The budding David Attenborough’s will probably already know this, but for those that don’t: World Wildlife Day is on the 3rd of March. So we thought, what better way of celebrating than giving you the down-low on one of the most amazing regions for spotting wildlife… the captivating and inspiring lands of South America!
Whether you’re into giant cats, swimming lizards of funny-sounding birds, South America does not disappoint. Here’s a rundown of the most naturally-diverse islands, highlands and jungles:
The Amazon Jungle
Unsurprisingly, there is a bucketlist-load of wildlife in the Amazon. After all, the jungle is massive. It’s a living encyclopaedia of tree-hugging creepy crawlies, hairy swingers, cold-hearted reptiles and more. Pick one of the nine countries it covers, lather yourself in repellent and get exploring. Most tours include canoe-based bird-spotting, night walks and indigenous community visits.
Wildlife: Jaguars, sloths, river dolphins, toucans, giant otters.
9-day tour: Ecuador – Amazon, Hot Springs & Volcanoes
Galapágos Islands, Ecuador
Darwin’s home away from home, Galapágos is a fragile ecosystem of rare creatures like centenarian tortoises, seaweed-loving iguanas, pocket-sized penguins, barking fur seals and more. Explore the islands by sailboat and keep your eyes peeled for dancing boobies. There’s also the option to camp on some of the islands but you may have to fight the local residents for a pitching spot.
Wildlife: Galapágos tortoises, marine iguanas, humpback whales, Galapágos penguins, blue-footed boobies.
7-day tour: Galapágos Island Hopping
The Pantanal, Brazil
The Pantanal is like the Amazon without all the jungle clutter. The open marshes make it easy to spot wildlife. It’s the largest wetland in the world and spans three countries. Opt to go horseback riding, fishing, hiking or go on a night safari in search of caiman, capybara and, if you’re really lucky, jaguars – not the ones with leather seats and CD players.
Wildlife: Capybaras, giant anteaters, jaguars, armadillos, caimans.
23-day tour: Uruguay, Pantanal & the Falls
Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
Patagonia’s national parks may get a bit brass monkeys but it doesn’t deter nature’s steelier sorts. The wild empty spaces are huge, big enough to swing a puma, not that you’d want to. Time your trip right and you might be in with a chance of seeing orcas and the endangered Southern Right whale. Failing that, there’s always a pecker on show. Woodpeckers, you can see woodpeckers.
Wildlife: Pumas, King penguins, Elephant seals, Southern Right whales, Patagonian horses.
14-day tour: Discover Patagonia
9-day tour: Explore Chile & Argentina
Manú National Park, Peru
Lowland jungles, cloud forests and Andean highlands, Manú National Park is defined as both a Biosphere Reserve and a World Natural Heritage Site. Due to its inaccessibility, it’s relatively progressive in preservation and is one of the best places in the world to spot wildlife. There are options for camping, night walks, river trips, canopy adventures, and indigenous community visits.
Wildlife: Giant otters, jaguars, capybaras, pumas, Squirrel monkeys.
17-day tour: Backroads and Highlands of Peru