Who's just tuned into the Beeb's and David Attenborough's latest wildlife wünder-watch, Seven Worlds, One Planet? An amazing reminder that you don't need to travel to the other side of the planet to see spectacular beasties when there are so many on our doorstep in Europe. Safari and Europe may be a combination you wouldn't necessarily put together, much like pineapple and pizza or crocs and catwalks, but the difference is this one works (apologies to all you croc lovers out there). So, if you don't want to go as far as Hawaii for a taste (not literally) of some rare and exciting wildlife, then here are some of our European wildlife holidays...
Whales & Dolphins, The Azores
The waters around the Azores provide myriad opportunities to spot some fantastic marine life, and at certain times of the year, you are all but guaranteed to spot whales and dolphins. With an expert marine biologist, head out to sea from Ponta Delgada in a catamaran or RIB inflatable, and begin your quest to see these gentle giants frolicking in their natural environment. Also keep an eye out for turtles, manta rays and the 400 species of bird that are endemic to the archipelago.
Polar Bears, Svalbard, Norway
Watching His Dark Materials? In which case, you'll know about spectacular Svalbard, a world of Northern Lights, vast Arctic wilderness... and polar bears. In fact, Svalbard is inhabited by almost as many polar bears as humans. The best way to enjoy this wintery wonderland is with a sport of dog sledding, or by heading out on an exhilarating snowmobile adventure where (hopefully) you stand a good chance of seeing some female polar bears playing with their cubs in the ice.
Lynx, Bears and Wolves, Romania
Arguably Europe's most under-appreciated country, and probably not the first place that springs to mind when thinking about a European wildlife holiday, Romania has so much more to offer than the rumoured bachelor pad of Dracula. While the Danube Delta offers birdlife almost as good as the Okavango Delta in Botswana, you might also want to keep an eye out for the bears, wolves and lynx which roam around Transylvania. Also, the lack of fences and hedges make it the perfect place to embark on a riding safari as you are basically free to roam the whole countryside and drink in the staggeringly beautiful mountain ranges and wildflower meadows.
Flamingos seem to be everywhere. On holiday you can hardly stroll from your sunlounger to lunch without seeing at least three of them inflated, bobbing merrily around in a swimming pool. But if you want to see real flamingos, you don't have to go as far as you might think. Head to Camargue in the south of France where flamingos are just one of the hundreds of species of bird you can see. So varied is the bird life, that the area has been identified as an IBA ('Important Bird Area) by BirdLife International.
Brown Bears, Northern Spain
The Picos de Europa, also known as the 'Spanish Dolomites', offer breathtaking scenery and the opportunity to spot rare wildlife - namely the last of western Europe's brown bears which, despite weighing a solid 400 pounds, are supposedly rather shy. Perhaps easier to spot are the 6,500 chamois. Sightings are so frequent, in fact, they have become a symbol of the region. This, however, is just the tip of the mountain. Everything from Iberian wolves, bats, wild boar, mountain cats, beech martens and red squirrels can easily be found in this wildlife-rich area.
Thinking about booking a European wildlife holiday? Get in touch and we'll be happy to help!