4/12/2023     by Amy Mutscher

Wildlife from Africa to Alaska: Exhilarating Encounters and Photo Adventures

When curious travelers plan their big trips, a cornerstone of the journey is often an opportunity to observe and photograph animals in the wild. Visiting Hawaii isn’t enough, they need to get in the water and find sea turtles. Going to Africa means splurging on that telephoto lens to capture stunning images of elephants splashing in a muddy stream and cheetahs chasing a wildebeest. And who could go to Alaska without planning a search for grizzly bears or whales in their natural habitats? Here are a few ways to create unforgettable memories in some of the world's most photogenic locations and put discovery, exploration and novel perspective on the itinerary.
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Orange-Breasted Sunbird in Africa


Narrowing down your choices from an entire continent to a judicious selection of stops is where a travel advisor’s assistance can be invaluable. Many Africa specialists have visited the most popular countries that host distinctive safari tours and have direct experience with the best-known brands in guided tours. Tanzania is famous for its iconic game-spotting locations: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara National Park. Along South Africa’s scenic coastline, the 49,000-acre Shamwari Game Reserve offers a chance to see leopards, lions, elephants, hippopotamus, giraffes, rhinoceros and zebras. Travel to the northeastern corner of the country to experience world-renowned Kruger National Park, which boasts 147 species. Within Kruger National Park is Kapama Private Game Reserve, which offers “game drives” that take guests into the bush on four-wheel-drive vehicles to spot lions, impalas, hippos, cheetahs, wildebeest, spotted hyenas and hundreds of colorful birds.

A 90-minute drive west of Victoria Falls brings you into Botswana and the remarkable Chobe National Park. A wonderland for wildlife photographers from May to October, its impressive populations of elephant, rhinoceros and water buffalo are sure to delight. The mountainous country of Rwanda offers a chance to walk amidst mountain gorillas, the most famous animal residents of Volcanoes National Park. It’s also home to 13 varieties of primate: the golden monkey, the red-tailed monkey, the olive baboon in addition to the well-known chimpanzee. Wherever you land in Africa, you can be sure that your safari team will share educated insights and personal anecdotes, adding context to the extraordinary environment at any of these spectacular sites.

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Snorkeling in Hawaii


The differences and diversity of Hawaii’s six major islands may surprise first-timers. From Oahu’s verdant North Shore to the lush Na Pali Coast of Kauai to the Mars-like terrain of Maui’s extinct Haleakala volcano, each island has a wealth of natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Just off the coast of Maui is a crescent-shaped island named Molokini. The inner lagoon of this submerged volcanic crater is a prime spot for snorkeling and scuba diving thanks to calm waters and hundreds of marine species feasting on its rich coral reefs.

From late December through March, the Pacific waters around Hawaii host migrating humpback whales on their annual roundtrip journey from Alaska to the Baja peninsula of Mexico. Spot a playful pod on a catamaran excursion or go even closer on a private, guided kayak tour. Learn more about humpbacks at the Maui Ocean Center where a 3D exhibit illustrates the size of these gigantic mammals or the Hawaii Wildlife Discovery Center, which celebrates the undersea life of our 50th state. On Oahu, a day spent snorkeling in Hanauma Bay offers a rewarding opportunity to find a multitude of colorful species that appear on souvenir laminated “Fish of Hawaii” checklists. You might get lucky and swim alongside a green sea turtle while examining the diverse array of sea life, including parrotfish, puffers and trumpet fish.

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Whale Watching in Antarctica


This isolated, icy land is a dream destination for expedition cruisers trying to get up close to wildlife. Begin the adventure in Ushuaia, Argentina, your ship bound for the frozen continent that’s home to masses of animal life residing in an otherworldly backdrop of icebergs, mountains and glaciers. Interested guests can avail themselves to their ship’s full complement of naturalists, scientists and explorers whose presentations and conversations enhance each day’s sightings. The southern skies are filled with albatrosses, sheathbills and shearwaters, while flightless penguins including the Adélie, king and rockhopper varieties are ubiquitous on land. Penguin species that can only be found in Antarctica are the emperor, who appear to be wearing tuxedos, and gentoo, identifiable by their orange beaks. Seven species of whale are found locally, including humpbacks, orcas and blue whales.

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Baby Bears in Alaska


Much of the excitement around planning a cruise tour of Alaska is letting the anticipation build as you sift through the shore excursions that promise inroads to unspoiled wilderness and its inhabitants. With so many ways to see Alaska, an experienced travel advisor can help you decide on your itinerary and offer personal reflections on many of the location options, tour companies and departure timing. Some popular excursions are perfect for adventurous types, like catching a floatplane to see black or brown bears at Neets Bay near Ketchikan or Admiralty Island near Juneau. Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward is the ideal place to observe Alaska’s whale species, including orca, minke, fin, gray and humpback. May through September is the best time to see humpback whales returning from their winter respite in southern Mexico. Visitors of all ages and abilities can participate in a whale-watching expedition on a small group tour or charter where your captain positions you to spot harbor seals, bald eagles and sea otters in addition to the gentle giants of the sea.

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