It’s hard to beat the thrill of witnessing a whale breaching at close quarters or coming face to face with an elk in a forest. Since our holidays tend to explore off-the-beaten-track regions, you will, with luck, enjoy some natural encounters on most of our holidays, be it foxes, deer, hares or wild boar. The holidays listed below visit areas which are home to more out-of-the-ordinary animals, sightings of which make for a very memorable holiday.
Watch for whales in the Azores
are not only remarkable for their haunting volcanic landscapes, complete with ancient cones, crater lakes and hot springs, but also for the fact that 20 different species of cetaceans – some quite common, others much rarer – can be spotted off the islands’ shores. Common and bottlenose dolphins are resident species and can be seen at any time of year. Come in early spring, though, and it is possible that you may sight a mighty blue whale, while in summer you may encounter sperm, sei and bearded whales, as well as spotted dolphins, on our included boat trip.
Explore the jungles of Madhya Pradesh
The jungle of the holiday’s name is not just any old jungle, but the forested hills of what is now the Pench National Park, which inspired Kipling’s The Jungle Book
. We can’t promise you a sighting of Baloo, Bagheera or Shere Khan during your jeep safaris
, but the park is home to wildlife such as macaques, jackals, hyenas, sloth bears and even a number of elusive tigers, as well as attracting many species of migrating birds between December and March.
See elk at close quarters in Norway’s highlands
The serenity of the landscape, the feeling of being far removed from the everyday world, the walk through a frozen canyon past huge icicles and frozen waterfalls, and the joy of learning to cross-country ski are just some of the reasons why a winter holiday in Hindsæter
is so memorable. Another unforgettable experience is the pre-breakfast safari in search of the wild elk which roam through the forest close to your comfortable hotel. Well worth getting up early for!
Keep your eyes peeled for chamois and ibex in the Alps
If you are planning a walking holiday in the Alps
, you’ll need to learn how to distinguish ibex and chamois so that you know which you’re looking at if you come across one. The chamois’ distinctive feature is the dark stripe down its face, while the (male) ibex can be identified by its thick, backwards-curving horns which can eventually grow up to a metre in length. Both are excellent climbers which live above the treeline, so you’ll have to choose a holiday that takes you pretty high (such as the Dramatic Mountains of Zell am See
) to have a chance of seeing one.
Take a boat trip in search of whales in Norway
Thanks to the huge number of herring that can be found off the coastline of Senja
, an island so varied in its scenery that it is often described as a ‘Norway in miniature’, humpback whales and orcas are a common sight in its Arctic waters between December and late February. Boat trips depart regularly from the harbour, offering the possibility of spotting not only these graceful creatures, but also the equally majestic white-tailed sea eagle.
Look out for protected deer in Sardinia
The Sardinian deer (cervo sardo
) may be smaller than European deer, but the fact that it came close to extinction in the 1960s and that its numbers, while rising, are still in the hundreds, means that spotting one is pretty special. Now overgrown with Mediterranean vegetation, the long-abandoned mineral mines which you explore on our Golden Dunes of the Costa Verde
walk make an ideal refuge for these shy creatures, though they can also occasionally be seen further along the route in the sand dunes near Piscinas (a spot also favoured by marine turtles).
Seek out the Northern Lights
For a very different sort of ‘natural encounter’, choose a Northern Lights break and, with luck, you will witness ribbons of green, pink, yellow and blue light swirling across the night sky. The aurora borealis is unpredictable, but this just makes seeing it in all its glory all the more thrilling. Choose a city break in either Reykjavík
– with a guided evening excursion in search of the Northern Lights – or head to Sollia
in northern Norway, where you can explore the otherworldly scenery by snowmobile or dog-sled by day, before seeking out the Northern Lights at nightfall.