These once-in-a-lifetime adventures take you through jungles and fjords, glaciers and rain forests in search of the world's most extraordinary animals (we're talking snow leopards, gorillas, ridiculously cute penguins and more). Welcome to the wild.
Track gorillas in Uganda
Get to know yourself by getting to know our genetic family. Gorillas share 97.7% of their DNA with humans, which makes them our closest animal relatives. The expert-led tours from Abercrombie & Kent take you to Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park—impenetrable being the key word— to observe these fascinating (and, unfortunately, endangered) animals. And that's just part of the 11 day excursion: You'll also look for lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park and hang with an unruly cacophony of baboons in the Bigodi Forest Swamp.
Watch penguins in Antarctica
If you loved Dreamworks’ Penguins of Madagascar (it’s okay, you can admit it), you’ll fall hard for Rockjumper’s Emperor Penguin Safari, a four night tour of the ultra-remote reaches of Antarctica's Union Glacier. Make sure to bring the best possible camera to catch the local population of Emperor Penguins; the black-tie wearing birds warm each other on the ice, dive nearly 2,000 feet underwater to catch dinner and breed during winter, with males standing watch over the eggs for two months without eating. Who's Number 1 Dad now?
Ride elephants in South Africa
Ordinarily, we find animal rides in any form campy and, well, kind of sad. But Camp Jabulani’s herd of African elephants are all rescues—saved from certain death following conflict in Zimbabwe. During your stay here, you'll ride and feed them, and go for game drives within the Kapama Game Reserve to spot other wildlife like rhinos and cheetahs.
See polar bears in the Arctic
National Geographic doesn’t mess around when it comes to getting travelers in touch with wildlife. The outfitter's Land of the Polar Bears cruise includes everything from spotting walruses and Arctic foxes on coastal fjords to visiting Oslo's Fram museum, with its three-masted circa 1892 schooner. But we're mostly in it for the polar bears, which you can spot wandering tidewater glaciers from the deck of the 148-cabin National Geographic Explorer ship (bonus: there's a sauna on-board, if you catch a chill).
Find snow leopards in Mongolia
In winter, the snow-dusted Altai mountains are home to endangered snow leopards (more than 1,000 out of the 7,300 left on earth live in Mongolia). Your chances of seeing them skyrocket with Nomadic Expedition's 17-day tour, where you'll track the elusive cats with biologists from the World Wildlife Fund. Explore the Tsagaan Sair Valley by foot as camels carry your bags, then bed down in felt gers of reindeer-herding host families.
Ride horses in Iceland
Yes, Icelandic horses have better hair than you do—they’ve been developing their tussled look since Iceland was first settled in the 9th century. With a visit to Laxnes Horse Farm—just 15 miles from Reykjavik—you can take a three day tour of the countryside by horseback, with breaks to see hidden waterfalls and to feast on Icelandic grilled lamb. Or opt for a four hour ride through the grassy foothills (plenty of time to make Instagram magic).
Chill with sloths in Costa Rica
The creature that defines chillaxing? The Costa Rican sloth. Check them out up close with an Insider’s Tour of Costa Rica’s Sloth Sanctuary, which is full of the adorable mammals. On the itinerary: a tour of the NICU (a room of teensy baby sloths), watching tween sloths work out—at their own pace—in an outdoor jungle gym, and a canoe ride through the neighboring rainforest, where you might catch free-range sloths in action, i.e., snoozing.
Watch whales in Alaska
Sea lions, bald eagles, porpoises, and—yes—humpback whales are your constant travel companions on Princess Cruises’ Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest. If you go in summer, you're guaranteed to see the whales, and you'll get reimbursed $100 if you don't. The humpback population frolics here throughout June, July and August before heading to Hawaii to mate, honeymoon and birth the next generation.
Bathe elephants in Thailand
Avoid the tourist traps and overcrowded animal sanctuaries by booking the Elephant Haven Overnight organized by Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park. It's just like summer camp, but here, you're the camp counselor: You'll feed the elephants, bathe them in the river, and catch their rolling-in-the-mud antics on camera (the babies are, of course, the cutest).