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15 Epic Safari Spots To View Wildlife Outside of Africa [2024]

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Lori Zaino
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Lori Zaino

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Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lan...
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Michael Y. Park

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Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and que...
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There’s nothing like seeing the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and African buffalo) in the wild on a safari in Africa. But destinations like Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and other parts of Africa aren’t the only places to enjoy wildlife and have memorable safari-style adventures. While you won’t be able to catch the Big 5 in these safari destinations, you can still spot some incredible flora, fauna, and natural wonders in these top spots for wildlife viewing and experiences outside of Africa.

1. Spot Tigers in India

Tiger
See tigers in their natural habitat in India. Image Credit: Vincent van Zalinge via Unsplash

The best Indian safaris for spotting wildlife in India are tiger safaris. One of India’s most popular places for a tiger safari is Ranthambore National Park, which is 3 or 4 hours by car from Jaipur. Here, you can spot Bengal tigers, as well as leopards, deer, gazelle, foxes, wild boar, and serpents like cobras and pythons, among others, from Jeep (for 6) or by Canter truck (for up to 20). The best time to visit is between October and June (the park is closed from July to September).

Kaziranga National Park in Assam has also been made a tiger reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, there are more than 2,000 rhinos in the park (the largest population of Indian rhinoceros) and many elephants, water buffalo, swamp deer, and bird species. November to April is the best time to visit, as the park closes between May and October for monsoon season.

Other places to spot wildlife in India include Gir National Park, home to 500+ Asiatic lions (the only place outside of Africa where you can spot lions in the wild), Tadoba National Park, where you can view tigers, and Panna Tiger Reserve, where you can admire tigers, leopards, and more than 200 different bird species.

Hot Tip:

Many safaris in Africa have an age requirement, and young children are often not allowed. While you should check the details of the park you choose, safaris in India and other destinations are often more flexible about age limits and allow children. However, you might want to think twice about bringing a child younger than 5, as safaris are often long, hot, and require a solid attention span.

2. Experience the Thrill of Amazonian Wildlife in Peru

Amazon River
A village along the Amazon River. Image Credit: Justus via Pixabay

Some of the best Amazon jungle safaris occur in Peru. Start in Iquitos, the world’s largest city that’s only reachable by boat or air. Known as the gateway to the Amazon, this trip is ideal for anyone who wants to take a safari by boat and understand more about the unique wildlife of the Amazon rainforest.

Most Peruvian Amazon River safaris are about a week long, and you stay overnight in jungle river lodges along the way. Expect to view pink dolphins, river turtles and otters, spider and saki monkeys, sloths, black anacondas, and so many more. Along the way, you get to explore the depths of the Amazon rainforest and local river villages and Indigenous communities.

An Amazon River safari is enjoyable year-round, but there are important considerations, as river depths can vary by up to 23 feet depending on the time of year you visit. June through November is the low water season, meaning you must trek deeper into the jungle on foot to see more wildlife. If you prefer to simply glide along the river and admire the flora and fauna from the water, it’s best to go during the high water season, which is December through May. Although you see more rain and have to deal with higher humidity levels then, you may spot more wildlife, especially monkeys.

3. Get Up Close and Personal With Elephants in Sri Lanka

Elephants Sri Lanka
Elephant herds roam Sri Lanka. Image Credit: Greg Montani via Pixabay

Wild elephants roam in many areas of Sri Lanka and aren’t just limited to nature reserves. I’ve spotted them crossing random lagoons and munching on leaves along the forest-lined highway from a bus. But if you want a true safari experience, you have options. Northern Sri Lanka has Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park, where large herds of Asian elephants gather.

And you don’t have to plan too far in advance. Just look for local guides in the nearby town of Sigiriya, and they’ll tell you which park has more current herd sightings, which usually depends on the season. For about $60, you can arrange a private, 3-hour Jeep safari into the park to watch these gentle giants gather.

Down south, Udawalawe National Park, which sits on the banks of the Walawe River, is another excellent place to spot elephant herds. Not too far away, Yala National Park is also a prime place to spot elephants, leopards, and 215 different bird species. Since the south and north of the country have different rainy seasons, you can find an elephant safari year-round to fit your travel plans as you explore the country.

4. Admire Polar Bears in Alaska

Polar bear
Alaska is a natural habitat for polar bears. Image Credit: Hans-Jurgen Mager via Unsplash

There are 2 areas in Alaska where you can spot polar bears in the wild: Kaktovik and Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow). A Kaktovik polar bear tour means getting a charter flight to Barter Island (part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) between August and October when polar bears tend to gather along the coast. Tours are often done in polar rovers, large, bus-like vehicles with lots of windows and a viewing deck.

In Utqiagvik, it’s best to go with a guide, and you may need a permit to visit some of the areas where you’re most likely to spot polar bears. In either region, the best way to view bears safely without disrupting the natural environment is with a reputable guide. Most tours aren’t cheap, so this type of wildlife adventure is best for luxury travelers or those ready to splurge.

Hot Tip:

Flying to Alaska? Alaska Airlines is overhauling its award chart in March 2024. Make sure to educate yourself on the changes and updates before booking any trips with the airline.

5. Catch Sight of Orangutans in Borneo

Baby orangutan
Orangutans hide in the trees, but you might spot one in Borneo. Image Credit: Polina Koroleva via Unsplash

The island of Borneo is unique, as it’s shared by 3 different countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. The best areas to spot orangutans are the Sabah and Sarawak regions of the Malaysian part of the island. Orangutans sit high in trees along rivers such as the Kinabatangan River, which is why small-boat safaris are popular in the area. However, be prepared to learn about the loss of habitat in the region, including deforestation, to create palm oil farms, which will rapidly reduce the natural spaces in which orangutans live.

Another area where you can see an orangutan in the wild is the Danum Valley Conservation Area, home to a 130-million-year-old ancient rainforest. Here, you may spot Bornean pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, and orangutans via Jeep safaris, treks, or canopy walkways.

Visit Borneo in the dry season (April to August), when orangutans are more likely to come out into sight in search of food and water. However, if you visit between March and October, your chances of seeing pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys are high. This region is also relatively affordable, so it’s perfect for a budget to midrange safari, especially if you don’t mind roughing it in no-frills jungle camps.

6. Gaze at Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Bison Yellowstone
Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley are home to many bison. Image Credit: Mike Goad via Pixabay

Admire iconic wildlife in the continental U.S. in Yellowstone National Park. The park makes for the ideal family-friendly, quick dose of wildlife, as you can drive through the park’s Hayden Valley, a massive meadow filled with wolves, bears, bison, and birds.

While you can drive through fairly quickly if you’ve got young kids in the backseat, you can also park, sit, and pull out those binoculars for a more leisurely connection with nature. There are also viewpoints and stops where you can walk down to the river, but hikers should take real caution, as grizzly bear encounters can and do occur. Lamar Valley is another area where you can usually see bison and other animals. Note that park entry is $35 for vehicles, valid for 7 days, which also allows access to Grand Teton National Park.

Although August is one of the most popular times to visit (you’ll definitely encounter crowds), it’s also the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park when it comes to viewing bison.

Hot Tip:

Be sure to follow park guidelines for viewing wildlife and never try to get close to wild animals, feed them, or take selfies with them. There’s been a spate of people getting injured and animals being harmed or even dying in recent years at Yellowstone because of tourists ignoring the rules. You can be jailed, fined, and banned from the park for disturbing the wildlife.

7. Boat Around Alligators in Florida

Alligator Everglades
Alligators often sit on the swampy banks of the Everglades. Image Credit: Bruce Warrington via Unsplash

Spot alligators, turtles, deer, wild hogs, and more with an Everglades Safari Park tour, an easy addition to a trip to Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Safaris range from group airboat tours to private airboat tours, making it the ideal half-day adventure for those who want a fun wildlife activity without overspending (group tours are $47 per adult and $20 per child).

Besides taking a boat ride, visitors can wind their way around the jungle trail boardwalk to spot birds and reptiles. Although you can visit year-round, heading over in the winter months (the cooler season, though still warm and sunny in Florida) means the park’s less likely to be buggy and humid, and you may spot American alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the swamp. You may also discover raccoons and opossums.

8. Giggle at Penguins in Chile

Penguin colony
Penguins are some of the world’s most adorable creatures. Image Credit: Hector Marquez via Unsplash

These toddling, tuxedoed birds are some of the cutest animals out there, and you can see them in various destinations in Chile. One of these spots is Isla Magdalena, about 2 hours away from Punta Arenas in southern Chile. The island is home to the Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos, thanks to the 60,000 penguins that reside there.

You must visit the protected space on a tour, and tours are only available from September to March when the penguins breed (February is ideal for spotting the penguin chicks). Know that the weather can be extremely unpredictable, so plan accordingly for any conditions, even if it’s sunny and dry when you first set off.

Chiloé is another Chilean island where these adorable, fuzzy creatures live and one of the few spots on the planet where you can view both Humboldt and Magellanic penguins. Stay in the main town of Castro, then drive an hour or 2 to the Puñihuil islets to view the penguins. As with Isla Magdalena, you want to head to Chiloé during the breeding season, usually from October to March. Chiloé also has highlights like Chiloé National Park (home to the pudu, the world’s smallest deer) and a collection of colorful UNESCO World Heritage-listed churches.

Hot Tip:

Chile isn’t the only country where you can spot penguins. You can also see them in South Africa, New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands, and Antarctica.

9. View Sea Lions in the Galápagos Islands

Sea lion at Gardner Bay on Espanola Island Galapagos
Sea lions in the Galápagos sun themselves, just like humans do. Image Credit: Katie Seemann

If seeing historically significant wildlife off Ecuador is on your bucket list, the Galápagos Islands — where the diversity and uniqueness of the local fauna inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution — is the place to do it. Some of the largest colonies of sea lions reside in San Cristobal, but you may spot them from many different areas in the Galápagos Islands. If you want to do this adventure on your own (and more affordably), fly into San Cristóbal Airport (SCY), where you can spot sea lions around the island and snorkel with them on La Loberia Beach.

Luxury travelers with big budgets should consider a Galápagos cruise. Don’t expect massive cruise ships here, though. These boat trips are intimate, often carbon neutral, and adventure- and nature-oriented, with variants that let you kayak, canoe, snorkel, and stargaze as you cruise through the islands.

10. Laze With Sloths in Costa Rica

Sloth
A baby sloth lazes about in Costa Rica. Image Credit: Adrián Valverde via Unsplash

One of the best Costa Rican wildlife tours is viewing the sloths at Manuel Antonio National Park. Here, you can also find reptiles and monkeys (they’ll even open your backpacks in search of food, so don’t leave them unattended). The park also offers activities beyond guided day tours, like zip lines, mangrove tours, and night walks.

Another place to see animals in the wild in Costa Rica is Corcovado National Park. It’s the largest primary forest on the American Pacific and home to 13 different ecosystems, featuring an impressive range of biodiversity within its cloud forests, beaches, mangroves, and waterfalls. Keep an eye out for sleepy sloths in trees, 25 different lizard species, 400 types of birds, and more than 10,000 insect species. And watch out for snakes!

The best time to see wildlife in Costa Rica is year-round. Birdwatchers and sunseekers may prefer to visit when birds nest during the dry season (December to April). However, the rainy season (May to November) is deemed “the green season” and is also an exceptionally beautiful time to visit if you don’t mind daily rain showers.

11. Find Jaguars in Brazil

Jaguar
See jaguars in the Pantanal in Brazil. Image Credit: Sam Power via Unsplash

About 50% of the world’s jaguars roam the tropical wetlands of Brazil, primarily in the Pantanal, flooded grasslands that also cover part of Bolivia and Paraguay. Because the wetlands are so massive (42 million acres), it’s important to head to the area where you’re most likely to spot these large cats: Mato Grosso.

One of the safest and most enjoyable ways to see jaguars in the Pantanal is by river cruise along the Cuiaba River. You can admire the cats safely from afar while also spotting other wildlife in Brazil, such as crocodiles, giant otters, marsh deers, giant anteaters, anacondas (green and yellow), and the jabiru, one of the largest flightless birds in the Americas.

Head to the Pantanal from June to October (dry season), where jaguars meander to the river banks to warm up in the sunlight.

12. Surround Yourself With Wild Horses in Canada

Young Wild Horses of Sable Island on Beach
There’s nothing like seeing a horse in the wild. Image Credit: Shawn Hamilton CLiX via Adobe Stock

Heading somewhere called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” might seem rather morbid, but Sable Island’s nickname comes from its more than 350 offshore shipwrecks, not its population of around 500 wild Sable Island horses.

The Nova Scotian island’s horses survive entirely without human intervention, and visitors must stay 20 meters (about 65 feet) away without touching, feeding, or interacting with them. The horses gallop around Sable Island National Park Reserve, which you can visit between June and October or in January and February by air or sea.

More than 350 migratory bird species inhabit the island, and you can discover wildlife like the world’s largest breeding colony of gray seals. Although the seals have their pups in February, June is also a good time to spot them lounging on beaches — it’s their molting season.

13. Discover Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania

Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian devils have a very strong bite. Image Credit: David Clode via Unsplash

Tasmania is the only destination in the world where you can view Tasmanian devils in their natural habitat. There are only 25,000 of these carnivorous marsupials left, thanks to devil facial tumor disease, a contagious form of cancer.

These creatures tend to be nocturnal, so it’s tougher to spot them in the wild. If you want to see them, it’s best to visit a wildlife sanctuary such as Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary or the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, both of which work to protect this and other endemic species. Both spots offer tours and interactive experiences where you can view and learn more about these endangered creatures.

Although you can visit year-round, the best time to visit Tasmania is the dry, warm summer season, which runs from December to February.

Hot Tip:

While Tasmanian devils aren’t normally aggressive to humans, they have extremely strong jaws and a very sharp bite. It’s best to look and not touch.

14. Ogle Komodo Dragons in Indonesia

Komodo
Komodo dragons can grow to be extremely large. Image credit: JamesDeMers via Pixabay

You’ll have to head to a remote Indonesian destination to spot these dinosaur-like creatures: Komodo National Park. The park spans nearly 30 different islands, but you’re most likely to spot these massive creepy crawlers, also known as Komodo lizards or Komodo monitors, on islands like Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, Gili Dasami, and Flores. The dragons can grow to nearly 10 feet and can be aggressive, so it’s best to view them on a guided tour and at a distance. Besides being the place to check out these huge creatures, the islands are beautiful, home to pink sand beaches, jagged peaks, cloud forests, mangroves, and crystal-clear ocean waters.

For the best weather conditions, head over in the dry season, from April to December. July and August are Komodo mating season, so you may notice male dragons fighting for the attention of female dragons. To arrive, fly from Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) in Bali to Labuan Bajo Airport (LBJ) and hop on a boat tour or overnight liveaboard diving boat from there.

15. Swim With Manta Rays in Maldives

Manta
The Maldives has clear waters that are ideal for snorkeling with mantas. Image Credit: Rayyu Maldives via Unsplash

You can swim, snorkel, or dive with manta rays in many destinations around the world, but for some of the clearest waters and best chances of seeing these underwater creatures, Maldives is the place to go. In particular, Hanifaru Bay on the Baa Atoll (declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve) attracts mantas with its plankton-filled waters from May to December. On a clear day, you might be able to spot dozens, if not hundreds, of mantas when snorkeling.

Since the area is protected, diving isn’t allowed (only snorkeling), and the number of boats is limited and may be subject to timed entry. The small bay is off an uninhabited island, and you may also catch sight of whale sharks and other marine life, too.

Hot Tip:

One of the closest points hotels to Hanifaru is the Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort. Bulk up your stash of Marriott Bonvoy points and stay for free using a Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit card such as the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card or the more premium Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. Chase Ultimate Reward points earned with a card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® also transfer to Marriott’s Bonvoy program.

Final Thoughts

While Africa is an incredible safari destination, it’s not the only destination around the world where you can view animals in the wild. No matter your budget or travel style, there’s a wildlife experience around the world that’s right for you.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® card, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best country to go on safari?

While Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa are well-known as top safari destinations, they aren’t the only places to see wildlife. Consider a cruise along the Amazon in Peru, a tiger safari in India, viewing penguins in Chile, or seeing alligators in Florida’s Everglades.

What is the safest country to go on safari?

Botswana is one of the safest countries in the world for a traditional safari. However, destinations like Canada or Indonesia are also places where you can spot wildlife safely.

What is the best month to go on a safari?

When to go on a safari largely depends on your destination. However, in many cases, going on a safari during the dry season means animals gather in groups in search of water and food, making them easier to spot.

Which country is best for nature and wildlife?

Brazil has some of the most incredible biodiversity in the world and is home to part of the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal. Peru and Indonesia also rank high for having a large range and number of plant and animal species.

Lori Zaino's image

About Lori Zaino

Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lanka, Sicily, and Myanmar.

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