The Epic (& Unexpected) Vacation You Should Take This Year

Woman enjoying the view from the safari truck

An unforgettable safari is on the bucket list of almost every globetrotting traveller, but what's less common is the idea that these exotic animal tours take place in countries all over the world. While a trip to the Serengeti is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that's definitely worth having, turns out, you can have a breathtaking experience in destinations that include — and go beyond — Africa. Looking for some travel inspo? Stay tuned. Below, you'll find some safari trips to add to your bucket list, which you can start tackling as soon as this summer.

Whether your sights are set on the tropical rainforests of Thailand, the sub-arctic landscapes of Canada, or an aquatic cruise amongst the islands of Indonesia, there's a wildlife experience for every kind of traveller, ecosystem, and terrain. Ahead, travel pros dish on some of the best wildlife expeditions around the world. Their first-hand experience, plus expert recommendations, will have you itching to board a plane ASAP. And while may be feeling a pang of FOMO for now, you can use it as motivation to start planning your own trip before the summer's over. After all, every wanderluster's bucket list should include at least one unforgettable safari.

Linkwasha Camp || Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe

The Hide at Linkwasha || Courtesy of Esther Klijn for CIRE Travel

"Hwange is the size of Belgium and Linkwasha Camp lies in a private concession in the southeast corner of the national park," explains Esther Klijn, a luxury leisure agent planning all the honeymoon and high-end vacation business travel for CIRE. "It’s situated on the edge of the famous Ngamo Plains, great in the trickier summer for game-viewing. I’ll never forget the 'hide' experience just a few yards from the main lodge: You head down into this sunken bunker (rosé in hand) and you’re at eye level with the animals (as they’re also having their afternoon drink!)."

Panna National Park || Madhya Pradesh, India


"India is always at the top of our travel list," says Eric Hrubant, president and chief travel-planning officer for CIRE Travel, a high-end business and honeymoon travel agency. "Aside from that all-important picture in front of the Taj Mahal, take a trip off the tourist path and visit one of India’s many national parks. One of our lesser-known favorites is Panna National Park, where they have a tiger reintroduction program. This park offers off-beat experiences and you can see the wildlife by jeep or boat!"

Elephant Hills (Elephant Camp & Rainforest Camp) || Khao Sok National Park, Southern Thailand


"There are two camps situated in Khao Sok National Park, southern Thailand’s largest stretch of rainforest: The Elephant Camp and the floating Rainforest Camp," says Klijn. "The Elephant Camp sits at the border of the rainforest and is equipped with luxury, tailor-made tents. The Rainforest Camp consist of 20 luxury safari tents that serve as an intimate base for you to explore southern Thailand’s tropical rainforest.

"Relax in front of your tent, swim in the emerald waters of the Cheow Lan Lake, kayak through the khlongs and channels, keeping an eye out for elephants, monkeys, birds, any other great species in their natural habitat. If animal welfare is a concern, fret not, for Elephant Hills puts the highest emphasis on their humane elephant experience."

Leopard Trails in Yala National Park || Hambantota, Sri Lanka

Source: Black Tomato

Becky Milligan, travel expert for Black Tomato, a luxury travel tour operator, says you'll see a menagerie of animals on the Leopard Trails excursion at Yala National Park, including: Asian elephants, sloth bears, sambar, butterflies, monkeys, and of course, leopards (and many more).

“Ideal for the traveler seeking rich cultural encounters and epic wildlife, Sri Lanka’s national parks are the perfect combination of idyllic surroundings and jaw-dropping adventure," she says. "Revered by locals as the original leopard country, the Yala is so densely populated with exotic animals, that the chance to sleep not too far from the Animal Planet-worthy action is definitely an extraordinary experience.”

Bamurru Plains || Northern Territory in Australia


"Over 100 square miles of private concession with floodplains and wetlands, melaleuca forests, savannah woodlands and riverine; such diverse habitats provide guests with incredible wildlife viewing unlike anywhere in the world," says Klijn. "Explore via plane, safari drive, quad bikes, or on foot. If you’re big into birding, the Mary River catchment is home to some 236 species of birds. Serious birders can arrange a private experience with an ornithologist who specializes in this region of Australia.

"The 'hide' experience in Bamurru Plains is nearly 20 feet above the ground in the tree canopy overlooking the floodplain, and provides a unique perspective on the surrounding environment."

Great Ocean Road || Torquay to Allansford Australia


Amy Brueckner, an intrepid world traveler and CIRE's chief of staff, suggests this epic road trip for those who'd prefer less structured sightseeing. "This drive along the southern coast of Australia reminds me of the Pacific Coast Highway in California (minus the traffic!)," Brueckner says. "It’s an easy and beautiful drive with amazing vistas and so much wildlife: Kangaroos, wallabies, koala, emus, seals, dolphin, whales … and incredible birds! You can go at your own pace and stay at local inns or rent a camper van — just watch out for kangaroo crossings!"

She adds, "Make note that their seasons are opposite ours in the States, so when it’s summer here, it’s winter there … though probably not as cold as we’d expect."

Churchill Wild Polar Bear Tour || Manitoba, Canada

Source: Black Tomato

Safaris aren't exclusive to deserts and tropical climates. Head north for a once-in-a-lifetime experience with polar bears and beluga wales. “Heaven on earth for photographers and intrepid adventure-seekers, Manitoba is truly a sub-arctic playground of pristine wilderness not too far from home," says Elizabeth Fuller, marketing director for Black Tomato. "Ruled by the mighty King of the Arctic, the polar bear is best spotted on foot via walking safari. Check off two picturesque bucket list items as you gaze in awe as they frolic in the snow, relax on rocks and cuddle their cubs, all with the dazzling Aurora Borealis as the backdrop."

Aquatic Safari || Indonesia

Courtesy: Black Tomato

This Black Tomato exclusive trip, which is soon to launch, will feature a private yacht charter to give adventurers an up-close view of manta rays, Komodo dragons, monkeys, flying lizards, stingrays, sharks and more. “The 'Land of the Komodo Dragon,' [which are the] highly-preserved, volcanic islands of Indonesia, have so much to offer for those interested in marine life or those seeking a completely immersive adventure at sea," says Black Tomato travel expert Rob O'Leary. "An archipelago isn’t what typically comes to mind when imagining safaris, but the incredible combination of leisure and learning is what makes this territory so special."