There are plenty of faraway places rich with wildlife from the unique species of the Galapagos Islands to the impressive stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. Finding wildlife in exotic destinations is a doddle, the trick is finding wildlife encounter opportunities a bit closer to home, which is why we have created this list to help you out. With our top European destinations for a wildlife encounter, you’ll be booking tour guides and buying your diving gear in no time.
The Farne Islands
Situated off the north-eastern coast of the UK in Northumberland, The Farne Islands are scattered a couple of miles off the coast and are thriving with nature. During the summer around 23 species of birds flock to the islands for breeding, including ‘aww’ inducing colourful puffins. Perhaps the most popular visitors to the islands though are the fluffy seal pups that turn up in late October. Those keen on diving can even get a close-up encounter- and your profile photo for life –with an underwater experience. But if you’re used to more tropical diving conditions, it’s perhaps best to opt for a booking in the summer!
Only a short flight from the UK, Finland is filled with untouched forests home to a wide variety of wildlife. Hidden in the woods you can find everything from beavers and red squirrels to brown bears and wolves, so perhaps not the best idea to head out into the woods alone! Kajaani is one of the best places in Finland to go bear watching where you can do so from the safety of a specially built hide. If you’d prefer the chance for an even more intimate encounter you can go on one of the local hikes and tours. Just keep an ear out for growling…
Austria’s wetlands and grasslands are home to a wide variety of birds beneath the Alps. Grab your binoculars and head off into the heart of Austria to spot eagles, woodpeckers and storks as well as numerous other birds. If you prefer to keep an eye out for larger furry friends- and can keep pretty quiet- the forests are where you are likely to find wild boar and deer.
A handful of whale species cling to the Icelandic coast as well as a number of other friendly sea mammals. Whale watching is even offered in the Capital Reykjavik, meaning you can combine a city break with some breath-taking wildlife experiences! Porpoises and dolphins are regular visitors while blue whales and orcas can also be spotted by a lucky few in springtime.
(Please note: Lots of blankets and plenty of memory on your camera are recommended for an afternoon of whale watching. Tea helps too.)
Not necessarily the first country that springs to mind when you think of seeking out a wildlife encounter, but Spain is actually thriving with fascinating flora and fauna, with a number of endangered species too. Spain is a great place to see wild cats such as the Iberian lynx as well as other protected Iberian animals including the Iberian wild boar and the Iberian wolf. If you choose your timing well, you could even work on that tan while animal-spotting!
With all these opportunities so close to home, it’s easy to swap the latest wildlife documentary for the real thing. Okay so you won’t have the soothing overtones of David Attenborough, but nothing compares to seeing wildlife up close and personal! Even David would agree. What’s your favourite wildlife experience? Let us know by commenting below.