For the upcoming year-end holidays, exotic wildlife destinations far off beaten paths beckon nature lovers and families with animal-crazy kids.
“A wildlife vacation is inspirational. It can impact how and where people move through life when they return home,” says Josh Cohen, founder of Wild Planet Adventures, the wildlife-viewing specialist. “International travel is the best possible gift that you can give a child of any age.”
For December and early January travel, he underscores that to secure airline tickets and accommodations, travel plans need to be made as soon as possible. The following adventures are priced per person, double occupancy.
Thailand - Remote Rainforests & Islands: There are two comprehensive itineraries to choose from. Highlights include excursions seeking elephants, guars, tigers, gibbons, langurs, macaques, barking deer, flying foxes and a plethora of unique birds; wildlife safaris by boat and kayak based from a floating aqua-lodge; jeep and walking safaris in Kaeng Krachan, the largest and least visited national park in Thailand; tracking wild elephants in Pa La-U; and snorkeling the turquoise waters of Ko Tarutau archipelago.
Thailand tours are best for couples or families with teens and adult children who will appreciate the peace and joy instilled by the Buddhist culture. Everyone will love the fun and sensuality of the Thai people best experienced through the extravagant Thai cuisine, unique Thai massage and the simple beauty of the Asian aesthetic found at many of the lodges.
Hidden Thailand: 14-day (Dec. 15-28, Dec. 22-Jan. 4, $4,898) & 11-day (Dec. 15-25, Dec. 22-Jan. 1, $3,798)
Thailand Ultimate Wildlife: 15-day (Dec. 15-29, Dec. 22- Jan. 5, $4,798) & 11-day (Dec. 15-25 or Dec. 22-Jan. 1, $3,798)
India – Exotic Wildlife and Rich Culture: Wild Planet guests don’t have to choose between India’s spiritually rich cultural experiences or its classic wildlife safaris. Two in-depth itineraries provide the very best of both. These are the most comprehensive multi-day safaris available in India. They include India's top national parks, wildlife reserves and UNESCO World Heritage Sites where sightings of wild leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and tigers inspire a lifetime of awe. Included are cultural experiences and safaris in five very different National Parks and wildlife reserves, by jeep, elephant-back and camel-back.
India is best for couples or families with older teens or adult children who want their kids “to have the inescapable spiritual experience of traveling in India, seeing how people with so little can have so much joy, and appreciating how fortunate we are, a message underscored by the privilege of getting to see tigers and other extremely rare animals in their natural habitat,” says Cohen.
India Ultimate Wildlife Safari - Leopards, Tigers & Palaces: 19-day (Dec. 17-Jan. 4, $7,398) & 13-day (Dec 17-29, $4,998)
Untamed India & Nepal: 19-day (Dec. 15-Jan. 2, $7,198 - a $500 savings) & 14-day (Dec. 15-28, $5,098)
Costa Rica Ultimate Wildlife: Costa Rica has six percent of the world’s biodiversity, but the vast majority of travelers never see more than a fraction of that. To go beyond the norm requires a specially designed itinerary like Wild Planet’s “Ultimate Wildlife” eco-tour that escapes the mainstream and visits a variety of diverse ecosystems. Highly trained naturalist guides with extensive knowledge of localized migrations, nocturnal animal activity and little-known wildlife hot-spots guide travelers through the widest variety of eco-systems to expose travelers to the most possible wildlife. The itinerary includes eight national parks, beaches on both coasts, cloud forest canopy tours, whitewater rafting, volcanoes, hot springs, sea-kayaking with dolphins, snorkeling at night in the bioluminescence, a scarlet macaw migration, a world-famous sloth sanctuary and a hands-on wildlife rescue center.
Cost Rica is best for adults and kids eight years and up (especially for wildlife enthusiasts with limited time, who like to travel closer to home and have highly active kids). “A wildlife-focused trip like ours is especially suited to families with animal-crazy kids who want to take the next step and inspire them to become biologists, work with animals or start a green business,” Cohen notes.
Costa Rica Ultimate Wildlife Eco-tour: 14-day (Dec. 14-27, Dec. 21-Jan. 3, $4,798) & 9-day (Dec. 14-22, Dec. 21-29, $3,198)
Borneo’s Weird & Wonderful Wildlife: “It may come as a surprise to many that Borneo is an ideal Holiday destination because its most popular season is March through October. However, in Borneo the difference in seasons is minimal since it’s hot, humid and rainy year-round,” Cohen notes. In December there are fewer travelers and some of the best flight availability of the year. The ancient primeval rainforest here harbors an Orang-Utan sanctuary, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys with huge noses, and Bornean gibbons who sing to each other, among countless other rare and endemic species. Highlights include a special expedition to see Borneo’s unique flying and gliding mammals. Night excursions reveal tarsiers and slow loris, two of the world’s smallest and cutest primates. Borneo’s rainforest is disappearing at alarming rates due to palm oil cultivation, making it the world’s #1 “see it while you can” destination.
Borneo is best for adventurous or experienced travelers who can appreciate its extraordinary wildlife. Borneo shares a rare commonality with the Galapagos, as its wildlife evolved in highly unusual ways due to its isolation. Think gliding frogs and snakes, flying lemurs and lizards and much more. Snorkelers and scuba divers will also appreciate one of the world’s top five barrier reefs.
Borneo Weird & Wonderful Wildlife Safari: 12-day (guests choose their own departure date, $5,998).
Galapagos Wildlife Cruise: “Because most quality, first-class yachts are sold out one to two years in advance for the Holidays, now is the time to start thinking about Holiday 2014 and even 2015; or consider a non-holiday week if you’d like to go sooner,” Cohen advises. Wild Planet Adventures works with over 30 yachts to offer travelers a wide variety of options.
The Galapagos Islands are best for adults and children six and up and provide excellent experiences for travelers who are less adventurous or less active, as the activities aren’t strenuous. “However, it’s not a good fit for those who get seasick easily or small children who would feel cooped up on a small yacht for a week,” notes Cohen.