If your idea of a perfect vacation includes cozying up to a whale or hand-feeding an elk, skip the zoo and head to one of our picks for the top ten places to spot amazing animals in the wild.
Flickr: PamLink / Creative Commons
Katmai National Park is a challenge to get to; because there are no roads leaden to the park headquarters, visitors must access it by air. However, the protected population of over 2,200 grizzly bears (the largest in the world) makes the journey well worth the effort.
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From wallabies and echidnas to sea lions and, of course, kangaroos, this island off the coast of South Australia is the place to go to spot classic Australian mammal life. A quarter of the island is protected by conservation areas, national parks, and wildlife reserves, so there’s no shortage of land to explore.
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Located just 50 miles from Ottawa and 82 miles from Montreal, Parc Omega is a great day trip from either destination. On the safari driving path, you’ll see elk, bears, deer, wolves, and bison, which you can learn more about by tuning in to the park’s radio station. You can also purchase bags of carrots at the gift shop to feed to the friendly elk and deer that will approach your car looking for treats!
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Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest game reserve areas, covering an area of over 7,500 square miles. The park is home to 517 species of birds, 114 species of reptiles, and more mammals than any other African game reserve. Pro tip: visit during the South African winter months of May through September when the grass is low for the best wildlife viewing conditions.
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Churchill bills itself as the polar bear capital of the world, and it’s easy to understand why…it might be the best (and most easily accessible) place in the world to see the spectacular predators. October and November are “polar bear season,” when the giants return from their summer habitats to await the annual freeze.
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Tortuguero National Park might only be accessible by air or water, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of Costa Rica’s most popular wildlife areas. Its 11 distinct ecological habitats makes it an ideal place for a diverse animal population, and the 20-mile-long coastal zone is one of the world’s most important nesting sites for the endangered Green sea turtle.
Chubut Province, Argentina
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Every year, during the latter half of September, more than 1.5 million Magellanic penguins arrive at Punta Tombo to nest, breed, and raise their chicks. Visitors can walk among the birds, but a strict “no touching” rule is in place to protect both the penguins and humans. Visit in November, after the chicks have hatched, to witness some truly remarkable family life!
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Grizzlies may be Bella Coola’s main attraction but the valley also has an incredible history. The region’s First Nation population dates back 10,000 years, and visitors can take a guided hike to the amazing ancient petroglyphs.
Flickr: Leach84 / Creative Commons
Whale watching in Baja California has been described by many as an “emotional experience.” Every year from January to April, gray whales migrate to the warm waters of the San Ignacio Lagoon for the winter. The gentle giants frequently approach boats, even allowing people to pet them. Although the nearest airport is four hours away, San Ignacio is Baja’s best spot for getting up close and personal with these amazing animals.
Northern New Hampshire, USA
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New Hampshire is home to over 6,000 moose, and driving on Route 3, aka Moose Alley, it might seem like the majority of them live right on the roadway. Starting in the small hamlet of Pittsburg and north to the Canadian border, you’ll pass through the idyllic Great North Woods; it’s an area so remote, you’re likely to see more moose than people.