Where the wild things are

An­i­mal spot­ting made easy, from spirit bears in Canada to chim­panzees in Tan­za­nia

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Adventure - CHRIS­TINE MCCABE

THANKS to the ef­forts of con­ser­va­tion-minded com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in some of the world’s most re­mote re­gions, trav­ellers have the op­por­tu­nity to make like David At­ten­bor­ough and ex­pe­ri­ence our most charis­matic and en­dan­gered crea­tures in the wild. Just pack a zoom lens and your sense of won­der.

There are no guar­an­tees when it comes to spot­ting the world’s big­gest ‘‘big cat’’, but in the rustling sal tree and bam­boo forests of the Band­hav­garh National Park, home to one of In­dia’s largest tiger pop­u­la­tions, their spine-tin­gling pres­ence is pal­pa­ble, and at dusk vil­lagers on the park’s out­skirts are care­ful to pen their cat­tle. Guests of Taj Sa­faris’ Mahua Kothi Lodge, 20 min­utes from the park, head out twice daily to look for tigers. You may see noth­ing more than scat and prints or could have sev­eral sight­ings in a day. The drier months of April through June are your best bet. More: taj sa­faris.com.

Also known as the Ker­mode bear, this rare and reclu­sive crea­ture lives deep in the Great Bear Rain­for­est, an eerie, fog-shrouded realm of an­cient cedars and hem­locks, bound by chilly fjords and forested is­lands. A cu­ri­ous white ver­sion of the black bear, Ker­mode are con­cen­trated on Gribbell and Princess Royal is­lands and the best time to catch a glimpse is Septem­ber when the salmon are run­ning. At King Pa­cific Lodge, float­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion towed into po­si­tion off Princess Royal ev­ery sum­mer and ac­ces­si­ble only by sea­plane, guides lead guests deep into the for­est, an ob­sta­cle course of fallen trees and tram­po­line-springy moss, where, with any luck, you’ll spy a white bear gorg­ing on salmon or dain­tily pick­ing huck­le­ber­ries. More: king­paci­fi­clodge.com.

Chobe National Park in north­ern Botswana is home to the largest ele­phant herds in Africa; the to­tal pop­u­la­tion prob­a­bly ex­ceeds 50,000 and hun­dreds of ele­phants may be seen in a day. The best view­ing is to be en­joyed dur­ing the dry

sea­son (Ju­lyOc­to­ber) and it gets bet­ter as it gets

drier, says A&K re­gional man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Su­jata

Ra­man. She rec­om­mends the up­scale Sanc­tu­ary

Chobe Chilwero Lodge, with day spa, swim­ming pool and views across the flood plains. More: aber­crom­bie

kent.com.au.

An­other smaller scale but very ac­ces­si­ble hot spot is the Addo Ele­phant National Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape (70km from Port El­iz­a­beth). Founded in 1931, when only 16 ele­phants were left in the re­gion, the park now has a pop­u­la­tion top­ping 550 and dur­ing the dry you’ll see large herds gath­ered around wa­ter. Stay at the charm­ing Ele­phant House. More: ele­phan­t­house.co.za.

While Uganda is thought to claim the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of hip­pos, guests of the Mara Ex­plorer Camp in Kenya get to spend plenty of qual­ity time with th­ese enor­mous crea­tures. Just me­tres be­low the camp’s tents, tucked away in scrubby for­est on a bend in the Talek River, hip­pos con­gre­gate in deep pools, belch­ing and fart­ing, yawn­ing and grum­bling. If this doesn’t keep you awake, a mon­goose frol­ick­ing in your out­door bath­tub or a ba­boon help­ing him­self to tea from your pri­vate ve­randa may do the trick. The camp is also the per­fect spot to view lions and chee­tahs as well as the great mi­gra­tion in Ju­lySeptem­ber. More: wildlife­sa­fari.com.au.

Less than 900 of th­ese gen­tle gi­ants are thought to sur­vive in the wild, with about half liv­ing in the south­ern Virunga National Park in the Congo and the Vol­ca­noes National Park in north­ern Rwanda. Daily treks, up to eight hours long, are avail­able in the lat­ter. Park reg­u­la­tions per­mit one hour with a go­rilla fam­ily (which is ha­bit­u­ated to hu­man pres­ence). It is wise to avoid the wettest months, March to May. More: world ex­pe­di­tions.com.au.

The Sam­pan River is home to one of the largest croc­o­dile pop­u­la­tions in the world. Form­ing the western bound­ary of Ba­murru Plains, a work­ing buf­falo run j ust west of Kakadu National Park on the Mary River flood plains, the Sam­pan wrig­gles with th­ese an­cient rep­tiles, doz­ing on river banks, glid­ing through murky wa­ters or loung­ing on the grey sand beach at the river’s mouth. Wild Bush Lux­ury’s Ba­murru Plains op­er­ates river cruises April-Oc­to­ber (the later and drier the sea­son, the more crocs you will see). Also thrilling are the air­boat tours of

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