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Appreciating our planet

World-Class Wildlife Experiences

In light of Earth Day, we’re going full David Attenborough on you with our top picks of the world’s ultimate wildlife experiences. For those who have been watching the new Netflix series, Our Planet, you’ll be well aware of our duty to look after planet Earth, the home that we share with so many other incredible creatures. In our book, part of awareness is experience. Whether you find a new-found love for elephants in Sri Lanka, get giddy for tigers in India, or go potty over pandas in China, one thing’s for sure, seeing these majestic animals at large will fill you with appreciation for Mother Nature and all that she does.

Tigers in India

Known for their impressive ochre colouring and signature stripes, the tiger is undoubtedly one of the world’s most iconic animals. Tragically, since the turn of the 20th century, we have seen their numbers fall a whopping 95%, meaning that they are now an endangered species. The likes of the Jungle Book’s Shere Khan may have made them seem a formidable, unstoppable, force to be reckoned with, but the destruction of this majestic mammal’s habitat has left the 3,900 tigers that remain in the wild struggling to retain their King of the Jungle status. It’s not all bad news though. Conservationists are working tirelessly to up these numbers and in the depths of India, helped by the protection of tiger reserves and national parks, circa 2,000 Bengal Tigers still prowl the forests. Ok, so the number isn’t huge, but it does mean that your chances of seeing a tiger in the wild here are fairly strong. And boy, what a moment. A heart thudding, time stopping experience to rival all others. You may not consider yourself to be much of an activist right now, but embark on our specially curated India Tiger itinerary and conservation will be key to all of your future decisions. Getting up close to the residents of Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks is nothing short of life changing. So, what are you waiting for? 

Pandas in China

With only 1,864 of them left in the wilds of their native, western China home, which is (quite shockingly) only 300 more than the number of pupils that attend the average London secondary school, pandas are officially a vulnerable species according to the World Wildlife Foundation. These distinctive black and white creatures have become a universal symbol for wildlife conservation since WWF’s beginnings back in 1961 – using a striking giant panda as their logo, they knew that they would soon have the backing of the masses. And is it any wonder why? We mean, who wouldn’t want to see these irresistibly cute creatures thrive? And that’s exactly what the researchers at the Chengdu Panda Base have committed to do; get this unique species thriving in the wild again. A non-profit breeding and research facility, housing nigh on 200 pandas in natural surrounds, the Panda Base is no zoo. A visit here – which can be done by simply adding ‘pandas’ onto your China Classic Itinerary – is a chance to see the real deal in person, whilst supporting a great cause. Home to an artificial insemination breeding centre, the hopes are to up the number of the species by releasing the pandas bred here back into the wild. There you were thinking that the only way you could see a panda would be to head up to Edinburgh Zoo, but those kind of unnaturally confined spaces aren’t really our thing here at Meraki Travel. If pandas are on your wildlife bucket-list, the ethical work of the Chengdu Panda Base is the only way forward – not a bad excuse for a trip of a lifetime, aye. 

Asian Elephants in Sri Lanka

When the question is asked, elephants tend to rate pretty highly on the the majority of people’s top ten animals. There’s just something about these gentle giants that has us captivated. From their well-tested intelligence to their matriarchal herds (these sisters are doing it for themselves), elephants can’t help but evoke admiration. Yet sadly, this hasn’t stopped their numbers from falling and with the turn of the 19th century seeing the number of Asian elephants in the wild roughly half, like so many before them, these beautiful creatures have made their way onto the endangered list. However, on the tiny island of Sri Lanka, you can still find around 4,000 of these mighty mammals. Recent changes mean that the Sri Lankan elephant is now protected by law and there are numerous national parks set up in the pursuit of wildlife conservation. For many people, the big draw to Sri Lanka is for that exact reason. Natural elephant sightings are all but guaranteed. Somewhat synonymous with the country, seeing an elephant for yourself just reiterates how important it is that we work to redirect the course of their future. If you want to add elephants to your bucket-list, Minneriya, Udawalawe and Yala national parks are Sri Lanka’s biggest names. A safari in Minneriya is a given on any Sri Lanka Classic itinerary, but opt to add the ‘nature’ route to your trip and you’ll be visiting all three, which means one thing and one thing only: elephants abound.  

Southern Right Whales in South Africa

South Africa’s renowned Big Five get a lot of press, but it’s not just on land that you’ll get to tick off those bucket-list wildlife experiences. Hit up Hermanus at the right time of year and you’ll catch one of the biggest names of the ocean at large. We’re talking whales. Southern Right to be exact. And finally, we can be the bearers of some good news: this whale species has been labelled as ‘least concern’ thanks to their population actually increasing. Phew. Migrating in their masses to the shores of South Africa to mate and calve from June to December every year, your chances of catching these creatures at play are pretty high. We don’t want to make guarantees, but all of us in the office who have visited during these months and been there, done that and gotten the t-shirt (and we all reminisced with big grins on our faces too). And although the Southern Rights make the headlines, you’ll also find Byrde and Humpback Whales breaching, tail-flipping and, quite attention-seekingly, spraying water off of this craggy coastline. Simply add Hermanus onto our South Africa Classic itinerary to pair the classic Big Five with the chance of spotting the Marine Big Five too. 

The Great Wildebeest Migration in East Africa

East Africa is the home of safari. The rolling savannahs of Tanzania and Kenya are what Big Five dreams are made of and as far as wildlife experiences go, it doesn’t get better than this. But to make the trip truly special – you know, for the real bragging rights – time a safari to coincide with the Great Migration. With 1.5 million wildebeest (as well as a whole host of other hoofed animals) making their way from the massive expanse of the Serengeti to the fertile lands of the Maasai Mara every summer, the event truly is a landscape transformed. River crossings are treacherous, big predators are in their element and you, well you’ll have trouble stopping your jaw dropping at the scenes. This is a chance to catch earth at its rawest. Little affected by human disruptions, this vividly displayed, natural circle of life quite literally is 'Our Planet' in true Attenborouesque form. Want to see it for yourself? Head to Tanzania from June to July and Kenya from August to September. The timeline isn’t guaranteed – this is nature after all – but a trip to East Africa is never going to be a trip wasted. We’re pretty sure that the plethora of wildlife calling this part of the world their home will keep you entertained.

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