Listopedia: the best hotels for wildlife watching
From a tree house perched in the canopy of an ancient rainforest to a villa nestled in wilderness where the wild things roam, hotels come in all shapes and sizes. Expedia travellers are an outgoing bunch – whether you have a passion for supporting conservation tourism and the ethical treatment of animals or simply have a longing for a wild escape, check out this Listopedia of wildlife watching hotels.
Niraamaya – Cardamom Club, Thekkady, India
In a boutique villa nestled amidst acres of cardamom plantations, your window at the Niraamaya – Cardamon Club serves as a portal to the lives of the exotic wildlife that call the Thekkady region of Southern India their home.
This lush green jungle retreat lies adjacent to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Perriyar is 925 square km of protected habitat that’s home to an abundance of wildlife including the jungle cat, sloth bear, sambar, wild boar, langur, Indian elephant and 40 or so hard-to-spot tigers.
Trek the nearby hills and plantations, which are accessible from your doorstep – you’ll see the lost world of ancient India. Trails meander around tall and majestic trees, clouds hover low, vines hang from the canopy and the airwaves are filled with exotic chants from the diverse and colourful-feathered community that reside in the area.
In-between wildlife encounters, take an excursion to the local spice emporium or treat yourself to some Ayurvedic healing and rejuvenation at the onsite Niraamaya Spa.
Heron Island, off the Coast of Gladstone, Great Barrier Reef
Balmy island breezes, an entire island almost to yourself and the Great Barrier Reef at your doorstep; it doesn’t get much more idyllic than Heron Island. The Great Barrier Reef is perhaps the most spectacular place on earth for marine wildlife viewing, and the rooms at Heron put you just steps away from spectacular coral gardens, a diverse underwater eco system, migrating whales, manta rays, nesting turtles and exotic birdlife. The two greatest draw-cards of this protected habitat are that crowds are virtually non-existent and the reef is still pristine and untouched.
Even better, there’s no mobile phone reception and resort rooms are television free. Without the distraction of mod-cons, the emphasis of any Heron Island getaway is on enjoying the natural beauty and filling your days with discovery.
Every November turtles come to lay their eggs on the island and if you book a Beachside Suite for December then you can watch the hatchlings make their way to the water from the comfort of your balcony. Come June you may see whales passing by on their annual migration.
Nayara Hotel Spa & Gardens, Costa Rica
There are few places in the world where you can experience mountain vistas, ancient forests and volcanic landscapes – all while spotting the unique Costa Rica wildlife – from the comfort of your balcony or private plunge pool at Nayara.
The best way to ensure wildlife sightings in Costa Rica is to stay in the heart of the rainforest and Nayara Hotel Spa and Gardens lets you do just that. Parrots, monkeys, sloths, butterflies and tree frogs are all frequent guests of the garden and surrounding trees.
While there are plenty of natural habitats to explore onsite, other great ways to explore the offerings in the local region include ziplines, whitewater rafting, canyoning, guided treks, suspension bridges and other locally owned eco tours.
Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai
This Bedouin-inspired retreat rolls out an extraordinary mix of high quality hospitality with a passion for protecting the indigenous flora and fauna.
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve surrounding Al Maha is a protected sanctuary for the many species of animals, birdlife and flora that habitat the region. The Resort is activated in habitat rehabilitation programs and by staying at the resort, you’re supporting their conservation efforts.
Al Maha’s in-house Field Guides host wildlife drives, dune drives, nature walks plus the must-do excursion visiting the desert’s life-giving tree on the hotel’s signature Ghaf Tree Walk.
The natural habitat is home to numerous species of exotic wildlife, from oryx and sand gazelles to Arabian red fox and the Ethiopian hedgehog. As you explore the dune landscape you’ll spot delicate footprints of nocturnal gerbils and birds, along with an array of lizards and geckos. Overhead, stately birds fill the wide skies with their graceful flight and song. Expect to see ospreys, falcons, owls, eagles and colourful parakeets.
Nestled within the sandy dune and desert landscape, this oasis offers a place where one can rediscover the romance of Arabia.
Silky Oaks Lodge, Daintree, North QLD
The best way to see the animals of the ancient Daintree Rainforest is to spend time up in the canopy where many of them live. Staying in a tree house villa at Silky Oaks Lodge will give you a birds eye view of life up in the canopy. Keep your eyes peeled for tree kangaroos, butterflies, parrots and green possums. The rainforest dragons are also a frequent guest, you’ll find them basking in the sun on a mossy tree branch. Commonly known as the Boyd Forest Dragon, these quiet creatures are chameleons and can change their colour to blend in with their surrounding habitat.
Boardwalks weave through the resort, connecting many of the rooms and common areas and allowing guests to explore the Daintree rainforest without disturbing the ecosystem.
While life in the canopy is active, life on the forest floor is just as abundant – look out for the Cassowary, echidna, spotted quoll, tree frog, gecko, platypus and swamp wallaby.
Depending on your mood and energy levels, experience the local wildlife by taking part in the resort’s complimentary activities, from a guided Daintree discovery walk, mountain biking to canoeing the river.
Finch Bay Eco Hotel, Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands contain one of the most fascinating and pristine ecosystems
on the planet, offering a glimpse into an unchanged and prehistoric world. The 19 volcanic islands provide a fertile sanctuary for some of the most unique and endemic species, highly famed for up-close wildlife encounters that surpass even the best zoos.
While many travellers choose to enjoy the wildlife by boat, it’s also possible to have close encounters on foot with one of the naturalist land excursions that Finch Bay Eco Hotel offers its guests. Spotting Marine Iguanas, the giant tortoise, penguins, sea lions are all on the day trip menu.
Whether you’re snapping photos of giant tortoises in the misty highlands, snorkelling with playful sea lions in crystal-clear water or sunning yourself on volcanic rock next to prehistoric-looking marine iguanas, the variety of day excursions available at Finch Bay Hotel is guaranteed to exceed your wildest of expectations.
Ngoma Safari Lodge in Botswana
The thrill of quietly watching a herd of elephants wander by while sipping tea on your private balcony is the unforgettable stuff that dreams are made of.
When you stay at the luxurious Ngoma Safari Lodge, located on the Chobe River, you’ll have ample opportunities to spot big game and wild birds.
The Chobe Region of Botswana is probably the most famous African wildlife-watching destination in the world. And no wonder – it’s almost impossible to exaggerate the sheer spectacle of an eco-system that’s been providing inspiration for conservationists and documentary makers for years. This remote African region is a land of wide open skies, dry Savannah Plains, lush and fertile river banks, crimson sunsets and quintessential Safari experiences. But, best of all, it is overflowing with wildlife at every turn. Within minutes – sometimes seconds –you can be face-to-face with some of Africa’s most famed animals.
Experience the breathtaking natural world of Africa merged with modern sophistication, this exclusive lodge knows how to recapture the romantic mystique of authentic safaris from centuries past.
O’reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Gold Coast Hinterland
O’reilly’s was eco-conscious before eco tourism was trendy. This family owned and operated resort tucked away in Lamington National Park is the kind of getaway that could turn anyone into an environmentalist.
The lush tropical rainforest coupled with the scrubby eucalyptus forest is a rich habitat for all creatures great and small; providing food and shelter for a huge array of sub-tropical birdlife, reptiles, frogs, mammals and invertebrates. Birds of all colours, creeds and calls dwell in the rainforest canopy that surround the accommodation, from the rainbow rascals of the rainforest (aka crimson rosellas) that will ambush you if they suspect you have some food, to the more well-mannered bowerbirds, fairy wrens and timid lyrebirds.
Hosted by in-house naturalists, guests are invited to take part in the Daily Discovery program which runs from 6:45am and continues till 9:30pm; where guided walks, four wheel drive bus trips, glow worm walks and nature presentations are all a daily feature.
Whether you’re admiring the mountain vistas from your in-room spa, being visited by a friendly Red-necked Pademelon in the late afternoon or serenaded by the different songs of the many birds native to the area, a stay at O’reilly’s will leave you enchanted.
Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort in Borneo, Malaysia
Surrounded by 400 acres of tropical rainforest and a beachfront view, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort offers many opportunities to experience the unique natural wonders of Borneo. A sanctuary for nature lovers, the resort is world renowned for its Orangutan Sanctuary, which offers a unique chance to observe these endearing creatures at play and during feeding time. Thrashing from branch to branch, these energetic beings will keep you and the kids entertained for hours with their cheeky demeanor and fearless agility.
Orangutans aside, ensure you make the most of the exotic natural environment by participating in canopy walks, bird-watching, guided jungle trails and nocturnal wildlife viewing.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Orlando
While it’s not a natural habitat, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has done a remarkable job at recreating a realistic African experience. If you want your family to experience the wild without the long haul flights, this lodge is the next best thing. Best of all, unlike an African safari, there’s no risk of going home without seeing plenty of animals.
More than 30 species of African wildlife call the Kingdom home, including zebras and giraffes that graze right outside your hotel window.
The resort offers jungle treks, safaris and camp dinners. They also do a wonderful job at educating about the importance of conservation, plus Animal Specialists run fun programs to educate guests on African animals and ecosystems.
A great interactive resort overall for both big and small kids, where the focus is centered on exploration and education. Kudos to Disney.
One&Only Le Saint Geran, Mauritius
No wildlife lovers list would be complete without the pristine marine habitat of Mauritius being listed. Le Saint Geran is a luxury property set along the turquoise waters and reef fringed coast of Mauritius. While the resort’s action may be centered around its swimming pool, golf course and recreational facilities – the real action lies in the calm and cobalt blue waters of the lagoon. The combination of clear waters and proximity to shore make this area one of the most popular and perfect places to slap on a mask and snorkel. Experience world-class underwater views teeming with colourful marine biodiversity. Snorkelers and divers often spot tropical fish, coral gardens and the odd dolphin.
Your hotel or resort of choice will play a major role in your overall wildlife experience. Do some thorough research and opt for quality accommodation that has a company ethos of genuinely caring about wildlife conservation rather than just tourist dollars. Hotels and resorts that uphold this philosophy will go out of their way to engage you, educate you and do everything they can to ensure you have a memorable wildlife experience.
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