When it comes to holidays, some people like visiting cities, historical monuments or lying on beaches. But if none of those tickle your fancy, how about a holiday to a wildlife reserve? All around the world, special areas are preserved where you can see animals and plants in their natural habitat – undisturbed by urbanization, and protected from any future building works. There are huge variations in the types of wildlife reserves you can visit, from the Arctic to the Equator and it’s hard to narrow it down to just ten. But we’ve picked out some of the best in our Top 10 Wildlife Reserves.
10. Yellowstone National Park
Famous for its geothermal features – and for being parodied in Yogi Bear – this park is also home to a number of different varieties of animal. Grizzly bears roam the mountains and they’re a tad less friendly than Yogi, although the official website claims that your chances of being eaten by a bear are 1 in 2.1 million. Apparently, only 7 people have died at the paws of bears in the last 140, so you’re more likely to drown, or die of burns from the thermal pools. Provided you pick your way through unscathed, as the vast majority of visitors do, you can also see herds of bison, elks and wolves as well as the unique system of geysers and thermal pools that the park is so famous for.
9. Kafue National Park
Covering an impressive 22,400km2, Kafue National Park in Zambia is one of Africa’s biggest and parts of it are still unexplored. It was established as a National Park in 1924 by the British Colonial Government, by moving the Nkoya people off the land and turning it into a tourist attraction. There are now calls for compensation to the Nkoya, but at the time it was standard practice for the colonists to assume control of land and do with it what they wanted.
The park is full of different types of wildlife, and claims to be one of the best places to see leopards. But you’ll also find elephants, hippos, crocodiles and African wild dogs in the Kafue, along with the elusive cheetah. Some species are now under special protection, following a spate of poaching, and authorities are working to conserve their populations.
8. Bialowieza National Park
There aren’t many huge wildlife reserves in Europe, given how densely populated it is compared to other continents. But this area on the border of Belarus and Poland is almost untouched, with dense forests providing homes to elks, bison, deer and wild boar, as well as a bison-cow hybrid known locally as a żubroń. Walking through the forest, you can almost imagine how Europe was in the prehistoric times and because of this it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is little in the way of “civilization” in the forest, although the Tsar had a hunting mansion (Palace Park) in Białowieża, which is worth visiting. A great destination for anyone really hoping to get away from it all, although parts of the reserve are guided-tour only. Check before you wander too far!
7. Bandhavgarh National Park
Known as the Tiger-spotting Capital of Asia, this 446km2 National Park in India also has a large population of breeding leopards and some deer. It’s split into four zones – Tala, Magdhi, Khitauli, and Panpatt – and Tala is said to be the hotspot for tiger-spotting, as they wander across the roads seemingly oblivious to the hordes of tourists photographing them! However, the Alpha Male of the park, Bamera, has territory in all four zones, so might appear in any one of them. Bamera is the son of legendary tiger B2, and it is likely that he killed his father in a slightly Oedipal display of supremacy. You too can witness tiger-on-tiger rivalry close up at the Bandhavgarh National Park!
6. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
This National Park, situated in the barren center of Australia, is most famous for the large red rock that gives the park its name – Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock. It’s a site of great mystical significance to the indigenous Australian population, and so the surrounding area has been preserved as a wildlife reserve.
While visiting Uluru, you can see a surprising number of creatures who survive in the gaspingly dry heat – including mammals such as bats and moles, although these are rarely spotted during the day. A more common sight are cold-blooded reptiles, like the thorny devil – a lizard that is native only to Central Australia. There are also 13 species of snake and even a type of frog that buries itself in the sand, rather than taking up a more traditional frog position near a pond. On top of that, there are beautiful and unusual birds to see. So, not only is it a great cultural site, it’s also full of life!