Make tracks to these lesser known wildlife havens and get to know our planet’s stunning biodiversity…
Think beyond the famous Inca sites to the Peruvian Amazon, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and a great place to immerse yourself in pristine nature. Take a leisurely boat safari to see the jungle from a fresh perspective, coming up close to a huge array of plant and bird life, not to mention the mammals, insects and reptiles. The Tambopata Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park are great places to spot wildlife with tapirs, caimans and jaguars among the highlights. The bird life is a big draw too, with over 500 species recorded in the area. Near the Manu wildlife centre there is a clay lick, rich in minerals, where brightly coloured parrots and macaws gather.
Due to Uganda’s unique location at the crossroads of several habitat zones, it has an incredible diversity of flora and fauna which is still relatively off the beaten track for safari fans. Whether you want to witness a mesmerising family of mountain gorillas in the forests of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, or look for exotic birdlife at Lake Mburo, there are wildlife encounters at every turn. One aspect of Uganda which is appealing to visitors is that it’s easy to combine primate viewing treks with big game safaris. Murchison Falls National Park for example is home to a diverse collection of habitats. You can take a river safari on the Nile to the falls, or a game drive to search for elephant, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, warthog and kob.
The Alborz mountains in the north east of Iran see a collision of Mediterranean flora and Middle Eastern fauna. Where the moist breezes of the Caspian Sea meet the peaks you will find Golestan National Park; one of the most biodiverse places in the country. Iran has the largest remaining population of Persian leopard in the world, and you have a significant chance of seeing one here. They are fairly secretive and frequently difficult to spot, but they are there in considerable numbers. Other mammals to try and track down include the red fox, brown bear, wolf, jackal, Caspian red deer, goitered gazelle and Persian ibex. Birders and botanists will be equally enthralled with the 150 species of bird and over 1,300 species of plant.
For the best wildlife spotting opportunities in West Africa at a wallet friendly price, Ghana should be top of your list. More famous safari destinations in the southern and eastern corners of Africa may have more tourist facilities, but they are correspondingly busier. Mole (say mow-lay) National Park is an almost 5,000-square-kilometre haven for the flora and fauna of the region, with savannah and forest covering the majority of the park. Come for a chance to watch herds of elephant lumbering across the grasslands, wading buffalo or various antelope and plentiful birdlife enjoying the peace and pristine habitats. During the dry season, sightings are even more likely as the search for water persuades the animals to move more frequently. Hyena, warthog and hippo are numerous, and there are roaming populations of olive baboons and other primate species. The birdlife is particularly exciting and colourful at Mole, so walking safaris with an avian focus are fascinating.
A wealth of wildlife awaits you in India, where the growl of the tiger echoes through the undergrowth in several of the national parks. India has the largest population of wild tigers in the world, so your chances of getting close to these thrilling felines is high. There are also sizeable populations of elephants, rhino, buffalo, langur and antelope, and smaller numbers of Asiatic lion and leopard, as well as sloth bears. Kanha Reserve boasts glorious landscapes in which to search for tiger and elephant by jeep, while Satpura Reserve is the place to try a walking safari. Kaziranga National Park in Assam is the best place for viewing rhino, wild buffalo and elephants, and offers boat safaris in season.