With the thawing of winter in many parts of the world, animals and humans alike are starting to wake up and get outside. Members of VirtualTourist.com, a leading travel website, compiled a list of the "Top 10 Places to See Animals in the Wild." This list has not been endorsed by Reuters:
1. Serengeti National Park - Tanzania
Northern Tanzania provides more opportunities to see large numbers of animals in the wild than possibly any other spot in the world. Both Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area are prime spots to see animals in the wild, and both are famous for spotting the "big five," a phrase coined by hunters in Africa referring to lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, and rhinoceros.
A lioness walks at Serengeti's National Park, northern Tanzania. AFP
2. Bandhavgarh National Park - Madhya Pradesh, India
Tigers are an animal many travelers would love to see, but unfortunately, the endangered species is increasingly rare. According to the WWF, there are only approximately 3,200 wild tigers with the largest population, the Bengal tiger, found primarily in India. Since 1993, the park has been considered a tiger reserve so it has the highest density of tigers in India, making it likely you'll spot one during your visit.
Royal Bengal Tiger tries to grabs a wooden stick in a pool. AFP
3. Kangaroo Island - South Australia
Only 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) off the South Australian mainland, Kangaroo Island is a great site for seeing all kinds of animals. Although there is animal activity on Kangaroo Island year round, two times of year provide special sights. In the Australian summer (December to February), kangaroos and wallabies can be seen at dawn and dusk. In Australian winter (June to August), kangaroo and wallaby joeys (babies) start to emerge from the mother's pouch and feed alongside them, and southern right whales pass along the island's shores during their migration from Antarctic waters.
A baby kangaroo peers out of its mother's pouch. AFP
4. Katmai National Park and Preserve - Southwestern Alaska, USA
One of the greatest locations in the Northern hemisphere to observe animals is in the Alaskan wilderness. While there are a great variety of animals to be found in the Southwest area of Alaska, visitors to Katmai National Park and Preserve are usually on the lookout for brown bears. According to the park's website, the brown bear population at Katmai National Park was recently estimated at over 2,100. Since there is no road access to the King Salmon, the park headquarters, visitors must fly into the park.
A pair of brown bears play in a pond at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. AFP
5. Parc Omega - Montebello, Quebec, Canada
The park is located in Montebello, about 132 km (82 miles) from Montreal and only 81 km (50 miles) from Ottawa, making it a great stop for visitors to either region who'd like to see some Canadian wildlife. A 10 km (6.2 mile) driving path is open year round and a great idea for families. By tuning your radio to 88.1 FM, you can learn more about the animals and the habitat during that time of year. From the safety of a vehicle, visitors will see bison, elk, black bears, red deer, and both timber and arctic wolves.
An Artic white wolf strolls in the woods. AFP
6. Volcans National Park - Rwanda
High in the mountains of Volcans National Park in Rwanda, 18 mountain gorilla groups reside, 10 of which can be visited by tourists. Since permits are required to visit the groups, apply well in advance, especially if you plan on visiting during a peak time. Another thing to take into consideration: since groups range in their location, visiting one group might only take a short walk through a forest, but another group might be saddled with an hour and a half trek through dense growth.
A silverback mountain gorilla looks on. AFP
7. Kruger National Park - South Africa
Encompassing 2 million hectares and straddling two different regions of South Africa, Kruger National Park is one of the most famous places in the world to see wildlife in action. One unique aspect of Kruger is that it's a self-drive game park, meaning visitors can pick up clearly illustrated maps at every entrance to the park and navigate for themselves, taking their time and stopping whenever they want. However, if you want a guided tour, there are game walks and drives, hikes, and even mountain bike routes for exploring the park. The South African winter months, from May to September, are best for game viewing since the grass is low, making it easier to spot game.
A giraffe in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa. AFP
8. Osa Peninsula & Tortuguero National Park - Costa Rica
Few places are both accessible and filled with tropical wildlife, so Costa Rica is an easy bet for some great wildlife sightings, especially if you are traveling from North or South America. Tortuguero National Park is also a sanctuary for nesting sea turtles. Although the green turtle is the primary focus, hawksbill and leatherback turtles are also tagged and counted by the conservation corporation.
A green turtle (Chelonia Mydas) enters the sea. AFP
9. Punta Tombo - Chubut Province, Argentina
Along with the majestic nature that visitors can experience while visiting Patagonia, there are some unique opportunities to see animals. Punta Tombo, located on the Argentine Sea in Chubut Province, is the best place to see Magellan Penguins within continental Patagonia. With more than a million and a half Magellan Penguins arriving to Punta Tombo every year to breed, you are bound to see quite a few. Though the first penguins arrive in September and stay at Punta Tombo until mid-March, the recommended time to visit for optimal viewing is after November once the babies are born.
Megallen penguins play in water. AFP
10. Hol Chan Marine Reserve - Near Ambergris Caye, Belize
Only a short 20 minute boat ride from Ambergris Caye, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is one of the best places to snorkel in all of the Caribbean. Numerous snorkel and scuba aficionados remark that it is incredibly rare to see such a variety of wild fish in such shallow water, since most of the reserve is only six to ten feet deep. There is an area called Shark Ray Alley famous for its number of nurse sharks in the shallow eight feet water.
Nurse shark seen underwater. AFP