Safari in your own Backyard

So, you were planning to go on safari in 2009, in fact you’ve possibly promised little Billy he’ll be seeing some pretty exotic animals and he’s told all his school chums, but your bank account is telling you the African savannah is out. You’re left with two choices:

1: Take little Billy on a trip to the local zoo and hope it’s one of the world’s best. 2: Plan to safari close to home – a Sa-Near-i even – and appreciate the wildlife you can find beyond your own backyard but less than a long haul fight away.

Readers living in Canada or Australia have it pretty easy.Canada has wild wildlife havens like Newfoundland and The Prince Albert National Park, for the polar bears, caribou, puffins and other seabirds, and whale filled waters off the Baie Ste-Catherine and Vancouver Island to take a near safari in. Australia may be home to only one of the ‘big five’ safari staples – the buffalo – but it has plenty of alternatives, including kangaroos, dolphins and the graceful, spotted giant whale sharks of the Ningaloo Reef. If nothing but the buff will do you’ll spot them in Kakadu, but if you think something cuter and furrier will do the trick just as well, the inhabitants of the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary are probably perfect for a kiddie size safari.

Stateside readers have a relatively easy time of it as well with alligators in the Everglades, Bald Eagles in Alaska and herds of elk migrating across Wyoming.

European readers will have a bit more trouble keeping their promise to little Billy, but you might be surprised by how many exciting wildlife encounters you can have within easy reach, you may just need to tweak your idea of what a safari is. One of the big tweaks is to include tweets – Europe has some amazing feathered populations that include some pretty unique and glorious birds – some of the most safari worthy have to be Scotland’s Golden Eagles. Skomer Island’s beautiful puffins are definitely exotic enough to encourage a bird safari, while the Mismere Bird Reserve is a very child friendly place for a birding safari and home to easy-to-spot colonies of Avocets, Bearded Tits, Bitterns and Nightingales – perfect for little Billy. Pelicans, swans, cormorants, egrets and spoonbills are the big five of the Danube Delta, but a boat safari though these reeds will turn up a lot more.

Some even more exotic birds pass though Europe during their annual migration. In spring, the Isle of Lesbos hosts orioles, shrikes and warblers.

If birds are a bit too small to grab you, how about whales! The Azores have waters famous for whale watchers and Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsular is home to whales and more. Or bears, the Carpathian Mountains are full of bears and wolves, and remote and icy Spitzbergen, Norway, only 600 miles from the north pole is a haven for polar bears, arctic foxes, reindeer and exotic birds. Get Billy chanting "Birds and wolves and bears – oh my!"

But for a safari that really begins in your back yard you can't go past an evening spent Badger Watching...

World's Best Wildlife Experiences

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