Spotting animals in their natural habitats is an often charming, occasionally frustrating pastime. With great rewards to those who think ahead, it's worth being prepared if you're looking to see creatures in the wild. If you're planning a safari, a wildlife scout abroad, or even just a bird-watching bank holiday, our top 10 tips are designed to help you make the most of your animal-spotting trip.
If you're hoping to spot native wildlife during your adventures, be sure to always plan ahead. Is the area you're visiting a known hotspot for animal enthusiasts, or more off the beaten track? Whilst the lesser-travelled road may offer more chances to see creatures in their undisturbed natural habitat, there is always the risk of disappointment when searching in more secluded spots. Planning a back-up location or activity is a way to avoid issues such as bad weather, crowds and sheer bad luck, so your day won't be wasted after all.
2.Schedule several chances to spot animals
To give yourself the very best chance of animal sightings, be sure to plan several viewing trips in advance. On many wildlife-spotting holidays, such as our India's Golden Triangle and Tiger Safari tour, this is an included part of the itinerary, as operators are keen to ensure the best opportunities for travellers.
3.Take a course in photography
To ensure your treasured memories of your wildlife experience are preserved, it's vital to take some good snaps. However, whilst most of us know the basics of how to point and shoot, capturing wildlife is often a tricky endeavour, with subjects likely to move unpredictably and close-ups hard to come by. Consider taking a short photography course to boost your skills pre-trip, or alternatively, check out our top travel photography tips for guidance.
4.Travel with an expert
You don't need the company of David Attenborough to appreciate the animals you set out to see, but a little guidance can make all the difference. Perhaps join a birdwatching group to learn the secrets of spotting rare species, or enlist the services of a local guide when searching somewhere new. Their insider experience may prove rewarding.
5.Check your batteries
If your animal adventures take you to some of the hottest - or coldest - regions of the earth, beware your batteries. Camera batteries are affected by hot and cold weather, which can decrease their longevity - particularly in sub-zero temperatures. So, to make sure you get that perfect polar bear shot, be sure to check your batteries regularly - and even pack a spare set in a warm case, just for added insurance.
6.Try different times of day
Returning to the same spot at different times of day not only gives you another opportunity to catch a glimpse of elusive creatures, but may also allow you to see different animals as they follow their natural sleeping patterns. You may also see that the behaviour of animals changes throughout the day; tigers, for example, spend much of their daylight hours relaxing in the shade, with the cooler evening reserved for hunting. Seeking out the species you wish to see at different times of day may provide a better insight into their habits, as well as offering the chance to see other creatures as they emerge.
7.Choose your season well
If you've a specific animal in mind, be sure to plan your holiday to coincide with a season that is appropriate for its annual behavioural patterns. The hibernation of mammals and migration of birds, for example, can lead to disappointments if not factored in, so look for local tips and reports on the movement of the species you are planning on seeing. Climate change is known to have an impact on migration patterns of some birds, so it is best to check for recent updates from local enthusiasts to make sure you don't miss a thing. Additionally, be aware of mating and hatching seasons, which may lead to more elusive or defensive behaviour, and worsen your chances of a good sighting.
8.Enjoy the experience
It's easy to get lost trying to capture the perfect shot - and to miss the excitement of the experience in doing so. Although photographs will help you remember the incredible time you had, it's important to take the time to see the world around the lens, and not just through it. Take some time out to immerse yourself in the joys of nature, and make memories you'll cherish.