The tropics contain the majority of all life on Earth and offer an incredible travel destination to see some of the world’s best wildlife sightings. Here we list 25 wildlife sightings worthy of planning a vacation around and link to some travel bloggers to provide their own opinion.
One of our closest living relatives, the mountain gorillas can’t help but command empathy with their relatable emotions and expressions. Well managed tourism has helped these animals survive extinction in the face of habitat destruction and persecution from hunters. These gorillas occupy two African areas of the Volcanoes National Park, in the Virunga Mountains of Uganda and Rwanda, and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Gorillas are strictly vegetarian and feed on different shoots, roots, pulp, fruit and tree bark. The groups are led by their silverback who protects the group from threats and decides the best areas to feed and rest. The only natural predator of gorillas are the leopards, which feature further down this list. Groups usually consist of about 7 to 12 individuals.
Because of the cost of protecting the gorillas and their limited population, to see the gorillas a gorilla permit must be purchased in advance to reserve your place. There are some fantastic lodges as a base for your adventure and you can choose to visit from both Rwanda lodges or Uganda lodges.
Some travel bloggers who saw gorillas in the world are The Travel Sisters from Thetravelsisters.com.
The Wildebeest Migration
Possibly the world’s most famous wildlife spectacle, the wildebeest migration has been featured on many different wildlife documentaries. Attracting explorers and tourists for decades, the spectacle is where millions of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra circulate the plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara and the contiguous Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
The wildebeest are following the cycle of rains and the fresh green grass it replenishes. The migration is famous as the event is not only anticipated by tourists, but by a multitude of predators, including lions, leopards, cheetah, hyena, and crocodiles. The famous image is of the mugger crocodiles ambushing the migration when the wildebeest are forced to cross the Mara River in Kenya.
There are some great camps set up for the wildebeest migration, but as this is a very popular event make sure you choose a responsible operator as the priority for your adventure. These areas are not just great for the migration, but are home to non migratory animals, such as elephants, lions, hippo, crocodiles, and more that you can see throughout the year.
A travel blogger who saw the migration is Robert Harding from Robertharding.com.
The Galapagos Islands
Once described as hell on Earth by a shipwrecked member of clergy not to pleased with his predicament, with further exploration we know the area represents a place a little closer to paradise. Due to its location, the Galapagos have fuelled some fascinating twists in evolution, such as giant tortoises the size of small vehicles, ocean diving iguanas, blood sucking finches, but also its interesting beaches and fascinating geographical features.
Enjoy fantastic lodges on the islands or choose a cruise with island exploration to see some iconic wildlife. To maximize the experience of this famous area, we recommend environmentally responsible luxury catamarans to maximise comfort, expert guides, and the islands’ best itineraries.
Choose Galapagos Island tours and itineraries that include a few islands and locations for a taste of the wildlife or opt for a 15 day mega cruise to see all the islands have to offer.
A travel blogger who visited the Galapagos is Sebastian Lipp from Sebastianlipp.com.
Tigers & Leopards
India now contains over 70% of all the world’s free roaming tigers, which are protected in the country’s 48 specially designated tiger reserves. These areas are also home to the one of the world’s other few big cats, the leopards, which makes them fantastic locations for a big cat safari.
Tigers have been reduced in number from over 100,000 individuals to about 3,000 roaming individuals (97%) in about 100 years, which should be nothing short of alarming. It’s with this knowledge that India stepped up to help protect one of the world’s most treasured animals. Leopards on the other hand have the most stable population of the big cats and the largest geographical range, but their populations are often fragmented due to habitat loss.
Enjoy visiting the areas on jeep tours and walking safaris while enjoying some very comfortable tours and lodges to maximize your chances of seeing the cats. As these animals are elusive, even if you get unlucky and don’t see the cats these reserves are packed with a high diversity of other fascinating animals and plants to make the visit worthwhile. A fantastic example is the Satpura Tiger Reserve in central India.
A travel blogger who saw tigers in the wild is Shivya Nath from The-shooting-star.com.
Africa’s Big 5 +
The Big 5 include some of Africa’s most famous safari animals, such as lions, leopards, buffalo, rhinos and elephants. These are historically famous game animals of Africa’s savannah and you can enjoy fantastic safaris from Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya as the main safari countries. These same areas are often home to other African treasures, such as giraffes, hippos, zebra, crocodiles, and cheetah.
The safari destinations provide fantastic wildlife camps or comfortable safari lodges to head out on tours with your professional guide to see iconic wildlife. You can also choose explorer camps to get the same savannah experience as the old African adventurers.
The most popular safari destination is South Africa and specifically tours of the famous Kruger National Park, but there are other nearby reserves with equally amazing animals. From excellent lodges, such as Kruger’s renowned Jock Safari Lodge, enjoy beautiful views over the park and spa therapies to relax after your day’s adventures. Even from the lodge, you’re sure to spot different animals which adds to the experience.
From the lodges, you will then head out on morning and evening jeep and walking safaris to find a diversity of wildlife.
Some travel bloggers who enjoyed an African safari are Mike and Megan from Mappingmegan.com.
The most anticipated wildlife sighting in Central and South America, jaguar are the dominant predator in a range of habitats and when spotted are often seen sunning themselves by riverways.
In Central America, a great place to increase your chances of spotting jaguar is Belize and specifically the Cockscomb National Park, which was founded with these magnificent cats in mind.
In South America’s Amazon Rainforest, you can maximize your chances to seeing these incredible cats in southern Peru, which has the highest concentration of clay licks in the rainforest. The best lodges to pick are the Amazon’s deep rainforest lodges where the surrounding wildlife is at carrying capacity, so there are lots of prey for these famous predators.
If you really want to maximise your chances of spotting jaguar, however, we recommend the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil where you can take specific tours for seeing jaguar and dedicate your time to tracking the cats with professional wildlife guides.
A travel blogger who saw jaguar in the wild is Dan Moore from Acruisingcouple.com.
Our closest living relatives, chimpanzees are a fantastic primate to witness in the wild. Like the gorillas mentioned above, their relatable behaviours and expressions easily attracts our fascination and curiosity. To add a bit of perspective, humans are more closely related to chimpanzees than chimpanzees are to gorillas.
Native to sub-saharan Africa, chimpanzees mainly feed on fruit and plants, but also supplement their diet with meat. To help with finding their food, chimpanzees are one of the only known non-human animals to use tools. They are adaptable animals and range across a diversity of habitats, such as rainforests, savannahs, and dry woodland. Despite this, they remain endangered due to habitat destruction and poaching.
There are some great places to witness gorillas, such as in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park or Kibale National Park, Gombe in Tanzania, and also the Nyunge Forest in Rwanda where you can enjoy luxury accommodation and gourmet dining at the Nyungwe Rainforest Lodge as part of your chimpanzee adventure.
A travel blogger who saw chimpanzees in the wild is Helen Suk from Notwithoutmypassport.com.
Macaw Clay Licks
If you love the idea of seeing wild colorful parrots then tours to see macaw clay licks should be on your list. River clay presents macaws and other animals with a type of natural pharmacy, which helps the birds detox and neutralize harmful chemicals found in unripe forest fruits.
The clay licks also offer the birds a way to replenish much needed salts they can’t find in their usual diet. Because of their attraction for parrots, particular clay licks can almost guarantee sightings of large, brightly colored macaws where you can enjoy hundreds of parrots in a fantastic display of sound and color.
Some lodges have been smart to build a base nearby these natural attractions, which means tourists can visit the licks, while also offering the birds a certain amount of protection. The vast majority of the Amazon Rainforest’s clay licks lay in the southern Peruvian Amazon and are accessed from the town of Puerto Maldonado to enjoy fantastic rainforest lodges. Our recommendations are the Tambopata Research Center, Manu Wildlife Center, or Heath River Wildlife Center. The tours have set up hides so you can watch activity at the licks without disturbing the birds.
Some travel bloggers who visited macaw clay licks are Tony and Thomas from Contemporarynomad.com.
The best place for seeing many different types of curious monkeys in a short space of time, the Amazon is a fantastic destination to for wildlife lovers. The monkeys you’re likely to see include small, inquisitive squirrel monkeys, highly intelligent capuchins, large, brick red howler monkeys, feeding titi monkeys, mysterious saki monkeys, and a diversity of tamarins and marmosets. One of the favorites are the pygmy marmosets, which live in the western Amazon and are the smallest monkey in the New World.
You may also get lucky and see some rarer rainforest monkeys, such as the uakari monkeys, large spider monkeys, or the rarer species of the monkeys mentioned above.
Great places for seeing different monkeys include Amazon tours from Peru or the different Amazon lodges in Ecuador. Our recommendation for a short tour to see Amazon monkeys is the Sandoval Lake Lodge in southern Peru or choose from deeper rainforest lodges such as Peru’s Tahuayo Lodge, Tambopata Research Center or Heath River Wildlife Center. For a little more luxury, you can also have a look at La Selva Lodge in Ecuador.
Some travel bloggers who saw Amazon monkeys in the wild are Dave and Deb from Theplanetd.com.
Orangutans live in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. They have long shaggy reddish fur and prefer life in the tree tops. In fact, orangutans are the largest tree-living mammal. They are mainly vegetarian and enjoy a lot of fruit with a special fondness for the famous durian.
Now restricted to just these islands in Malaysia and Indonesia, orangutans used to live all across the Asian tropics and there were over 200,000 free roaming individuals just 100 years ago. Today that number has been reduced to 50,000. They are highly threatened by habitat destruction and live among small populations in fragmented forest.
The majority of Orangutans live in Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo where you can enjoy fantastic rainforest tours from comfortable lodges. In addition to the orangutans, you will see diverse forest life, such as famous hornbills, gibbons, and much more.
The world’s largest lizards, Komodo dragons are a fascinating animal to see in the wild. Enjoy visiting the island of Flores and Komodo National Park for a real-life experience of Jurassic Park. In addition to this island, komodos can also be found on the islands of Gila Motang and Rinca.
Growing to three meters in length, these giant lizards are the dominant predator in their environment. Mainly feeding on deer and carrion, the lizards will eat almost anything they can catch, including pigs, smaller dragons, and large water buffalo. Komodo dragons are regarded as vulnerable with a population size of around 5,000 individuals spread across the islands.
Enjoy very comfortable lodges, which can organise walking tours or cruises in Komodo National Park to see these ancient and mythical looking dragons in their natural habitat. As well as the dragons, enjoy beautiful scenery, excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities, cultural tours, and visits to waterfalls.
One of the favorite marine animals, sea turtles always manage to capture the imagination as they glide through the water. Enjoy seeing loggerhead, hawksbill, olive ridley, green sea turtles and leatherbacks in the ocean and on various tropical beaches. See the turtles climb up the shore to lay their eggs or as the young hatch to begin their treacherous descent down the beach to the sea.
As an incredible feat, many species navigate back to the same beach they were born on, which is a remarkable fact considering they will be living for 15 years in the ocean before reaching sexual maturity and travel hundreds of miles out to sea.
Make sure you see the turtles in a responsible manner as their status dependent on species ranges from vulnerable to critically endangered. Great places for seeing the turtles include beaches in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama, but also Malaysia in Asia and Mozambique in Africa. You can also see turtles swimming free in fantastic tropical areas, such as off the coast of tropical Australia, Indonesia, or the Philippines.
A travel blogger who saw sea turtles in the wild is Dani from Globetrottergirls.com.
Poison Dart Frogs
An iconic rainforest animal, the colorful and intricately patterned poison dart frogs inhabit the humid dense tropical forests of the Americas. Their name comes from their use among some Amerindian tribes who use the frog’s poisonous secretions to coat arrowheads, which they then use to hunt monkeys and other forest mammals.
The frogs are brightly patterned with a range of attractive colors and are one of the favorite animals to see in the rainforest. Gracing the photography of many rainforest visitors, you can find the frogs in many area of Central and South America.
A great place for seeing some poison dart frogs is the Tahuayo Lodge in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, which has a conversation section set up to help protect these fascinating frogs. Enjoy easily spotting a few different varieties as you walk the rainforest scouting the forest floor and trees for vivid colors. Other fantastic places to maximize your chances include Costa Rica’s rainforest and on certain Ecuadorian Amazon tours.
Some travel bloggers who saw poison dart frogs in the wild are Dan and Linda from Aswesawit.com.
The Great Barrier Reef
Located just off the state of Queensland in Australia’s northern east coast, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest barrier reef and is home to a wonderful diversity of marine life. Within the protected area there are hundreds of tropical islands with picturesque beautiful beaches.
You can experience this incredible area in a variety of ways, but the best way is to get in the water for snorkelling or diving adventures. In addition, you can explore the reef on aircraft or helicopter tours, glass-bottomed boats, whale and dolphin watching tours, and a variety of cruising and sailing tours.
The high diversity and different parts of the reef are home to a high diversity of animals. Swimming with over 1,500 different fish, including many bright and colorful species that will leave you thinking someone must have painted these animals, the reef is an amazing tourist destination.
In addition to the fish, enjoy chance sightings of sea snakes, fascinating molluscs, and six species of sea turtles. Not to mention the fascinating and colorful corals themselves.
A travel blogger who visited the Great Barrier Reef is Liz from Youngadventuress.com.
Lemurs & Chameleons in Madagascar
Another of the world’s powerhouses of evolution for creating an assortment of weird and wonderful creatures, Madagascar is a very unique place to visit. Madagascar has six UNESCO listed protected areas to enjoy incredible scenery, cruising the island and its beaches, and boating the riverways. Enjoy seeing different wildlife, such as the star players of the leaping lemurs and an assortment of different colorful chameleons.
The rainforest of Madagascar is one of the world’s richest with an incredible diversity of wildlife. Around 75% of the island’s wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth and there are a selection of fantastic lodges for exploring the diversity.
It’s the lemurs that really steal the show here and there are several different varieties. Enjoy wildlife tours to see the bamboo lemurs, red-ruffled lemurs, indri lemurs, and the nocturnal aye-ayes.
Enjoy comfortable lodges and trekking tours in Madagascar to find the fantastic lemurs, chameleons, and a diversity of other wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.
A travel blogger who visited Madagascar is Victoria from Pommietravels.com.
The world’s largest crocodilian, saltwater crocodiles are an imposing animal to see in the wild. Growing to around 6.3 m (20.7 ft), despite their name the crocodiles are found near both fresh and saltwater.
Distributed from north eastern Australia to India throughout the Indo Pacific realm, they are the most broadly distributed modern crocodilian. The largest specimen in captivity was named Cassius and lives on Green Island in Queensland, Australia, which measured 5.48 metres (18 ft). However, this is now beaten by a crocodile caught in the Philippines. These crocodiles are fearsome predators and feed on large mammals, such as deer, orangutans, kangaroos, and even water buffalo.
A great place for safely seeing these fantastic animals wild is on tours and cruises of the Daintree River in Queensland’s Daintree National Park in northern Australia. As well as the saltwater crocodiles, enjoy chance sightings of a range of other wildlife, such as cassowaries, forest dragons and many different birds. A recommended and very comfortable lodge to enjoy the Daintree River & Rainforest is the Silky Oaks Lodge.
A travel blogger who saw saltwater crocodiles in the wild is Alyson from Worldtravelfamily.com.
Whale sharks are the largest living fish and the largest confirmed individual measured just under 13 m (42 ft). Found throughout tropical waters, these gentle giants feed on plankton and pose no threat to people.
Usually found in deep open water, whale sharks are seasonally found along certain coastal areas for feeding. It’s these places that make great destinations for seeing these magnificent animals.
There are about 100 tropical countries where they are found, but here we will present a few of our favorites. Great places to see whale sharks in the wild include Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, and the Philippines. Enjoy snorkeling with whale sharks to see them in their underwater world and be amazed by their grace and gentle nature.
A travel blogger who saw whale sharks is Maria from Selfplannedtrip.com.
And yes, dolphins come in pink. Pink dolphins are river dolphins and live throughout the Amazon Basin, but seem most often encountered in tributaries close to the Amazon River. They have a flexible neck, which helps with maneuverability while navigating the waterways and finding food. Their curious, inquisitive, and friendly nature means they often approach swimmers or canoeing tourists to investigate their presence.
Living in the Amazon’s rivers for hundreds of years, pink dolphins are quite large and reach about 3 meters in length. They are relatively abundant, but are locally endangered to vulnerable in some areas, most notably due to the effect of freshwater dams. They are often found scouting the river bottom for catfish, crabs, small river fish and turtles.
Great places to see pink dolphins are from Manaus in northern Brazil, the pampas area in Bolivia near the Amazon, or Iquitos in northern Peru, such as by enjoying a stay at the highly acclaimed Tahuayo Lodge and especially its Amazon Research Center.
A travel blogger who enjoyed seeing wild pink river dolphins is Jessica Korteman from Notesofnomads.com.
Once thought to be an obviously fake animal when the first specimen was sent to the Natural History Museum, the animals have a duck-like bill, an otter-like tail and body, a venomous spine on their hind leg, and then lay eggs. Needless to say, the animal raised a few eyebrows when a specimen was sent to the museum. However, platypus are endemic to eastern Australia and Tasmania and can be found in streams and rivers especially in the areas where the rivers end.
They feed on different invertebrates and scout the waterways for prey using electroreception. Seeing these magical animals wild is a fantastic experience as you watch them swimming up and down the streams.
A great place to see wild platypus in Queensland, Australia, and particularly on the Atherton Tablelands or the Daintree National Park. In the Daintree region, you can enjoy a stay at the luxury Silky Oaks Lodge for very comfortable accommodation and fantastic tours in the surrounding rainforest. While at the Silky Oaks Lodge, you can also combine a tour to visit the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
A travel blogger who saw platypus wild is Nicole from Bittenbythetravelbug.com.
The world’s longest snake, anaconda live in the rainforests and wetlands of South America. The snakes are non-venomous and a member of the constrictor group with the largest specimen recorded at over 30 feet (9 m) long.
The snakes feed on whatever animal they can manage, but usually catch birds and medium sized mammals. They are ambush predators and wait in the shallows for passing prey.
A startling animal to find in the wild, there are some excellent tours to see these remarkable snakes. Some of the best places to actually see these well camouflaged reptiles are the wetlands where anaconda aren’t so easily concealed by the dense jungle. Our favorite place to see anaconda is the Pantanal wetlands. If you want to see anaconda in the rainforest, we recommend the dry season at deep Amazon lodges like the Heath River Wildlife Center in the Tambopata region of southern Peru.
Some travel bloggers who saw wild anaconda are Toby and Rodora from Toraadventure.wordpress.com.
Whales include the largest mammals on the planet. They are a fantastic wildlife sighting on coastal cruises where you can catch sight of these marine animals while they migrate between feeding grounds or enroute to raise young.
The whales often seen on whale watching tours include the following:
Tropical Queensland is home to scenic tropical beaches, the Australian rainforest, and the Great Barrier Reef
- See minke whales from May through August
- Humpback whales from July through November
Los Cabos, Mexico
A fantastic tropical destination with beautiful beaches and excellent accommodation
- Enjoy humpback whales from January through April
The iconic tropical getaway, enjoy hawaii for fantastic beaches and tropical activities.
- Humpback whales from November to mid-April
This remote island is a fantastic place to see whales in the Caribbean and makes an excellent diving and snorkeling spot.
- November and March are great months to see orcas, sperm whales, and pilot whales
A fantastic tropical island getaway, enjoy tropical beaches and some of the best whale and dolphin watching in the tropics. Enjoy seeing sperm whales, pilot whales, Bryde’s whales, beaked whales, and sperm whales.
- Year round dolphin and whale watching
A great place and stop over from the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest, enjoy a stay at the Mantaraya Lodge to see humpback whales and snorkel to see whale sharks and manta rays.
- Humpback whales from June and until September
Some travel bloggers who saw whales are Caz and Craig from Ytravelblog.com.
One of the largest and most powerful eagles, harpy eagles are a remarkable bird to find in the wild. They prefer to stay in the canopy where they scout for monkeys and other wildlife below. They are an apex predator and fantastically skilled, as they’re easily able to snatch sloths and other medium-sized mammals and birds from the branches.
Harpy eagles are found in forests from Mexico, throughout the Amazon Basin, to Brazil’s Atlantic Coast. Unfortunately they have disappeared from many areas of their range.
Although difficult to find, nests have recently been found around the Refugio Amazonas Lodge in the Tambopata region of southern Peru. If you’re very interested in seeing these birds, we recommend contacting the lodge to ask about latest sightings.
A travel blogger who saw harpy eagles in the wild is Savannah from Sihpromatum.com.
Birds of Paradise
One of the most famous tropical birds, the vast majority of the brilliantly colored and dancing birds of paradise are found on the island of New Guinea. Home to the planet’s third largest rainforest, New Guinea contain 43 different birds of paradise, which you can see on fantastic tours.
The birds are well known for their fabulous and brightly colored plumage the males use to attract mates. See the birds hopping about the branches and hopefully get lucky to see some of the birds showing off.
Enjoy New Guinea tours staying in some very comfortable lodges to enjoy the amazing birds of paradise, but also a variety of other wildlife in this incredibly biodiverse area. As well as the wildlife, New Guinea is home to some of the most fascinating native groups who still hold true to their traditional ways.
A travel blogger who explored New Guinea is Simon from Simonsjamjar.com.
Manta Ray tourism has helped protect these animals from various threats and is helping the economy of different countries. Manta rays are the largest of the rays at about 7 m (23 ft) and have iconic horned shape fins and large mouths.
Not just living in tropical waters, manta rays can also be found in temperate and subtropical waters. They usually inhabit the open oceans and feed on plankton which enter their mouths as they swim.
Jakarta, Indonesia, has become a great place to see manta rays in the wild but other great places include the Maldives, Fiji Islands, Thailand, Hawaii, Western Australia, the Whitsundays, and also Ecuador where you can enjoy a stay at the Mantaraya Lodge.
A travel blogger who saw manta rays is Kristin from Bemytravelmuse.com.
The world’s largest flower, the actual flowers of Rafflesia grow to around one meter in diameter and have an attractive coloration. The flowers are parasitic, feeding on a type of vine to get their nutrients and are similar in this way to fungi. They are found on the forest floor and are sheltered by the rainforest canopy. Because the plants rely on flies for pollination they have a pungent odor of old meat.
To see these fantastic flowers, you can enjoy forest tours in Sumatra, Malaysia, Java, southern Thailand, the island of Borneo and the southern portion of the Philippines.
A travel blogger who saw orangutans in the wild is Michael Turtle from Timetravelturtle.com.