Astonishing Out-of-Africa Safari Experiences

Africa, often touted as the land of safaris, is a treasure trove of wonders which ensures unlimited safari adventures. However Africa is just one safari destination, there are a wealth of other destinations which offer remarkable safari experiences. For example, head to Canada to see polar bears, Finland to search for brown bears, India to see the magnificent tiger and Sri Lanka to seek out sloths and leopards. Each country’s diverse topography and climate zones play a vital role in stabilising the environment and supporting wildlife and habitat.

We have created our own list of some of the world’s most astonishing out-of-Africa safari experiences in a number of diverse countries.

1. Costa Rica Forest and Wildlife Safaris

Costa Rica has 12 diverse ecosystems ranging from tropical rainforests to páramo (montane grassland and shrubland) to semi-deciduous mid-elevation forests. These diverse ecosystems nurture an abundance of wildlife species, which includes 600 birds and 225 reptile species.

The abundant wildlife includes reptiles of Costa Rica. Visitors should head over to the Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula of the Pacific Coast where they will come across some spectacular snakes and amphibians such as the green and black poison frog, Golfodulcean poison dart frog, blunt-headed tree snake and salmon bellied racer snake. Corcovado is home to more than just reptiles, it also houses rare species such as oncilla, ocelot, tapir, and titi monkey. Other renowned reptile safari destinations include the Amphibian Research Centre, La Selva Biological Station, Manuel Antonio and the Limon, Caribbean Coast.

Other notable species in Costa Rica include sharp-toothed American crocodiles and spectacled caiman. Sea turtles are found on the Costa Rican coastlines, Pacific and Atlantic, while green turtles, leatherback turtles and olive ridley turtles are also commonly spotted in the region. Although the rainforest and reptiles are the highlights of Costa Rica, let’s not forget it is also home to volcanoes. There are six active and 61 extinct or dormant volcanoes in the region. Safari operators can arrange hiking tours to the Arenal Volcano – one of the youngest volcanoes in the world – which is located in the Arenal Volcano National Park.

Seven Wonders of Costa Rica

✔        Arenal Volcano: Located in northwest Costa Rica, Arenal is an active stratovolcano.

✔        Mount Chirripo: Located in Chirripó National Park, the highest mountain in Costa Rica.

✔        Isla del Coco: Also known as Cocos Island, known for its diverse topography, volcanoes, lowland forest and beaches.

✔        Monteverde: The region is known for its myriad cloud forests and rainforests.

✔        Poás Volcano: An active volcano in Central Costa Rica with a history of eruptions. Since 1828, the volcano has erupted at least 40 times, the last time in September 2019, during which it erupted twice.

✔        Río Celeste: Located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, and also known as the Celeste River, it has stunning turquoise waters, which create a fantastical wonderland complete with a waterfall and hot springs.

✔        Tortuguero National Park: The park is a premier safari destination that provides shelter to rare wildlife species such as jaguars, manatees, and tapirs.

Ideally, the best time to visit Costa Rica is November to April – the dry season. Visitors interested in spotting Costa Rican frogs may have better luck visiting during the wet season.

2. Brazil Amazon Rainforest and Wildlife Safaris

Brazil is home to 60% of the Amazon Rainforest, which is one of the new ‘7 Wonders of Nature’, that covers an expanse of 5,500,000 square kilometres. The rainforest is known to inhabit the world’s highest diversity of wildlife. Apart from the world-renowned rainforest, Brazil also has the Pantanal, the world’s largest flooded grasslands and tropical wetlands. They are mostly found within the Mato Grosso Do Sul in Brazil. The Pantanal affords various wildlife viewing experiences, amongst which is prime jaguar watching. It is one of the few places that allow the nearly threatened species to flourish in the natural environment.

Furthermore, Brazil ranks third for bird diversity in the world. Species such as diademed amazon, red-browed amazon, silvery-cheeked antshrike, Rio de Janeiro antwren, blue-eyed ground dove and seven-coloured tanager are found in Brazil’s lush habitats. In addition, a visit to Fernando de Noronha archipelago will allow visitors to witness its great marine life, including short-finned pilot whales, humpback whales and melon-headed whales. Its beaches, such as Baía do Sancho and Dolphins Bay, are well-known tourist destinations that allow visitors to participate in water activities such as diving.

Iguazu Falls, a multi-tiered waterfall located alongside the borders of Argentina and Brazil, is another one of the new ‘7 Wonders of Nature’ and is the 4th widest waterfall in the world. Visitors can either see the falls from land or take in the breathtaking aerial views from a helicopter.

Although European school holidays are a peak safari time in Brazil, September to October are better suited for safari, especially for visitors interested in catching sight of jaguars – the apex predator.

3. Ecuador and Galapagos Wildlife Safaris

Ecuador’s trinity of safari destinations includes world-renowned destinations – the Amazon Rainforest, Galapagos Islands and Andes Mountains. The Galapagos Islands offer a whole host of adventures: snorkelling in the waters of Los Tuneles, teeming with rich marine life, trekking the heights of extinct volcanoes on Bartolome Island to take in breathtakingly beautiful views; and the Santa Cruz Islands, home to Ecuador’s famous Galapagos tortoises. After enjoying an exciting day of adventures, visitors can plan an underwater escapade in the waters of the Galapagos Islands, where you can watch sharks, penguins, and seals in their natural habitat.

Amazon Rainforest, Mindo Cloudforest and Chocó Rainforest together have created a perfect habitat for reptiles and amphibians on the land. After Brazil and Colombia, Ecuador, with its more than 580 species of amphibians, has the highest diversity in amphibians. Visitors can plan a Herping tour into the heart of these forests, where they are likely to come across frog species such as Surinam toads, glass frogs and rain frogs. Since Ecuador is also home to over 450 reptiles, visitors might also get lucky spotting the world’s longest snake species, the famed green anaconda.

4. Iceland Wildlife Safaris

Despite Iceland’s harsh landscape encompassing around 130 volcanoes and 269 glaciers, wildlife has found a way to flourish. There may not be an extensive variety of species within the land mammals, but Iceland is home to over 20 cetacean species and numerous bird species, including puffins, which can be seen between May and August. The volcanic Lake Myvatn has superb summers making it the perfect time for birdwatching. Great northern diver, harlequin duck and Barrow’s goldeneye are the most commonly spotted birds in the region. Along the coast of Vopnafjordur, visitors can spot a variety of seabirds inhabiting northern Iceland. Following a royal decree in the 18th century, reindeers were brought to Iceland. While they were introduced throughout Iceland, the Eastern Fjords region has the only surviving herds.

Vatnajökull National Park, one of the highlights of an Iceland wildlife safari, has incorporated once solitary Jökulsárgljúfur and Skaftafell National Parks within its borders. The second-largest national park in Europe, it is primarily known for its stunning blue ice together with its wildlife which includes arctic foxes, reindeer and seals as well as birdlife.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, located in northwest Iceland, is home to Iceland’s only native species, the beautiful arctic fox. Arctic foxes are known for changing their coat with the season. In the winters, arctic foxes have snow-white coats, but as summer arrives, their coats shed and are replaced by a brown pelage. Isafjordur, a town in the WestFjords, is known for sightings of arctic foxes. After spending time with the land animals, a trip to Olafsvik, Reykjavik or Husavik will lead you to spectacular whale watching spots. Head out on a boat trip to spot species such as orca, minke, humpback and sperm whale as well as white-beaked dolphin and harbour porpoise.

5. Iran Wildlife and Desert Safaris

Iran, a country known for its diverse wildlife and deep-rooted cultures, has been historically referred to as Persia. It is home to less than 40 living populations of Asiatic cheetah, a critically endangered subspecies of cheetah on the verge of extinction. Khar Turan National Park, located in the Semnan province of Iran, is home to the largest population of Asiatic lions where visitors have a high chance of spotting these magnificent animals.

A highly biodiverse country, Iran is home to over 197 species of mammals, 535 species of birds, 870 species of fish, and 8,000 species of fauna, many of which are endemic to the country. Iran’s Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests, named after an ancient region Hyrcania, is a biome known for its temperate broadleaf and mixed forests. This lush lowland and montane forest cover a large area adjoining the shores of Iran’s Caspian sea. These forests are home to some of Iran’s mightiest predators such as Eurasian lynx, golden jackal, Caucasus leopard, jungle cat, brown bear, and wolf. It is also a great spot for bird-watching.

The Persian Gulf, with its adjoining sandy beaches known for their stunning vistas and rich birdlife, offers a fabulous safari adventure. Visitors can plan a relaxing trip to one of its numerous islands. They can spend time basking in the heat of the sun at the splendid Kish Island or head over to Qesh Island for its enthralling sunset. A day spent on a trip to Bandar Abbas, where visitors can see rare birds such as Afghan babbler and and woodpecker. Other species such as Iraq babbler, Egyptian nightjar and grey hypocolius can also be seen around the rivers.

6. Indian Wildlife, Himalaya and Ladakh Safaris

An incredible land of diversity, India has numerous attractions, ranging from its spectacular wildlife in numerous national parks to the snow-covered Himalayas in the northern region. Asiatic lion, Kashmir stag, purple frog, Malabar civet and Madras hedgehog are some of India’s rare endemic species found in protected forests and reserves. It is also home to a large concentration of Bengal tigers, a native species also found in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

Destinations such as Tadoba-Andhari National Park, Pench National Park, Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve are part of India’s Royal Bengal Tiger Conservation Projects. These wildlife sanctuaries are also the best places in India to spot these remarkable beasts. Quite a few of these parks are located in Madhya Pradesh, also well-known for its large Indian leopard population. The Indian states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka are also home to other renowned national parks and Tiger Reserves. The best time to see tigers in India is from April to May, which are two of the hottest Indian summer months.

Leh Ladakh, one of India’s greatest road trips, takes visitors on a life-changing journey across the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. The road trip has breathtaking views of snow-peaked mountain tops, remote villages cut off from the world, and the extraordinary Indus Valley. Jim Corbett National Park also facilitates wildlife hiking.

The Himalayas make for the most astounding Indian safaris. Visitors might come across snow leopards, Tibetan yaks, brown bears and lesser pandas in the remote corners of the mountains. Climbing expeditions are available for experienced climbers. Climbing Mt. Everest in particular is only for very experienced climbers, you need at least 2-3 years of climbing experience to qualify for the climb. Even then, visitors are accompanied by experienced Sherpa guides. It is the highest mountain in the world, and any climbing expeditions undertaken should be under the guidance of experts. This expedition can take two months. Almost all who have successfully climbed the mountain have described the view from the top as awe-inspiring – it literally makes a person feel as if they are standing on the top of the world, looking down on some of the world’s tallest mountains in the vicinity.

The months of April, May, June, and September are an ideal time to visit the Himalayas.

7. Colombia Andean and Amazon Wildlife Safaris

The Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest are Colombia’s two reigning jewels, home to diverse wildlife endemic to the region. The Andes Mountain, stretched over the western edge of South America, is the world’s longest mountain range above sea level. The Andean region, located in the heart of the Colombian mountains, is home to some of Columbia’s staggering 1,878 species of birds. Columbia is also known as the country with the highest number of bird species including lazuline sabrewing, green-tailed trainbearer, gorgeted woodstar, short-tailed emerald and sword-billed hummingbird.

Columbia’s Popular Birdwatching Destinations

  • High Andean Cloud Forest
  • Hummingbird Observatory
  • Yellow Eared Parrot Nature Reserve
  • Tinamu Nature Reserve
  • Rio Blanco Nature Reserve

Around 10% of the entire stretch of the Amazon Rainforest is located in Colombia, a lot of which still remains unexplored. Amacayacu National Park lies in south Colombia alongside the Amazon River. Although it is home to numerous wildlife species, the primary attractions remain lion, marmoset, the Arrau turtle and black caiman, Amazon’s largest crocodile. Caño Cristales Nature Park, home to Colombia’s most beautiful river, the Caño Cristales, is the region where the Amazon and the Andes meet. Visitors can sail on the waters of Caño Cristales, also referred to as Liquid Rainbow, for its colourful river bed visible through its crystal clear waters. The river’s colours are a result of the reproductive process of the river’s aquatic flora. The colours are the brightest from June to November, making it the only time to visit Caño Cristales. The rest of the year, the flora dries up, dimming the beauty of Caño Cristales.

8.  Sri Lanka Wildlife Safaris

Sri Lanka, a country known for its mythology and culture, is also home to extraordinary wildlife, including Sri Lanka’s ‘Big Five’ animals: Asian elephants, Sri Lankan leopards, sloth bears, blue whales and sperm whales  It’s also home to endemic species including Layarnd’s palm squirrel, Ceylon spiny mouse, toque macaque and red slender loris, the last two of which are endangered as a result of habitat loss.

Mirissa, a small town in Sri Lanka, offers an excellent spot for whale watching. On a visit to Mirrisa, visitors will be able to spot blue whales, Bryde’s whales, killer whales, short-finned whales and sperm whales. A lucky few might also catch sight of whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. Rekawa Beach’s golden shores attract lots of turtles, making it an ideal turtle-watching spot, with species such as green, hawksbill, loggerheads, olive ridley and leatherback frequenting these sandy beaches. Although the beach is teeming with turtles throughout the year, the ideal time to watch them lay eggs is from April to July.

Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park and Minnieyera National Park are excellent places to see three of Sri Lanka’s big five: elephant, leopard, and sloth bears along with spotted sambar, golden jackal, Indian palm civet and plenty of other wildlife as well as a wealth of bird species.

9. Nepal Wildlife Safaris

A highly diverse country, Nepal is home to an astonishing 867 bird species, ranking in the world’s top 30 countries with the highest number of bird species. This birding paradise is home to rare species, such as Bengal florican, Indian paradise flycatcher, grey-crowned prinia, Mrs. Gould’s sunbird, eastern imperial eagle and swamp francolin. These and numerous others can be seen taking the skies of Nepal’s famous wildlife sanctuaries such as Bardia National Park, Chitwan National Park, and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. The beautiful Kathmandu valley is also an ideal spot for bird-watchers.

Chitwan National Park holds the record of having the second largest population of the vulnerable one-horned rhinoceros, which are often fairly easy to spot on safaris, together with the royal Bengal tiger. In addition, Nepal has a sizable population of majestic snow leopards found in high-altitude regions. Visitors scaling the heights of the Annapurna Conservation Area and Sagarmatha National Park might be lucky and spot this rare leopard species.

Other Amazing Out-of-Africa Safaris

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