• Katmai National Park and Preserve — Southwestern Alaska, United States. One of the greatest locations in the Northern hemisphere to observe animals is in the Alaskan wilderness. While a great variety of animals can be found in southwest Alaska, visitors to Katmai National Park and Preserve are usually on the lookout for brown bears. According to the park’s website, its brown bear population was recently estimated at more than 2,100.
Brown bears are particularly attracted to the salmon runs that occur at Brooks Falls during the summer, so a great time to spot them is from late June thru mid-July and September, although they can be present anytime between May and December. Since there is no road access to the King Salmon, the park headquarters, visitors must fly into the park.
In addition to hiking, kayaking, and observing the wildlife, Katmai National Park is a very popular spot for sport fishing.
• Parc Omega — Montebello, Quebec, Canada. Canada’s landscape provides ample wildlife viewing, but VirtualTourist members reported seeing great numbers of different animals at Parc Omega in the Province of Quebec. The park is located in Montebello, about 82 miles from Montreal and 50 miles from Ottawa. A 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. The park also provides walking and hiking trails that are protected and contain only non-aggressive animals.
• Volcans National Park — Rwanda. Only 850 mountain gorillas inhabit the world, and 300 of them live in a country as small as the state of Maryland. High in the mountains of Volcans National Park in Rwanda are 18 mountain gorilla groups, ten of which can be visited by tourists.
Permits are required to visit the groups, so VirtualTourist members suggest applying well in advance, especially if you plan on visiting during a peak time. Another consideration: Since groups range in their location, visiting one group might take only a short walk through a forest, but seeing another group might require a 1 1/2-hour trek through dense growth. However, members say that visiting the gorillas is an experience of a lifetime.
It’s also worth noting that it is a significantly shorter trek to their location in Rwanda than in the two other countries where they can be found, Uganda and Congo.
• Kruger National Park — South Africa. Encompassing almost 5 million acres 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. Along with the Serengeti, it is also one of the best locales for spotting the “Big Five.” One unique aspect of Kruger National Park is that it’s a self-drive game park, meaning visitors can pick up maps at every park entrance 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. VirtualTourist members also recommended at least one night drive or safari since some animals, like leopards, are nocturnal.