In this blog post, we weave together the delight of exploring diverse cultures worldwide with the wonder of witnessing wild animals in their natural habitats. Join us on a journey to discover where the prime spots are to observe the safari superstars and learn how you can support the conservation of these remarkable animals.
Seeing The Big 5: Safaris
If the idea of encountering the awe-inspiring Big Five—lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos—fills you with excitement, then Africa is the ultimate destination for you! Immerse yourself in the thrill of a safari, surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes and remarkable wildlife that define the unique charm of this continent.
Consider the Big Five as the rock stars of the animal kingdom, each showcasing its distinctive charisma. Whether it's the playful antics of elephants or the stealthy grace of leopards, every moment promises an opportunity to craft lasting memories. Africa is a magical animal playground, inviting you to experience an extraordinary connection with nature.
Recommended Best Safari Destinations:
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya -
Famously known for the annual Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest and other herbivores traverse the plains, the Masai Mara is also home to the Big Five. The reserve’s open savannahs provide an ideal backdrop for unforgettable safari experiences, dotted with acacia trees and crossed by the Mara River.
- Kruger National Park, South Africa -
Kruger National Park beckons not only for the thrilling pursuit of the Big Five but also because there is a wealth of other mammal species such as warthogs, ostriches, zebras, hyenas, cheetahs and many smaller animals like otters, mongeese and shrews. With encompassing diverse landscapes, from savannahs and woodlands to rivers and mountains, Kruger is a biodiversity hotspot.
- Madikwe Safari, South Africa -
This lesser-known gem stands out for its exclusivity, offering a more private and intimate setting compared to larger reserves. The diverse landscapes of Madikwe, ranging from open plains to dense woodlands, host a remarkable array of wildlife, including rare and endangered species such as African wild dogs and cheetahs as well as the Big Five. Birdwatchers will be captivated by the park's avian diversity, with over 340 species gracing the skies.
Can you do safari on a budget?
Yes! You can take part in the safari experience no matter the budget. To keep costs down, travel during the low/green seasons in Africa, this tends to be the rainy period which is usually between November to April, depending on the destination.
Another travelling on a budget tip is opting for a tented camp instead of a luxurious safari lodge, which not only provides an authentic and budget-friendly African safari experience but brings the romantic allure of sleeping under canvas amidst the African bush. Don't worry about roughing it out; many tented safari camps come equipped with modern amenities such as flush toilets, warm showers, cosy beds, and even inviting swimming pools, ensuring you have a comfortable and immersive adventure in the heart of the wild.
Unique Experiences to get Close to Wild Animals:
1. Elephant Safari Udawalawe National Park - Sri Lanka
Udawalawe National Park is a haven for elephants. Spotting a group of majestic elephants is not just a rare sight; it's practically a daily show. Herds gather at the waterholes for a cosy bath or snack, making even the shortest safaris a treat. With about 600 to 700 of these lovely elephants in the park, you're in for an amazing, unforgettable experience with both the grown-ups and the cute little ones in their natural playground.
In case you're wondering about the elephant population on the whole island, according to the Ministry of Agriculture 2023, the wild elephant count in Sri Lanka is 7,000, though wildlife conservationists propose that the actual figure could be significantly lesser. Sadly, our Sri Lankan Elephant friends are a bit under threat. So, every sighting is a reminder of the importance of cherishing and protecting these gentle giants!
Recommended stay nearby: Banyan Camp.
2. Kinabatangan River - Borneo, Malaysia
The Kinabatangan River in Borneo, Malaysia, is a wildlife haven where you can encounter an incredible array of creatures! From the charismatic proboscis monkeys swinging through the trees to the wise and elusive orangutans, lively gibbons, and charming Bornean pygmy elephants, this river is a treasure trove of biodiversity.
But that's not all – keep your eyes peeled for the stealthy crocodiles, freshwater sharks, and the playful Irrawaddy dolphins that call this remarkable ecosystem home.
The Kinabatangan River is more than just a waterway; it’s full of diverse life waiting to be explored! Navigate the river by boat tours, and get up close to the wildlife without disturbing their natural behaviour. No matter the budget, there are so many amazing opportunities to experience the Kinabatangan River.
3. Turtle Hatchery - Lankayan Island, Malaysia.
Lankayan is proudly home to The Reef Guardian, a dedicated marine protection NGO committed to safeguarding the coral reefs surrounding the neighbouring islands from various threats, including those posed by climate change and practices like drag-net fishing.
The organisation plays a crucial role in creating a haven for sea turtles, tirelessly patrolling the area around the clock to ensure the safety of nests. Even though marine turtles are legally protected in Malaysia, sadly, their eggs don't enjoy the same protection. Any eggs not bought by the hatchery end up being sold as food in the local markets by turtle hunters. It's a reminder of the importance of the work they do to ensure these little ones have a chance to thrive!
Once the turtle eggs hatch, the attentive staff promptly escorts the hatchlings to the beach for a heartwarming release into the sea, all while keeping a watchful eye out for any opportunistic birds eyeing a turtle snack.
Even if you miss the thrill of witnessing hatching, the chances are high that you'll encounter some wild turtles gracefully swimming near the seabed. Additionally, you have the unique opportunity to contribute to their conservation efforts by adopting a nest, providing essential funding for the commendable work carried out by this charity in the heart of Borneo.
4. Wild Penguins - Boulders Beach, South Africa
Boulders Beach in Simon's Town, South Africa—a genuine penguin paradise where you're invited to the ultimate wildlife hangout! Step into this charming coastal haven, a scene that could easily be plucked from a postcard. And guess what steals the spotlight? The penguins themselves!
What makes this encounter even more special is that these African penguins are cool with humans, creating an intimate experience against the backdrop of a picturesque setting. But hold on, it's not just about the penguins; the views of the surrounding landscape are downright breathtaking. Whether on a family-friendly adventure or just soaking in some good vibes in nature, Boulders Beach offers it all.
You'll also get a front-row seat to witness incredible efforts protecting these fascinating birds and their homes. But before you dive in, a friendly reminder to show some love by playing by the rules. No touching or feeding the penguins—let's keep it respectful and wild in the best possible way.
For all you nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts out there, mark this destination as a must-visit on your list. It's an invitation to experience the cosy, charming, and wild side of Boulders Beach!
5. Orca Kayak Tours - Vancouver Island, Canada
Embarking on an orca kayaking adventure off the breathtaking coast of Vancouver Island is like setting sail into a magical realm where the ocean unveils its most enchanting secrets. Picture yourself gliding through the pristine waters of the Johnstone Strait, surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It's not just kayaking; it's a dance with the ocean's royalty—the majestic orcas.
The recommended time to visit is between May and September, aligning perfectly with the arrival of the northern resident orcas as they search for the best salmon feasts. But fear not, this isn't just any kayaking trip; it's an adventure led by experienced sea guides who decode the language of the orcas.
As you paddle through the waves, you'll find yourself in a living, breathing masterpiece of nature, with its salty breeze and the occasional fin breaking the surface like a nod of acknowledgement from the sea giants.
Be prepared for a show—the kind that leaves you in awe of the natural wonders. So, pack your sense of wonder, don your adventurer's cap, and get ready for an orca kayaking escapade that not only thrills your senses but also leaves a sprinkle of stardust on your soul.
Check out El Camino Bracelets co-founder Candace's whale watching trip in Newfoundland, on the east coast of Canada.
6. Gorilla Trekking - Uganda, Africa
Gorilla Trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, though it's on the pricier side. Nestled in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site hosting over half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas, this rare experience lets you intimately engage with these gentle giants in their natural habitat.
Guided by seasoned experts, you'll trek through dense jungles, encountering gorilla families thriving in their native surroundings. Their sheer size and strength are awe-inspiring, yet their gentle nature shines through in the wild. It's an unforgettable opportunity leaving a spark of magic in the memories of those fortunate enough to partake.
Beyond the captivating gorilla trek, explore the stunning Bwindi Impenetrable National Park—a sanctuary for diverse wildlife, including colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, and over 300 bird species. The adventure extends to visits to nearby villages, offering insights into local culture and traditions, enriching your experience with the region's unique tapestry. Get ready for an adventure that not only captures your heart but adds a touch of sparkle to your travel tales.
7. Shark Cage Diving - Cape Town, South Africa
Set against the backdrop of stunning coastal scenery of Cape Town, South Africa, the Shark Cage Diving expedition is a heart-pounding encounter with one of the ocean's most magnificent predators—the great white shark.
This experience offers a thrilling encounter with these fascinating creatures from the safety of a secure cage submerged in the frigid waters. The churning sea, the rush of adrenaline, and the awe-inspiring sight of the great white sharks circling the cage create a surreal underwater spectacle. It's a chance to witness the raw power and elegance of these fascinating creatures up close, leaving adventurers with lasting memories of a truly exhilarating marine adventure.
El Camino’s Animal Steps showcases the amazing creatures you've either crossed paths with or are eager to meet during your adventures. Whether it's tropical wildlife or the majestic beings of the sea, our love for all animals shines through. Keep an eye on this collection because it's always expanding.
And the coolest thing? We're giving back! A solid 10% of every sale goes straight to the World Land Trust, backed by none other than Sir David Attenborough. This awesome conservation charity is on a mission to safeguard wildlife habitats worldwide. So, when you reminisce about your experiences with our collection, you're also making a difference by supporting this fantastic initiative.