The world's best wildlife cruises - Cruise International

The world's best wildlife cruises

By Sara Macefield | 13 Nov 2014

Fancy seeing bears, elephants and more in their natural habitat? A cruise can get you closer to some of the world’s rarest species. Sara Macefield selects the best wildlife cruises for the year ahead

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Ice Breaker

The remote Norwegian archipelago Svalbard, of which Spitsbergen is the main island, is the perfect setting to view polar bears in their natural habitat. As this region is only accessible by ship during summer, it is an ideal time to spot the so-called Kings of the Arctic as they roam the beautiful dramatic landscape hunting for food. Visitors may also glimpse Arctic foxes and hares, along with sea life that includes whales and walruses, plus a rich variety of birdlife.

Quark Expeditions offers a nine-day Polar Bear Safari sailing from £4,200pp, excluding flights. The round-trip sailing from Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen, departs on 15 June 2017 (quarkexpeditions.com).

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Into The Deep

St Helena, a tiny island floating in the South Atlantic, boasts a profusion of marine life and birdlife thanks to its temperate climate. At 1,200 miles from the coast of Africa, it is one of the most remote places on earth, and is most famous as the island where Napoleon spent his last years in exile. While there are no native mammals on St Helena, the surrounding waters contain at least 10 endemic species of fish, along with humpback whales and various species of dolphin. The island’s national bird is the wirebird, the only remaining endemic bird species, though others that can be spotted include canaries, doves, partridges and various seabirds.

RMS St Helena offers regular sailings from Cape Town to St Helena, with a 10-night return voyage departing 25 July (rms-st-helena.com).

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Go Ape

Discover the secrets of the extraordinary island of Borneo, which contains swathes of untouched jungle and is home to half the world’s known plant and animal species. Cruise passengers turn explorers as they venture into remote jungle by foot and by boat and encounter exotic wildlife, such as orangutans, clouded leopards and Malayan sun bears. The Tanjung Puting National Park is the home of the Orangutan Foundation International rehabilitation centre.

Oceania Cruises offers a 35-day voyage from Beijing to Sydney, departing on 4 April 2018, which calls at Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in Malaysian Borneo, from £8,289pp, including flights (oceaniacruises.com).

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Birds of a Feather

Sail into a tropical world of wildlife wonders on a cruise along the Amazon River, where nature enchants visitors at every turn. Flocks of macaws (pictured) and parakeets put on colourful displays along with clouds of delicate butterflies, while spider monkeys swing through the thick tree canopy. Keep watch for the fearsome caiman and piranha fish that inhabit these waters, along with pink river dolphins and giant river otters. There is even a chance of spotting the fearsome Amazonian anaconda.

Titan offers a 13-day package, departing 28 September 2017, with a four-night sailing on board MV Galapagos, from £4,999pp. This includes flights, 13 excursions and UK airport transfer service (titantravel.co.uk/cruiseinternational).

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Whale Song

Baja California juts out into the Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California – renowned as the ‘world’s aquarium’ thanks to the rich profusion of marine life in its warm currents. Take a whale-watching trip through waters that are visited by countless species of migrating whales, seals, turtles and manta rays; or go bird-watching through Mexico’s largest wetlands environment to spot the likes of blue herons, sea hawks and osprey; and visit a turtle sanctuary where visitors can even help to launch a newly hatched baby turtle into the sea.

Holland America Line is offering a one-week Mexican Riviera round-trip sailing from San Diego on 7 October 2017, from £510pp, excluding flights (hollandamerica.com).

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Call of the Wild

Animals outnumber people in the US state of Alaska, which promises a feast of unforgettable wildlife-spotting opportunities. Caribou, moose and grey wolves roam; but it’s most famous for its population of black, brown and grizzly bears, and one of the most memorable sights is to watch them catching salmon in the rivers. The waters of the Pacific Ocean are famous for rich marine life, such as humpback whales, orcas and belugas, and sharp-eyed visitors can also spot seals, dolphins and sea otters.

Princess Cruises offers a one-week round-trip Inside Passage with Glacier Bay sailing from the dynamic city of Seattle that includes calls at Juneau and Skagway and cruising to Glacier Bay. From £659pp, excluding flights, departing 17 September 2017 (princess.com).

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March of the Penguins

Discover a little piece of Britain in the South Atlantic with the Falkland Islands, renowned for their bird life and vast colonies of penguins that range from comical rockhoppers and elusive macaronis to the majestic king (pictured) and inquisitive gentoo penguins. The islands are also home to the Falkland flightless steamer duck and more than 70 per cent of the world’s black-browed albatross. Antarctica is famous for its stunning landscapes, complemented by penguins and seals, millions of seabirds and waters inhabited by numerous species of whales, including humpback, minke and orca.

Leading small ship polar cruise company One Expeditions has a choice of 10- and 11-night itineraries designed to allow passengers to spend more time in Antarctica, with the added bonus of seeing King Penguins on the Falkland Islands on most departures (For more info go to oneoceanexpeditions.com).

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The Big

You can embrace your inner Attenborough on a cruise to the South African coast, visiting wildlife reserves to spot many of the Big Five: elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. From Richards Bay, cruisers can visit the Hluhluwe Game Reserve and the St Lucia Wetlands Park, now known as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, with more than 500 species of bird including pelicans and waders, plus the biggest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in Africa. Port Elizabeth is close to the Addo Elephant Park, the country’s third-largest national park that is home to more than 600 elephants, plus hyenas, leopards and zebras.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines offers a 14-night Cape Town Cruise Safari, roundtrip from Cape Town departing 11 January 2018, from £1,699pp, excluding flights (fredolsencruises.com).

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Pink Flamingo

Cruising through the Galapagos Islands has to be the ultimate wildlife experience as the animals that reside in this Ecuadorian archipelago famously have no fear of humans. Here, you can swim with playful sea lions; meet the giant tortoises of the Charles Darwin Research Station; and get up close and personal with birds including flamingos, gulls, cormorants, penguins and boobies. Marine life is also varied with whales and dolphins regularly spotted in the waters around the islands.

Silversea offers a seven-night round-trip voyage from Baltra in the Galapagos. Flights are extra, but gratuities, excursions and drinks are included. (For more information, visit silversea.com).

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