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27 minute read

15 Tours with Animal Encounters

August 30, 2023

One exciting aspect of visiting a new place is the possibility of encountering native animals. There are countless opportunities to view some of nature’s most majestic creatures in every corner of the earth – from Africa’s “Big Five” to India’s Bengal tigers, to the Galapagos’ giant tortoises, and everything in between. Many Odysseys Unlimited small group tours include visits to wildlife refuges, nature preserves, farms, ranches, and more, where we can see some of these animals up close – and best of all, our visits help support the work being done to keep the animals safe.

Below are 15 Odysseys tours that feature animal encounters. When possible, we’ve also included some on-tour photos taken by Odysseys guests and employees to give you a glimpse of just how intimate your encounters can be (just like the above image of our guests meeting Rothschild's giraffes at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, photographed by Odysseys guest Barry Rosenberg). All you have to do is choose your destination, give us a call, and make your reservation today to experience them for yourself.


Africa’s Wildlife

Odysseys guests getting up close and personal with African elephants on our Africa’s Wildlife tour, photographed by Odysseys employee Steven C.

On this safari adventure in Sub-Saharan Africa, we visit several reserves and national parks that give ample opportunity to view some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife. At Victoria Falls, we visit a small reserve to look for the critically endangered black rhino before taking a dinner cruise on the Zambezi River to search for animals on shore and in the water. Chobe National Park hosts the largest concentrations of game in all of Africa, and during our three-night stay we embark on a boat safari and numerous game drives to see some of the world’s largest elephant population, along with hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, impalas, zebras, buffalos, and over 450 species of birds. Finally, in South Luangwa National Park, we go on safari to look for lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopard, wild dogs, antelope, bushbuck, and the spiral-horned kudu.

Classic Safari: Kenya & Tanzania

Odysseys traveler Liz Sette photographed this mama lion and her babies on our Classic Safari tour.

Another safari adventure! This tour focuses on the countries of Kenya and Tanzania, where we look for wildlife in some of the most alluring safari environments in existence. We begin with a visit to the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, where we see endangered Rothschild’s giraffes up close. Afterwards we travel to Amboseli National Park, known for its many elephants. Then, on to Lake Manyara, one of Tanzania’s smallest yet most diverse parks notable for its abundant birdlife, tree-climbing lions, plains animals, and hippos. At Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we journey to the bottom of 100-square-mile Ngorongoro Crater, where we have our only chance to see all of Africa’s “Big Five” – elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard – in one place. Finally, at Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara, we may see wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles in one of the largest migrations in the world, depending on the season.

Tanzania Adventure

Odysseys employee Elizabeth B. captured a photo of migrating zebra while traveling on Tanzania Adventure alongside our guests.

We deep-dive into Tanzania’s tranquil riches, abundant wildlife, exquisite landscapes, and diverse cultures on Tanzania Adventure. While on safari in Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and Serengeti National Park, we look for waterbuck, zebras, giraffes, flamingos, monkeys, wildebeest, Cape buffalos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, gazelles, rhinos, elands, and birdlife. Again, if you happen to travel during the migratory season (January–February and June–October), you may witness one of the world’s largest migrations as some 1.3 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelles journey to new grazing lands between the Serengeti and Masai Mara.

Southern Africa Odyssey

An on-tour photo of the rare black rhinoceros, spotted by a guest during our Southern Africa Odyssey tour.

Though technically not one of our safari-focused tours, we still visit Chobe National Park while journeying through Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia on our Southern Africa Odyssey tour. While at Chobe, we embark on a morning game drive and an afternoon game cruise to search for game such as elephants, zebras, lions, hippos, giraffes, impalas, wildebeest, and Cape buffalos. And for those looking for even more wildlife, our optional post-tour extension to Kruger includes five guided game drives to look for Africa’s “Big Five” in Kapama Private Game Reserve.

South America

Machu Picchu to the Galapagos

Odysseys guest Jerry Pierce photographed this giant Galapagos tortoise on Machu Picchu to the Galapagos.

The Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands close to the equator, are home to a wealth of unique creatures. During our four-night stay at Galapagos National Park, we explore several of these islands via our privately chartered yacht. A naturalist guides our nature walks while we search for wildlife such as land and marine iguanas, bright orange Sally Lightfoot crabs, tropical birds, and sea lions. We also visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the giant Galapagos tortoises.

Patagonian Frontiers & Patagonia Explorer

A photo of Magellanic penguins captured by Odysseys traveler Noel Isaac while traveling on Patagonian Frontiers.

On both of these adventures, we explore Patagonia, the southernmost tip of South America. On our journey – by land on Patagonia Explorer and partially by small-ship cruise on Patagonian Frontiers – we may see some of the sea lions and seals that play on the beaches. On both tours, we also visit Magdalena Island, home to an immense colony of more than 120,000 Magellanic penguins; and stay in Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most unspoiled and beautiful nature preserves on the planet. While here, we are sure to see some of the park’s 106 bird species and 26 mammal species.

Costa Rica’s Natural Heritage

A mama sloth and her baby photographed by guest Mary Moores on Costa Rica’s Natural Heritage.

Pristine volcanic landscapes, diverse tropical rainforests, and other unique microbiomes await in the “living Eden” of Costa Rica. We experience some of this country’s animal life when we explore Ecocentro Danaus, a biological reserve focused on conservation, environmental education, and sustainability. A series of trails winds through the secondary forest, where we see some of the preserve’s 150 species of birds, sloths, and bats, among other fauna. Highlights include a butterfly farm with 30 different species and a natural water spring that attracts waterfowl, alligators, and iguana. We also visit the Monteverde Bat Jungle to learn about the importance of the bat population, and enjoy Monteverde’s delightful butterfly garden, home to the stunning blue morpho and the virtually transparent glasswing. Finally, in the Palo Verde region, we embark on a float safari where we can expect to see abundant bird- and wildlife, including monkeys, iguanas, and cayman.

North America

Untamed Alaska

Guest Vicki Schnitzer photographed this adorable resident of Iditarod kennel on our Untamed Alaska tour.

Alaska, too, hosts diverse wildlife within its varied landscapes. At Denali National Park, one of our first tour highlights, we take a day drive with a naturalist guide to view some of the dramatic scenery. Along our walks in the park, we may see moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. Another highlight is our visit to the Iditarod sled dog kennel, where adorable husky puppies train to become working sled dogs. Finally, we embark on a wildlife cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park to look for grizzly bears, mountain goats, moose, otters, porpoises, sea lions, seals, and whales.


Exploring Australia & New Zealand

We see koalas while touring Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney, Australia on our Exploring Australia & New Zealand tour.

One of many highlights on our Exploring Australia & New Zealand tour is our visit to the Great Barrier Reef; we can view the reef’s coral, fish, and other marine life by swimming, snorkeling, or boarding a semi-submersible vessel. Wombats, dingoes, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and a variety of native birds reside in Sydney’s Featherdale Wildlife Park, and we are offered a guided tour to spot as many as we can. Next, in the town of Geraldine, we see sheepdogs in action at a local farm. Finally, in New Zealand, we visit Paradise Valley Springs, a popular showcase of flora, fauna, and birdlife, and also tour the National Kiwi Trust, which rehabilitates injured kiwi birds.


Mystical India

A majestic Bengal tiger, which we might spot while staying in Ranthambore National Park in India on our Mystical India tour.

On our tour of India, we spend two nights in Ranthambore National Park. The former hunting grounds of the Maharajah of Jaipur, Ranthambore is now a 512-square-mile nature preserve (one of India’s largest) that is home to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals, and of course, Bengal tigers. One of India’s best known national parks, Ranthambore belongs to India’s groundbreaking Project Tiger, dedicated to preserving and protecting the once-plentiful Royal Bengal tigers that roamed the land.  

Southeast Asia Odyssey

Odysseys guest, and Steven's Mom (!), interacting with Asian elephants on our Southeast Asia Odyssey tour, photographed by Odysseys employee Steven C.

Luang Prabang in Laos is home to a community-based elephant sanctuary, which we visit on this tour. The sanctuary supports the survival of elephants by giving them a safe and secure home away from abusive work conditions and poachers. The Asian elephants that live here are slightly different from African elephants, as they are typically smaller in size, don’t have tusks, and have smaller ears and a two-domed head.


Discovering Provence

Pont de Gau Ornithological Reserve is known for its pink flamingos, as we see on our Discovering Provence tour.

Europe offers ample opportunity to see thousands of species of wildlife, as evidenced by France’s Camargue region of vast plains, wetlands, lakes, and lagoons, which we visit on our Discovering Provence tour. Our sightseeing takes us to the Pont de Gau Ornithological Reserve in the heart of the Camargue Regional Natural Park. We’re likely to see the pink flamingos for which the park is known, as well as many species of heron, birds of prey, and seasonal migratory birds.

Exploring Iceland

Odysseys employee Eleanor W. had the opportunity to get up close to an Icelandic horse on our Exploring Iceland tour.

On our 11-day journey through Iceland, we stop at a Gauksmyri farm to see the famed Icelandic horses – small, hardy creatures with long manes who are bred for working on farms and ranches. First brought to Iceland by the Vikings in 800 CE, the unique variety of horse has only been bred with other Icelandic horses to maintain their unique characteristics. Depending on the season, we may also embark on a bird-watching cruise to Puffin Island, where we can see thousands of seabirds, including puffins, black guillemots, fulmars, and Arctic terns. Alternatively, on departures that visit after the puffins have migrated (typically in August), we take a whale-watching cruise to look for porpoises and whales.

Scotland: Highlands and Islands

Border collies demonstrating their sheepherding abilities on our Scotland: Highlands and Islands tour, photographed by Tour Director Susan Brown.

Sheep outnumber people in Scotland, as we learn when we stop in Kincraig to watch a sheepdog demonstration with working border collies. The energetic and athletic collies rank among the smartest of canines and are known for their herding abilities, and we get a firsthand demonstration of this while watching their handlers put them through their paces.

Eager to see some of these animals for yourself? Contact us to make your reservation on one of these tours today. We would love to welcome you on a small group journey!

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