If the thought of seeing a lemur, an echidna, a blue-footed booby, or a real-life dragon gets your blood pumping, then you may be a wildlife enthusiast—and wildlife enthusiasts don’t just travel anywhere. If you’re looking for some ideas for your next travel destination that’ll give you a chance to see some unique wildlife, here are seven. You might have to go off the beaten path, but that’s all part of the fun, right?
Seals, penguins, orcas, oh my—Antarctica isn’t usually what you usually think of as a swinging vacation spot, but if you’re a wildlife lover, this will be your jam. While on an Antarctic expedition, you’ll spend a lot of time on a boat, but you can also hike through parts of the frozen landscape. During the summer, you can stand-up paddleboard and sea kayak through an icy landscape populated by penguin colonies and marine mammals (and not much else).
When it comes to unique wildlife, it doesn’t get more unique than the Proboscis monkey. Head to Borneo, the third largest island in the world, for a chance to see orangutans, pygmy elephants, Malayan sun bears (yes, they’re real), and maybe even a flamboyantly bizarre rhinoceros hornbill. Slow lorises live there too, but beware, they’re venomous.
A lot of people go to Costa Rica for the beaches, but not you—you’ll be going for the red-eyed tree frogs, the howler monkeys, the toucans and other tropical birds, and the sloths. If you want to spot some tree frogs, take your camera out at night. If you want to spot a sloth in a tree, ask a local or hire a guide for a hike in one of the many protected areas. Fun fact: Sloths come down from the treetops about once a week to take a poo. Get it on camera, if you can.
Earlier we mentioned the blue-footed booby, and if you want to see one of these cuties, you could go to the Galapagos. While there, you could also spot some of the gnarliest-looking lizards on Earth, marine iguanas, and maybe also a giant tortoise that’s been alive for a cool century. You can walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, who visited the islands in 1835 aboard the HMS Beagle.
Kangaroo Island is a wildlife sanctuary and a rugged place that outdoors-people will love. There are not only kangaroos but also wallabies, echidnas, koalas, fur seals, Australian sea lions, and many unique birds. While it’s not super likely you’ll see them, there are also bandicoots and those weird egg-laying mammals, platypuses.
Visitors to Komodo National Park and, specifically, Komodo Island, come for one thing and one thing only: the mighty Komodo dragon. Komodo dragons are the largest living lizards on Earth, and they only live in the Indonesian archipelago, which includes three major islands (Rinca, Komodo, and Padar) plus a number of smaller islands. While there, you might also spot a crab-eating macaque, a Komodo’s cockatoo, or a dugong.
Madagascar is its own little world. Wildlife enthusiasts know it’s famous for its high rate of endemism, and, in fact, about 85% of the animals on this African island aren’t found anywhere else in the world. If you want to see lemurs (including aye-ayes) or fossas, you’ve got to go to Madagascar. Other species to watch for include the panther chameleon, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko, and the lowland streaked tenrec.