Travel to the places where wildlife documentaries come to life before your eyes and witness nature’s spectacles for yourself, whether that’s the great migration in the Masai Mara or searching out fearsome carnivorous lizards in Indonesia.
Or maybe 2023 is the year for an incredible Galapagos adventure to see a dazzling array of species in a place where it feels truly the domain of creatures – including the aptly-named Christmas Iguana whose skin turns red and green right around the festive season.
Then again, you could gaze skywards to see one of nature’s finest displays – either to spot the showy display of the colourful quetzal in balmy South America or the ethereal aurora borealis, a mesmerising sight if you travel to Iceland in the winter.
Whatever kind of nature impresses you most, find it with our experts on an unforgettable wildlife adventure in 2023.
1. Witness the migration in the Masai Mara
The Masai Mara, one of the most famous ecosystems in the world, is a 700-square-mile grassland teeming with life. Wildebeest, gazelle, topi, zebra, and buffalo abound in the rolling savannah, and never far away, predators lie in wait, including cheetah, lion, and hyena.
Between mid-August and late October, one of the greatest spectacles on Earth occurs — the annual migration of thousands of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra making their way in huge numbers across the long grass, returning from the Serengeti. With the guidance of wildlife experts, you will see and learn a considerable amount about the Masai Mara’s resident wildlife as the migration takes place.
Join a 14-day Kenya & Tanzania Adventure over the migration season to witness the spectacle for yourself. A carefully thought-through itinerary visits several national parks around the Great Rift Valley. It finishes on the spice island of Zanzibar for a couple of nights at a beachside hotel on the pristine white sands.
2. Spot a festive iguana in the Galapagos Islands
December and January are the mating season for marine iguanas when the males’ skin transforms into vivid colours to attract a mate. On Española Island in the Galapagos, the marine iguanas turn red or green, earning them the nickname “Christmas Iguanas” – happily coinciding with the festive season.
The colours come from pigmentation in the algae in the iguanas’ diets, and iguanas on different islands take on different colours. There are six species of marine iguanas across the Galapagos Islands, and on a whole week of expedition cruising, you’ll have the opportunity to see at least two. You’ll visit Espanola Island to see the Christmas variety and red and black iguanas on Santa Cruz.
Of course, as one of the world’s preeminent wildlife-spotting destinations, a trip to Galapagos Islands promises far more than seeing iguanas in their natural habitat. On a Galapagos Voyage, you’ll have the chance to see penguins and giant tortoises, flightless cormorants and pelicans, sea lions and lizards – all before you delve beneath the ocean’s surface to snorkel and discover a colourful water world of tropical fish, urchins, and sea stars.
3. Come face to face with the largest lizard on earth
Carnivorous Komodo dragons grow up to ten feet long, and their venom makes them formidable predators. Found on Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands, they can be seen on a hike through spectacular scenery on Komodo Island, where about 2,000 endangered Komodo dragons live, along with wild boar, deer, and buffalo. On our 14-day Primates & Dragons of Indonesia trip, you’ll track Komodo dragons on two islands, Rinca and Komodo, hiking through beautiful tropically green scenery that’s carpeted in grasses and mangroves.
After venturing across the islands to spot Komodo dragons, you’ll snorkel the waters in search of giant Manta rays, some with a wingspan of four metres. You may also spot sea turtles, parrotfish, and clownfish on your undersea adventure.
You’ll also have the opportunity to see Sumatran orangutans in Gunung Leuser Park, one of only two habitats for these powerful and curious animals.
4. Search out the vibrant quetzal bird
The quetzal bird was considered sacred by the ancient Mayas and Aztecs, and today is thought to be one of the world’s most beautiful thanks to its striking plumage and male tail feathers that can grow to a metre long.
In many places, this remarkable bird would be the prize find – but in Costa Rica, it jostles for its top billing among a raft of other sensational wildlife. On our eight-day Natural Highlights of Costa Rica trip, you’ll visit a variety of Costa Rican landscapes, including rainforests, mangroves, lava fields and cloud forests, searching for Howler monkeys, Scarlet macaws, and Three-toed sloths that live here.
5. Admire the Northern Lights
On our Iceland Northern Lights trip, visit Iceland in the winter to see the enchanting after-dark display that happens when electrically charged particles collide with elements in the upper atmosphere and release light energy. It’s a sight known as the “aurora borealis”, or “northern lights”, and it’s a truly fascinating phenomenon. You’ll need a clear night, and while they may not appear quite as electric-green as you’ll see in photographs, they are a sensational sight, particularly when you witness them for the first time.
While nights are spent aurora spotting, days are spent exploring the south coast of Iceland, while taking in some of the nation’s famous natural highlights, including thundering waterfalls and powerful geysers before bookending the trip in Reykjavik.
For more inspiration, take a look at our collection of wildlife adventures here.