In Travel

Into The Wild: Seriously Luxe Wildlife Experiences Around The World

A luxury holiday in the wild might seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but it is in fact possible. And becoming more and more of a travel trend.

From sharing breakfast in a luxury manor with Rothschild giraffe to spending a weekend on the UAE’s secret safari island, here are some of the most incredible wildlife encounters to be had. All in sumptuous surroundings, of course.

Breakfast with giants at Giraffe Manor

Image: Giraffe Manor / Facebook

A stay at Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor means you won’t have to travel anywhere to see the local wildlife – they’ll come to you. The stately home harks back to 1930s elegance – with all the modern creature comforts – and is set on a private estate of 12 acres surrounded by indigenous forests.

The bucket-list experience here? Breakfast. Rise and shine at 6:30am every morning for fresh pastries, fruit platters and… grass, which isn’t actually for you, but for the resident herd of seven Rothschild giraffe who poke their necks through the windows of the sunroom each morning for a feed.

If you choose to spend your entire stay at the Manor there’s plenty to entertain, including lawn games, gardens prime for exploring, a sun-drenched terrace to catch up on reads with a drink in hand, and a day visit to the nearby David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where you can meet (and even adopt) a baby elephant or two.

An island safari on Sir Bani Yas

Sir Bani Yas Island is surely one of the UAE’s best-kept secrets. A 25-minute boat ride from mainland Abu Dhabi will have you setting foot on Sir Bani Yas Island, named for the Bani Yas tribe who inhabited Abu Dhabi some 250 years ago. The tiny island is home to an incredible 36 archaeological sites, but the real stars of the show are the resident wildlife, including Arabian Oryx, gazelles, a pair of elusive cheetah and five giraffe, affectionately named the ‘Burj Khalifas’ of Sir Bani Yas.

There are three accommodation offerings on the island, including the centrally located Desert Islands Resort & Spa, and the beachside vibes of Al Yamm Villa Resort. But for a truly immersive experience, check into a private villa at Al Sahel Villa Resort, set in the heart of the wildlife sanctuary.

Start your mornings with a game drive around the island (don’t forget the camera), then spend your day exploring the island by bike, kayaking through the mangroves, trying your hand at archery, hitting the spa or enjoying the savannah views from the plunge pool of your villa – provided the local guinea fowl or gazelle haven’t got there first.

An up-close with gorillas in the mist  

Image: One&Only Gorilla’s Nest / supplied

If an up-close encounter with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda has been collecting dust on the top of your bucket list, the new One&Only Gorilla’s Nest will help you tick it off. This luxury resort opens it’s doors next month; a safari-inspired boutique offering tucked away at the foot of the Virunga Volcano Range. The only thing that could upstage the luxury lodging – and awe-inspiring views – is a meeting with the locals who call these surroundings home.

Gorilla trekking in these parts is limited each day and requires a permit. The staff are happy to arrange your permit for you, so that you can take a guided hike up the terraced volcanic slopes to the home of the gorillas (who are free-roaming, so the duration of the hike depends on how quickly you come across them).

The journey is as rewarding as the destination, with incredible jungle surrounding you with every step and a chance to spot local monkeys and exotic birdlife along the way.

The only way to relive those muscles post-hike is an exclusive 75-minute Post Trek & Travel treatment at the resort spa, which comprises an energy-resorting massage and a hearty meal at the on-site restaurant.

A frozen voyage to Antarctica

If wintry wildlife adventures float your boat, then you can hop on a five-star one for a cruise to the end of the earth – Antarctica, to be precise. This luxury Antarctica & Chile: The Frozen Voyage tour begins in bustling Santiago before you hop on a plane to swap city views for the polar landscapes of the South Shetland Islands (keep your camera handy for the sweeping aerial views).

From there its on board the Magellan Explorer to better get up close to the perpetual winter landscape of icy fjords and icecap dotted ocean, which can be seen from the floor-to-ceiling windows of your private suite and from all the common areas onboard.

Of course, you’ve also come for the wildlife: there are penguins aplenty, as well as leopard seals and, if you’re lucky, gentle giant humpbacks.

A witness of the Great Migration in the Serengeti

The Great Migration is more an experience than an event. Africa’s highest concentration of wildlife – some 1.5 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras – make tracks for rainy landscapes of the Serengeti. The peak time to see these creatures in Tanzania is between February and March.

How does witnessing it all from your moving doorstep sound? With a herd on the move you’ll want to maximise your wildlife watching, and AndBeyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas experience is one of the best ways to do it. This mobile luxury camp moves five times during the season as the herd does, so you can spot game and witness the circle of life in action from your private tent.

Of course, this is luxury camping, so each day of wildlife spotting ends with drinks and dinner under the stars and a good night’s sleep in a hotel-worthy bed. Bliss.

A lesson on evolution on the Galápagos

wildlife experiences

Image: Abercrombie & Kent / supplied

If you want wildlife bang for your buck, Galápagos is it. Some 4,000 species call the islands home, with almost half seen nowhere else on earth. For once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounters, it doesn’t get more unique than here.

To save yourself the hassle of multiple flights to the islands, it’s easier to cruise in style. Abercrombie & Kent’s six-night odyssey maximises your island time with twice-daily shore excursions to come face to face with land iguanas, giant tortoises and curious blue-footed boobies, not to mention the unique marine life that thrive beneath the surface.

Each night you’ll come back onboard La Pinta to enjoy fine dining, luxury lodging and onboard activities such as stargazing.

(Lead image: Giraffe Manor / Facebook) 

Published 23 October, 2019