National Wildlife Day was founded in 2005 to bring awareness to endangered species, both domestic and international, as well as acknowledge outstanding animal sanctuaries and organizations for everything they do to help preserve and educate the public about animal conservation. This year, the date of the holiday has been permanently changed from Sept. 4 to Feb. 22, to honor Australian conservationist Steve Irwin’s birthday.
To honor #NationalWildlifeDay, here are many of the ways you can experience wildlife when you cruise with Holland America Line. Every region of the world has a unique bevy of local fauna to pique your interests. Whether you choose to visit a rehabilitation habitat or venture out into the wild, each region offers a range of options to accommodate how you want to observe and interact with wildlife. For those travelers enamored with creatures big and small, here are some of the most popuar destinations for spotting wildlife to celebrate National Wildlife Day!
The continent of Africa offers a dizzying amount of ways to see and experience wildlife. While at Dakar, Senegal, during our Grand World Voyage, don’t miss the chance to visit the Bandia Wildlife Reserve on the “Bandia Reserve & the Pink Lake of Retba” EXC Tour. The Reserve is 2,500 acres of lush vegetation and is responsible for reintroducing many species that have suffered from poaching back into the wild. White rhinoceros, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, gazelles, green monkeys and mongoose are just a few of the animals you can look forward to seeing on this tour.
If that wasn’t enough, prepare for a three-day adventure that is sure to satisfy any travelers wish to see a cluster of African animals. While at Cape Town, South Africa, take the “Gorah Elephant Park Overland Adventure” EXC Tour for a visit to the Gorah Elephant Camp. Located in Addo National Park, the camp is home to over 450 elephants and will not disappoint when it comes to viewing opportunities of these gentle giants. Your first day at the campsite will consist of a late afternoon game drive, followed by a luxurious dinner. On day two, you’ll take two leisurely game drives through the park. The drives offer two chances to see different animals, as each species hunts and travels at unique times of the day. Be on the lookout for over 400 Cape buffalo during the daytime and three growing lion prides during the early morning and nighttime. Finally, end your fantastical trip through Gorah with a morning drive on day three, followed by a hearty breakfast.
Indonesia’s Komodo Island is home to the world-famous Komodo Dragon, which are actually lizards that can grow to a length of almost 10 feet. On the “Komodo Island Adventure” EXC Tour, you will visit the Komodo National Park for a walking tour through the dragon’s habitat while enjoying the dramatic landscapes of 2,000-foot craggy mountains, deep arroyos, canyons, savannahs and monsoon rainforests of the island.
If the Komodo Dragon isn’t big enough for you and you’re headed to Sri Lanka, make sure you visit Pinnawela and its well-known Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage serves as a conservation and education center. At the time of its founding in 1975, it was home to only seven orphaned elephants. Since then, it has attracted international attention for the success of its breeding programs. On your trip to Pinnawela, you can watch the friendly creatures eat and playfully interact with one another. As you enjoy your riverside lunch at the conclusion of your tour, you may even get to see the elephants bathing.
Moving to the “Land Down Under,” you can find many animals unique to the Australian continent. During the “In the Wild” EXC Tour, you have the chance to view Australia’s famous koalas and kangaroos in their own habitat. Bring closed-toed walking shoes, as you’ll be visiting these animals on a walking tour through the Australian bush. Meanwhile, on Phillip Island near Melbourne, you can visit a colony of Little Penguins (the smallest penguins on earth) and see the Penguin Parade. This event takes place at dusk every night, as all of the penguins return from their daytime sea adventures to waddle back to shore as a group.
If you’re looking for a great spot to visit with the whole family, Wings Wildlife Park is home to the largest collection of Tasmanian wildlife in the world. While at Hobart don’t look past this family-run park that functions in part as a rehabilitation area for orphaned wildlife. At the park, you’ll be able to see Tasmanian devils, cuddle a koala and hand-feed kangaroos. Staying in Tasmania, on the “Tasmania Wine and Wildlife” EXC Tour guests will enjoy a combination that is sure to make for a fun day of adventures. During this tour, you will visit the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the iconic Tasmanian Devil! Then you will travel to the Wine and Food Centre in Moorilla to witness winemakers and brewers at work before enjoying a wine tasting.
From the “Land Down Under,” we move to the Arctic tundra of Svalbard, Norway. When visiting Norway’s northernmost islands don’t miss the unique opportunity to see the “other side” of Svalbard with the “Catamaran to Barentsburg” EXC Tour. During this shore excursion, a catamaran will take guests across the scenic Isfjord to be treated to a stunning wildlife display — thousands of birds gathered on the rocks. Then move on to the Russian port of Svalbard, Barentsburg. While exploring Barentsburg, keep your eyes peeled as you may have the chance to catch a sight of the “King of the Arctic,” the polar bear.
Moving westward, head to Iceland for the next opportunity to see more of nature’s amazing creatures. While at the “Land of Leif Erikson,” take the “Heimaey Highlights: Pompeii of the North” EXC Tour to see this unique island’s magnificent tall cliffs tenanted by multitudes of puffins, fulmars and guillemot. After seeing the island’s main harbor, you’ll skirt the western coast to view the outer islands. The youngest of the group, Surtsey, was born during a volcanic eruption in 1963. Stórhöfði offers magnificent views and, on a clear day, you can even see the majestic glaciers of the Icelandic mainland, including the infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano. During spring and early summer, Stórhöfdi is also home to the largest puffin colony on Heimaey.
THE CARIBBEAN & CENTRAL AMERICA
While all the previous regions offer a great mix of animals, we can’t forget about tropical-climate creatures. The Caribbean is always a favorite among travelers for its marine life. On Grand Cayman, you can take a trip to Stingray City and wade into the water to touch one for yourself. At Grand Turk, you can experience a new way to see fish with the “Grand Turk Snuba Adventure” EXC Tour. Snuba, a cross between scuba diving and snorkeling, allows you to swim at a depth of 10-15 feet without the use of an oxygen tank. With no heavy equipment on your back, you can swim freely to inspect the intricate coral reefs and tropical fish around you.
Travel to Costa Rica for two amazing tours through the rainforest. The first is the “Veragua Rain Forest Eco Adventure and Tortuguero Canal” EXC Tour. There you will visit what is known as “Costa Rica’s Amazon.” Keep your eyes peeled for over 300 species of birds, 57 species of amphibians, 111 species of reptiles and 60 mammal species. The second shore excursion, the “Wildlife Rescue Center & La Ceiba Private Reserve” EXC Tour, takes place in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. On this tour, you will visit the Jaguar Rescue Center Foundation, where you can interact with tons of local wildlife such as toucans, parrots, monkeys and sloths. While this center will allow you to see all types of local fauna, it will also give you a rare view of the endangered species it works to save. What better way to celebrate National Wildlife Day than by supporting our endangered animal friends?
On American shores, the state of Alaska offers multiple opportunities to appreciate its wildlife. At Juneau, you can take the highly popular “Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest” EXC Tour! During this shore excursion, you will take a ferry through a 105-mile channel to see humpback whales as they jump and dive into the water. You can also take a floatplane to Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary and view brown bears as they hunt for salmon. At Alaskan ports, the ways to spot wildlife abound, from seeing moose and Dall sheep at Denali National Park to viewing sea otters in Sitka. At the city of Haines you can even catch a glimpse at a sight that is truly American, the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world.
If you want to experience more of America’s marine life, you should head to Hawaii to see all of the amazing experiences it has to offer. On the “Seafun Kauai Shore Snorkel” EXC Tour, you have the opportunity to see many types of colorful fish as well as sea turtles. While this is a highly entertaining way to get as close as possible to your fishy friends, you can also view the wonders of the water without getting wet. If you want to stay dry on your excursions, take either the “Kona Reef by Glass Bottom Boat” EXC Tour at Kona or the “Atlantis Submarine Dive” EXC Tour at Maui. On these trips, you will be able to see all of the tropical fish you would see while snorkeling, with the added bonus of an onboard naturalist, teaching you about Hawaiian animal life.
Finally, travel to South America to round out your wildlife observations. The Falkland Islands, located off the coast of Argentina, are home to a large collection of penguins. Take the “Best of Port Stanley: Volunteer Point” EXC Tour to behold this wondrous waddle. Volunteer Point is known for its King penguins. These penguins are normally difficult to catch a glimpse of, let alone see up close. You will also be able to see and take pictures with their relatives the Gentoo and Magellan penguin. Beyond the adorable penguin communities, South America is also home to the Amazon Rainforest.
At Manaus, Brazil, you’ll find the staggering amount of animals that call the Amazon home. While there are many opportunities to trek through the jungle for yourself, you can also take the time to learn more about the native animals with the “Flora and Fauna of Manaus” EXC Tour. The tour takes place at the Bosque de Ciencia, an Amazonian Research Station. The station doubles as an open-air museum and allows guests the chance to view otters, electric eels, alligators, the Amazon river manatee, and many other forms of animal life indigenous to the region. A visit here is bound to leave you in awe of the fascinating creatures of the Amazon.
For those cruise travelers that have an affinity for animals, a Holland America Line cruise offers an amazing opportunity for an intimate view of many forms of wildlife. Whether you prefer the creatures of the sea or land-based critters, there is something for everybody. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find in-depth information about each port mentioned with Holland America’s EXC Port Planners.