Where to go on a family wildlife holiday

The world’s most exciting wildlife, guaranteed to have children of all ages gripped, doesn’t tend to live on our doorstep, so be prepared for a chunky flight to reach it. While some wildlife hotspots are compact (Costa Rica springs to mind), many lie in out of the way corners of remote and often huge countries, so you may also need to take internal flights or sit through lengthy drives to reach the birds and beasties. Where possible, family wildlife holidays incorporate fun ways to travel, too, with river cruises, canopy walks and snorkelling all giving a new perspective on wildlife.

1. Azores

This scattering of islands in the mid Atlantic, belonging to Portugal, is one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins, with a third of all species recorded in these waters, including sperm whales and enormous blue whales. Family trips are carefully designed to suit children, combining amazing sightings with the chance to learn about marine conservation and explore on land, too.

2. Borneo

Orangutans are always the star of a family wildlife holiday to Borneo, and rehabilitation centres in Sabah and Sarawak make the viewing easy. Sumatran rhinos, pygmy elephants, monitor lizards and proboscis monkeys, looking like someone’s alcoholic ginger uncle, also wait to be spotted, on jungle hikes and river cruises. Add in traditional tribes, beaches, canopy walks and bubbling hot springs and you have a true family adventure.

3. Botswana

Home to a range of habitats, from the channels and islands of the Okavango Delta to the dry plains of Savuti, Botswana is a dream family wildlife destination, simply because there’s so much wildlife to see. In Chobe National Park alone you’ll find vast herds of elephants, often 80-strong, as well as hundreds of zebra and buffalo – for even the most unimpressible teen or tot, that’s a lot of ‘wow’.

4. Brazil

Any family with naturalist notions should make for the Pantanal in Brazil, a wetland region the size of France. This is the best place on the planet to spot jaguars, plus a supporting cast of curious creatures, including jabiru storks, giant otters, comical capybaras, anteaters, armadillos and even tapirs. Kids will also love the chance to stay on a working ranch, learning from the resident cowboys.
Costa Rica

5. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is small, but packs a punch when it comes to wildlife. Amazingly biodiverse, there’s everything from rainforest and cloud forest, to mangroves and reefs, supporting a huge range of wildlife. Kids can see nesting turtles, exotic quetzal birds, sloths, monkeys, crocs and toucans, often up close, and enjoy ziplines, canopy walks, hikes, rafting and kayaking – an exhilarating blend of nature and adventure.
Galapagos Islands

6. Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos are overflowing with wildlife, and it’s all harmless and unafraid of humans, making this a perfect place for kids. Punky marine iguanas that snort sea water are just the start; there are giant tortoises, sharks and the chance to snorkel with sea lions. A land based trip makes it easy to explore and avoids the potential seasickness or cabin fever of a cruise.

7. India

When it comes to wildlife in India, we’re all thinking the same thing: tigers. Multiple game drives in a handful of parks produce the best chance of a sighting, with lots of chital, sambar, monkeys and peacocks to enjoy, plus sloth bears and Indian bison if you’re lucky. There’s usually no age restriction on tiger safaris, but be sure little ones can handle chilly morning game drives, and understand that sightings are not guaranteed.

8. Namibia

If you family prefers its big game complemented by adventure sports and startling desert landscapes, pick Namibia. Game viewing is fabulous here. Animals cluster around the water holes in Etosha National Park and elsewhere you’ll come across everything from gemsbok to seals and flamingos. Visit the Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre to see cheetahs, and in between, scale giant sand dunes and camp in the desert.
South Africa

9. South Africa

South Africa has everything families could wish for. Amazing game – including the Big Five and rare wild dogs and white rhino – and numerous parks, many of which are malaria free. There are adventure sports to keep active teens chipper, too, from treetop canopy tours to rafting. You can also team a safari here with a beach break in Mozambique or Mauritius.

10. Tanzania

Flamingos and tree climbing lions in Lake Manyara, the Big Five ‘trapped’ within the Ngorongoro Crater, and the vast Serengeti plains where huge herds of wildebeest migrate – Tanzania delivers some of East Africa’s iconic wildlife sights. Lovely lodges with pools and the chance to learn about wildlife, conservation, land pressures, climate and local life completes the trip for young explorers.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Family wildlife or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nadezhda1906] [Azores: Angela Compagnone] [Borneo: JP Bennett] [Botswana: Wynand Uys] [Brazil: Marinelson Almeida - Traveling through Brazil] [Costa Rica: travelmag.com] [Galapagos Islands: Paul Krawczuk] [India: Bernie Catterall] [Namibia: Alan James Hendry] [South Africa: Matthias Mullie] [Tanzania: Martin Olsen]