12 Incredible Wildlife Cruises for the Animal-Loving Voyager
The best part? That’s just one amazing wildlife cruise the world has to offer. Read on for the full list.
A throwback to the earth before man, the remote islands and fjords of southern Chile are flush with creatures that thrive in the chilly subpolar conditions, including sizable penguin and elephant seal colonies.
The ships: Via Australis or Stella Australis
The creatures: Elephant seals, condors, leopard seals, penguins, whales, guanaco, foxes.
The season: Late September to early April.
Kimberley Coast (Australia)
The planet’s wildest shoreline outside the polar region, Australia’s rugged red-rock-framed Kimberley Coast blends large underwater denizens and typical Down Under mainland creatures with weird phenomena like horizontal waterfalls, disappearing islands, and menacing mid-ocean whirlpools.
The ship: True North.
The creatures: Saltwater crocodiles, wallabies, whales, dolphins, dingoes.
The season: March–September
The small eco-friendly nation in Central America has emerged as one of the planet’s great wildlife success stories. Adventure cruises ply both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, inhabited by wildlife that ranges from tropical rainforest creatures to animals that thrive in arid desert-like landscapes.
The ship: Variety Voyager.
The creatures: Sloths, howler monkeys, iguana, toucans, coatis, boas.
The season: December–March.
Europe’s northernmost extreme, this giant Arctic island supports a sizable polar bear population and other cold-weather wildlife. Cruises from Longyearbyen, a former coal-mining town turned adventure-travel hub, thread icebergs to reach a walrus colony at 80 degree north latitude.
The ship: Nordstjernen.
The creatures: Polar bears, walrus, reindeer.
The season: June–August.
Pitcairn Archipelago (South Pacific)
This remote British possession between Tahiti and Easter Island boasts fewer than 60 year-round human residents and just a handful of visitors each year. As a result, uninhabited islands like Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno are incredibly rich in undersea creatures and birdlife. Explore one of the planet’s most remote corners on Zegrahm Expeditions’ once-a-year cruise through the area.
The ship: Caledonian Sky.
The creatures: Sharks, tropical fish, manta rays, Phoenix petrels, red-tailed tropicbirds, Henderson Island crakes, Stephen’s lorikeets.
Komodo Islands (Indonesia)
Venture into the lair of the world’s only real dragon on voyages through the Indonesian archipelago that call on the Komodo Islands. The deadly reptiles—yes, they have been known to eat humans—are the prime attraction of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which protects many different tropical island species.
Best ship: Silolona.
The creatures: Komodo dragons, flying foxes, sharks, tropical reef fish, crab-eating macaque monkeys, lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos.
The season: March–August.
The Amazon (Peru)
The upper reaches of the Amazon are best for rainforest wildlife, in particular the main river and tributaries in Peru that run through critter-rich national parks like Manu and Pacaya-Samiria. Nothing gets you closer to Amazonian nature (including the piranhas) than a swim in the legendary river.
The ship: Delfin I or Delfin II.
The creatures: Pink river dolphins, sloths, macaws, gray-headed kites, giant river otters, caimans, piranhas, capuchin monkeys.
The season: January–February, April–December.
Galápagos Islands (Ecuador)
Walk among birds, reptiles, and mammals that have no fear of man, swim with amazing sea creatures, and commune with animals that have been alive since the 19th century in this magical archipelago 500 miles west of the South American mainland.
The ship: Eclipse.
The creatures: Giant tortoises, marine iguanas, land iguanas, blue-footed boobies, hammerhead sharks, schools of tuna, Galápagos penguins.
The season: Year round.
There are plenty of cruises to the South Pole. For wildlife seekers, the key to success is booking passage on a small ship with an emphasis on close encounters of the animal kind and stops at polar islands like South Shetland or South Georgia.
The ships: Ocean Diamond or Sea Adventurer.
The creatures: Penguins, seals, whales, birdlife.
The season: November–early March.
Zambezi River (Southern Africa)
Disney’s Jungle Cruise in real life, the mighty Zambezi meanders through the wildlife-rich savanna lands of Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana before tumbling over Victoria Falls. Animals—including some of the world’s largest elephant herds—gather to drink, eat, and simply hang out along the banks.
The ship: Zambezi Queen.
The creatures: Elephants, crocodiles, hippos, fish eagles, malachite kingfishers.
The season: Year round.
Northwest Passage (Canada)
The Holy Grail of polar exploration for hundreds of years, the Northwest Passage is a watery route through the remote islands of northern Canada, an area where caribou and other creatures far outnumber the human inhabitants. Modern expedition ships with reinforced hulls accomplish what the old wooden sailing vessels couldn’t do.
The ship: Ocean Endeavour.
The creatures: Polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales, bowhead whales, musk ox, walrus, caribou.
The season: July–mid September.
This vast tropical wetland in southern Brazil trumps the Amazon in pure wildlife viewing, especially when it comes to the elusive jaguar. A warren of rivers, grasslands, and rainforest, the wetland sprawls across an area almost as large as Great Britain.
The ship: Barco Aguape.
The creatures: Jaguars, capybaras, giant anteaters, tapir, caracara eagles, anaconda, maned wolf, caiman crocodiles.
The season: August–September.