x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 February 2018

Travel trends: new wildlife experiences around the world

Looking at new wildlife experiences available around the world including swimming with humpbacks in Australia and polar snorkelling in the Artic Circle.

A group of divers snorkelling in the Arctic. Mick Valos / Wildestanimal
A group of divers snorkelling in the Arctic. Mick Valos / Wildestanimal

Been on a safari? Swum with dolphins? Tracked bears in the wild? It’s time for something different, then. Luckily, there are plenty of new experiences being launched around the world.

Swimming with humpbacks

Ningaloo Reef, Australia

The Ningaloo Reef has been one of the world’s best spots for swimming with whale sharks for a few years now, but this year, operators have been licensed to run swimming tours with the region’s other big beasts, humpback whales.

The West Australian government has imposed strict conditions on how close swimmers can get and how many can be in a group to avoid any ­behavioural changes in the humpback whales, which migrate up and down the coast between July and November.

Ocean Eco Adventures employs its own spotter plane to reduce the amount of time spent floating around trying to find them. Day trips cost 350 ­Australian dollars (Dh958).

• For more information, visit www.oceanecoadventures.com.au

Polar snorkelling

Iceland, Greenland and Spitsbergen, Norway

The Arctic Circle isn’t somewhere that immediately springs to mind when considering a snorkelling trip. The waters aren’t exactly enticing and there are no multicoloured coral reefs to enjoy. But that’s not to say there’s nothing down there – there’s a world of sea urchins, sea anemones, cod and more below the surface.

This year, Aurora Expeditions started offering polar snorkelling sessions on its 24-day Complete Arctic cruises around Iceland, Greenland and Norwegian island Spitsbergen. Specially designed dry suits, hoods, gloves and snorkels are used to protect the body from the icy cold waters. The trip costs from £8,340 (Dh38,316).

• For more information, visit www.aurora-expeditions.com

Gorilla habituation

Bwindi Forest, Uganda

For conservationists and researchers to be able to understand and protect mountain gorillas, it’s vital that the gorillas are comfortable with human presence. Getting them to this point is a slow process that takes years. And with one family in Uganda’s Bwindi Forest, this process is on-going.

The difference between here and other gorilla treks is that you can pay to be part of the habituation process, spending time with the conservationists and researchers as they get to know the wild gorillas. Tour companies such as Kabiza offer the experience, with permits costing US$1,500 (Dh5,509.50).

• For more information, visit www.kabiza.com

On-foot rhino tracking

Sera Community Conservancy, Kenya

In February, Saruni Rhino opens in Kenya. In a twist on usual safari lodges, it comprises stone cottages by a waterhole. What’s also different here is the rhino-­tracking experience – the first in East Africa to allow guests to track rhinos on foot, accompanied by an expert guide and ranger.

GPS and transmitters are used to find the black rhinos inside the 54,000-hectare Sera Community Conservancy sanctuary. For safety reasons, the experience operates with limited hours, and efforts are made to tread lightly so as not to disturb the rhinos.

It costs from $630 (Dh2,314) per person, with a $175 (Dh643) conservancy fee for the rhino ­tracking.

• For more information, visit www.sarunisamburu.com