From the jungles of India to the rugged coasts of New Zealand, travelling to see wild animals in their natural habitats doesn’t just create magical memories–it can also support vital efforts to protect endangered species and other remarkable creatures for future generations to enjoy.
The majestic Royal Bengal tiger
Evoking the glamor of the 1920s, SUJÁN Sher Bagh is a world-class safari camp on the edge of the Ranthambhore National Park, ideally located to explore the domain of the majestic Royal Bengal tiger. The largest and most powerful of all cats, tigers are the true kings and queens of the jungle. They’re also among the most at-risk species of big cat, with only around 4,000 left in the wild globally. The Ranthambhore area previously served as private hunting grounds for Jaipur’s maharajahs and is now a protected park. On thrilling jeep safaris, the SUJÁN’s expert guides lead guests to encounter an array of wildlife, from sambar deer to marsh crocodiles, while seeking out majestic tigers–one of nature’s most unforgettable encounters.
Ospreys on the hunt
One of Britain's finest country house hotels, Hambleton Hall provides a peaceful stay in the heart of rural England, a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of London. With elegant rooms, a swimming pool and colorful, creative food served in its Michelin-starred restaurant, the hotel is situated on the peninsula above Rutland Water. The nature reserve that’s home to the reservoir is a designated Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, renowned for resident and migratory birds. Ospreys are the headline act. Once extinct in England, a project to reintroduce the majestic fish-eating birds of prey to the Midlands began here in 1996. Nearly three decades on, more than 250 ospreys have been raised from nesting platforms, the migratory birds best seen during between April and September. The Manton Bay nest can be viewed from hides, and visitors regularly spot ospreys fishing around the reserve. The area is also internationally recognized for exceptional numbers of wintering ducks, geese and grebes, including the highest number of Gadwall (grey dabbling duck) recorded at any one site in Britain.
The emblematic Alpine Ibex
Bellevue Hotel & Spa sits within Gran Paradiso National Park, the oldest national park in Italy, bordered by France and Switzerland. This is a destination for lovers of epic views and the great outdoors, with remarkable hiking possibilities in summer on more than 550 kilometers of trails, and cross-country skiing and ice-climbing in winter. In a peaceful meadow right in front of the Gran Paradiso glacier, the intimate hotel offers refined gastronomy, a large spa with 10 treatment rooms, and other welcome comforts after days spent in nature. Guests share the magical landscapes with the iconic Alpine ibex, a large wild goat with distinctive, curved horns that’s the symbol of the park. The animals were close to extinction in the 19th century, but, thanks to conservation efforts, they’ve bounced back, currently numbering around 3,000, living in high-altitude meadows and rocky areas. The Alpine ibex can be seen by tourists during spring in Cogne and nearby Valsavarenche, when they come down from the mountains to graze. In summer, the ibex go higher into the mountains but the hotel can arrange guides to take travelers up to where they’re likely to be. The park is also home to around 7,800 chamois, a goat-antelope species commonly seen in the area.
Wild countryside, grizzly bears
Accessible only by air or sea, Sonora Resort is a unique nature retreat in the Discovery Islands archipelago, off the coast of British Columbia, one of Canada’s most pristine wilderness environments. Between August and October, mighty grizzly bears descend on rivers to feast on spawning salmon. On Sonora Grizzly tours, guests are highly likely to observe numerous mighty bears in the moss-covered rainforest from custom built viewing towers, learning about the animals from insightful guides. Sonora Resort is a member of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of British Columbia, dedicated to sustainable bear viewing and protecting wild bears and their ecosystems. The area is also home to bald eagles, harbor seals, orcas and humpback whales.
A flash of blue: spotting kingfishers
On the Swiss shores of Lake Maggiore, Castello del Sole Beach Resort & Spa sits within 346 acres/140 hectares of agricultural land, including vineyards and orchards. The hotel neighbors a protected nature reserve–one of Switzerland’s most important wetland areas–which is a resting place for over 200 migratory bird species and a permanent habitat for more than 60 resident bird species. Two pairs of kingfishers nest in the reserve each year, and while it is closed to the public, there’s every chance birdwatchers will see these gorgeous blue and gold birds in the surrounding area. Exploring independently or on an expert-led Ornithological Walk, you might also be lucky enough to see little bitterns, barn swallows, hobbies, black kites or other species, from herons to grebes.
Marine marvels: Galápagos sea lions
Pikaia Lodge is an eco-friendly, sustainably built hotel perched on the cone of an extinct volcano. Here on the island of Santa Cruz, in the heart of Ecuador’s Galápagos islands, this is one of the world’s most renowned biodiversity hotspots. The lodge rests within a protected private reserve for lumbering giant Galápagos tortoises. Guests can also spend time with one of the region’s other iconic species, Galápagos sea lions, who divide their time between swimming and hunting in the ocean and basking on white sand beaches. Playful and curious, Galápagos sea lions are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as endangered. Within safe limits, it’s possible to watch these marine marvels from a few meters away on the beach. Dolphins, sharks, manta rays and sea turtles are also found in the rich local waters.
Up close with African elephants
With the feel of a classic safari lodge, Jabulani in South Africa is one of the best places in the world to spend time with African elephants–the largest living land mammals on Earth. Located in Kapama Private Game Reserve, on the border of Kruger National Park, Jabulani’s owner, Adine Rood, founded HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development), South Africa’s first dedicated elephant orphanage, where rescued elephants are integrated into a herd that roams the reserve, accompanied by dedicated carers. Guests can observe social interactions between these gentle giants and their adorable infants, as well as spending time with other wildlife, including rhino, leopard, kudu and giraffe. Jabulani has a brand new suite added to the former six suites and an exclusive three-bedroom Zindoga Villa, as well as a bush spa.
Graceful, peaceful sika deer
Noborioji Hotel Nara is a masterpiece of elegance and refinement in the heart of the Japanese city of Nara, right next door to the sprawling, 1,240-acre/500-hectare Nara Park, home to hundreds of sika deer. According to traditional Shinto beliefs, the deer of Nara were sacred messengers of the gods, meaning killing one was a crime punishable by death. The graceful animals are now national treasures. Deer crackers are sold around the park, with some animals bowing their heads to visitors, requesting to be fed (though approach with caution). Less than an hour from Kyoto and Osaka, Nara was the first capital of Japan. Noborioji Hotel is an excellent base to explore nearby shrines, temples, museums and gardens. The peaceful hotel has just 13 understated rooms, many looking out onto woodland greenery.
The African lion–king of the Big Five
Just three-and-a-half hours from Johannesburg airport, Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge is found in Nambiti Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, right in the heart of Zulu land. This luxury lodge has just five suites, each overlooking the Sunday River. The surrounding landscapes of bush, savannah and waterfalls are home to a high density of wildlife, including elephant, black rhino, cheetah, leopard, buffalo and more than 280 species of birds. Marauding among them all is the iconic African lion. Despite being symbols of strength and power, African lion numbers are sadly decreasing: recent estimates suggest there could be as few as 20,000 remaining in the wild. As well as providing a surprising array of creature comforts and planning personalized safaris for guests, Nambiti also supports the local Zulu Senzo’kuhle Nkos’unodada community.
The colorful plumage of Paradise Ducks
The very definition of ‘splendid isolation’, Blanket Bay luxury lodge is set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and framed by the rugged, snow-dusted peaks of the Southern Alps. The estate is part of a working sheep and cattle farm, a short drive from Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. With intimate rooms in the main lodge, spacious private chalets or the impressive, family-sized Blanket Bay Villa. Guests can enjoy hiking, horse-back riding and wine tasting, explore the wonders of Milford Sound or simply sit back and watch the resident Paradise ducks, known for their colorful plumage–the lodge features a Paradise duck feather as its logo–and the fact that they mate for life. Fallow deer also live in the area: during winter months, when food is scarce on the higher hills, they venture to the lodge’s front lawn.