelons and wombats. If you are lucky you might even spot a Tasmanian devil!

Contributed by Taryn at Happiest Outdoors

Kangaroo Island is another ultimate wildlife watching destination in Australia. Read more about Kangaroo Island here!

Have you been to any of these incredible wildlife watching destinations? What others around the world are you favorite? 

Happy travels!

Nathan and Christa