Diving into foreign climates from our own, itching for a glimpse of wildlife we’ve only read about. It’s a huge reason why many people hop on flights across several time zones. And when you’ve coughed up all the cash and days required to travel, you want to be darn sure you’re seeing the animal kingdom’s finest. Therefore, we present to you five of the most jaw-dropping nature reserves to view wildlife.

Danum Valley

wild danum Borneo’s premiere reserve, spanning 438 square kilometers, is home to ten species of primate. Orangutans draw the most visitors each year as they’re relatively safe to view from a moderate distance. They’re drawn to durian trees when the fruits are in full bloom, so consider timing your trip for high season. Other large animals like the pygmy elephant and Malay sun bear are less common, and less friendly to the tourist paparazzi. Even rarer are sightings of the clouded leopard which blends into the reserve’s dense foliage. Birdwatching here is immense, and the only place on the planet with even the slightest chance of spotting a spectacled flowerpecker.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

wild queen Uganda’s most popular nature reserve tends to duck below the radar; flocks of safari goers hit the Serengeti and Hwange National Park instead. Which is to say, you won’t be struggling against other eager, bug-eyed tourists looking to snap the hungry hippopotamus trundling your way. Make sure your binoculars are calibrated for the tree tops for there’s 500 types of birds to see including national gems like Pel’s fishing owl and the shoebill. Be on guard though, you just might spot a black maned lion stalking the upper branches of colossal fig trees. Why do lions here climb trees? No one really knows, but QENP’s population is one of only two that does.

Canaima National Park

wild canaima Wildlife takes second spot to the flat topped mountains here. Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall, spills down over a 3,000 foot smooth cliff face from one such mountain. But whilst you’re busy craning upwards to the heavens, make sure to look down once in awhile. You’ll want to avoid the goliath birdeaters; tarantulas big enough to wrap about your head. Aside from that, Venezuala’s rainforest is primetime for exotic mammals, most notably the giant anteater and the incredibly elusive tapir. Giant otters can be seen basking in the rivers, and anacondas slumber in swampy bogs. Hopping about the flora are bright neon poison dart frogs. Great for a photo-op, just don’t touch!

Yellowstone National Park

wild yellowstone Yellowstone’s more moderate climate and lesser presence of poisonous critters make it wonderful for camping. But please follow park protocol when packing food, pesky raccoon raids at dawn aren’t cool. It’s even worse when the local grizzly population gets wind of what’s in your cooler. In fact, not to dissuade potential visitors, but Montana’s 3,500 square miles of mostly unfettered nature houses several large and dangerous mammals. Take the moose and bison for example. They won’t eat you, but a careless approach can provoke them to charge. 13 wolf packs also roam the reserve, but there’s never been an attack on record, so no worries there.

The Kalahari Desert in Namibia

wild kalahari Golden plains of the Kalahari roll on over the horizon, sparsely carpeted by kgalagadi shrubs and the odd acacia to serve as landmarks. Though extremely dry, it technically receives enough rainfall to declassify it as a desert. Thus, certain species of fauna thrive here that wouldn’t otherwise like the burrowing meerkats. Lion prides dominate many regions of the desert, and dangerous hyena packs skulk about to claim their leftovers. Large herds of gemsbok, a type of antelope, reveal quite the sight with sheer numbers and their long, pointed black horns. A self-drive safari is the best way to roam the thirstlands of the Kalahari.

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