Taking photos of animals requires a lot of time and patience, but it’s also one of the most rewarding endeavors for any photographer. It inspires wanderlust and makes you curious about even the tiniest creatures you encounter. If you’re thinking of traveling to photograph animals, here are nine countries you can visit for some of the best wildlife photography experiences in the world.
People travel to India mostly to experience its distinct culture and its long list of tourist spots. But the country also has diverse wildlife that attracts photographers all over the world. From tigers to elephants, India’s animals are as exotic as the country itself.
- Bandhavgarh National Park: Named after the sacred hillock which had been purportedly bestowed by the Hindu Lord Rama to his brother Lakshmana, Bandhavgarh is now a haven for Bengal tigers and other animals that include Indian wolves, striped hyenas, and barking deer.
- Haliday Island Wildlife Sanctuary: Located on Matla River near the Bay of Bengal, this environmentally minded wildlife sanctuary is among three found in the country's Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve. This protected area includes watchtowers where you can safely take photos of wildlife. Among the animals that roam this area are spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, Rhesus macaque and the occasional Bengal tiger.
- Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary: India is the only country in Asia with lions, and Sasan Gir is the only sanctuary in the country where you can still find them in abundance. Apart from lions, you also get to photograph hyenas, Gir foxes, and birds such as the brown fish owl and pygmy woodpecker.
2. Costa Rica
This Central American paradise has long been known for its rich flora and fauna. Costa Rica is one of the best countries to visit if you want to get started with wildlife photography. As a progenitor of ecotourism, it offers a fully immersive wildlife experience that lets you have fun while helping fund the country’s conservation efforts.
- Tortuguero National Park: With a name that means “turtle catcher” in English, it’s not surprising that the featured animals in this national park are turtles. Walk along the shore and photograph green turtles, olive ridleys and leatherbacks laying their eggs in the park’s black sand beaches. The park also provides habitat to a variety of birds, sloths, and monkeys.
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: A trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without going to this famous reserve. About 70,000 tourists visit the forest of Monteverde every year to experience its biodiverse environment. Don’t forget to bring a macro lens because this place is famous for its insects such as cicadas, beetles, and butterflies and many other tiny creatures. It also has an abundance of tiny amphibians that include a variety of colorful poison-arrow frogs.
- Corcovado National Park: Corcovado’s picture-perfect scenery and colorful wildlife make Costa Rica a true tropical paradise. Here you get to take photos of scarlet macaws, more than a hundred species of butterflies, and four species of monkeys including the Costa Rican monkey and the endangered red-backed squirrel monkey.
3. The United States
The United States may be better known for its sprawling skylines than its natural beauty, but being the first country to establish national parks, a good chunk of it still remains wild territory. From the marshlands of the Everglades to the geothermal terrains of Yellowstone, the amount of varied ecosystems you’ll find in this great North American country is awe-inspiring.
- Everglades National Park: Declared as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, the Everglades sees about 1 million visitors per year. Its famous marshes are teeming with alligators, crocodiles, marsh rabbits, manatees, and birds such as pelicans, herons, and cranes. You can also photograph big mammals such as bobcats, deer, and panthers in the drier areas of the marshes.
- Yellowstone National Park: Established in 1872, Yellowstone is regarded by many as the very first national park in the world. It’s not just known for its geysers and hot springs, but also for the animals roaming its vast expanses such as bisons, moose, elks, coyotes, and black bears.
- Denali National Park: Originally called Mt. McKinley, the park was reverted to its original name Denali in 2016 after the sacred peak that remains home to wolves, caribou, moose, grizzly and black bears. Apart from the animals, this protected territory also offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in North America, if not the world.
Australia is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit for its wildlife. Considered a “megadiverse” nation, it has a very high percentage of endemic species. From koalas to kangaroos, platypodes to dingos, you’ll never run out of unique animals to photograph in this wild country.
- Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve: Established in 1892 as Victoria’s first National Park, you can consider it a one-stop shop to photograph many of Australia’s favorite animals such as wallabies, kangaroos, emus, and koalas.
- Phillip Island Nature Park: You don’t usually think penguins when you imagine Australia. But fairy penguins, the smallest species of penguins in the world, thrive in some of the country's islands. If you fancy photographing these cute creatures, Phillip Island is the best place to visit. Get down in the sand and take photos of these waddling furry creatures parading back to their burrows by the beach at sunset.
- The Great Barrier Reef: Among the best sites for underwater wildlife photography, the Great Barrier Reef features 1625 species of fish and 1400 species of coral reefs. Bring your underwater camera and swim with humpback whales, sharks, stingrays, turtles, dolphins, and dugongs among many other sea creatures.
Among the many countries in Africa that offer wildlife tourism, Kenya is certainly among the top. The many destinations you can visit in this country guarantee you remarkable images of popular African animals roaming in their natural habitat.
- Nairobi National Park: Despite being located so close to the metropolis, Kenya’s first-ever national park features a wide variety of animals such as Eastern black rhinos, baboons, elephants, impalas, giraffes, and East African lions.
- Maasai Mara National Park: Named after the indigenous locals that live on the territory, Maasai Mara boasts thriving populations of big cats that include leopards, cheetahs, and lions. From July to October, witness the “Great Migration” of thousands of animals such as gazelles, wildebeests, and zebras.
- Amboseli National Park: This park is highly recommended for photographing free-roaming wild animals such as elephants, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, cheetah, and lions. It also has about 400 colorful species of birds that include crakes, pelicans, and kingfishers.
About 38 percent of Tanzania consists of conservation areas, reserves, and nature parks. Home to the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and the Serengeti, Tanzania offers the quintessential African experience that you don’t want to miss as a photographer.
- Serengeti National Park: This famous park is a World Heritage Site and is Tanzania’s oldest. With the amount of apex predators present in this territory such as cheetah, lions, and leopards, this is a prime spot for big cat-obsessed wildlife photographers.
- Kilimanjaro National Park: Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 ft. and, like the Serengeti, is also a World Heritage Site. Take a hike and photograph animals such as the bushbuck, red and grey duiker, and the tree hyrax that roam above the mountain’s tree line. At lower elevations you’ll find bush babies, leopards, cheetahs, and elephants among many others.
- Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park: This national park is the only one found in Zanzibar, an autonomous island in Tanzania. Its forest ecosystem offers a change of scenery that contrasts from Tanzania's mostly desert and semi-arid landscapes. In this park you’ll find different species of monkeys including sykes monkey, the Zanzibar colobus, and Kirk’s red colobus.
Brazil contains one-third of the world’s rainforests and is considered the most biodiverse in the world. This big South American country has several ecoregions that include wetlands, shrublands, savannas, and rainforests. Most of the country’s forests are found in the Amazon basin where diverse species of animals are found.
- Pantanal Matogrossense National Park: Located in the Pantanal Biome, the world’s biggest tropical wetland, this area has about 2000 animal species that include howler monkeys, crocodiles, tapirs, and capybaras. This park is also popular among photographers for jaguars.
- Itatiaia National Park: Itatiaia was established in 1937 and is the oldest national park in the country. Home to 350 bird species, it’s an ideal location for bird watching. Snap on your telephoto lens and spot red-breasted toucans, green-headed tanagers, and the tiny fork-tailed tody-tyrants among many other feathery creatures.
- Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park: This park offers some of the most scenic vistas in Brazil with natural features that include towering cliffs, waterfalls, and caves. While enjoying its beautiful surroundings, keep your camera in hand as you might encounter gato-palheiro wildcats, jaguars, maned wolves, anteaters and many species of birds including toucans, manakins, and falcons.
If you’ve ever watched the animated movie Madagascar, then you must be familiar with some of the furry critters that call this island country their home. After the island split from India 88 million years ago, it developed a distinct ecology that now provides habitat to a vast number of endemic animal species, and many of them look very photogenic.
- Kirindy Mitea National Park: There’s not much wildlife action to expect in this park during the dry season when most of the animals are hibernating. But bring a rain hood along with your camera because come the rainy season, you can expect to see lemurs, giant jumping rats, fossas, and flamingos. The park is also known for its high population of primates which includes Madame Bertha’s mouse lemur, the smallest primate in the world.
- Beza Mahafaly Reserve: If you want to learn more about the animals you’re photographing in Madagascar, then you definitely have to visit this reserve. It’s a hub for animal research and includes a museum that features many of the country’s wildlife. In the park’s forest, you can find many lemurs, tenrecs, and saurians along with over a hundred species of birds.
- Andasibe-Mantadia National Park: Just a 3-hour drive from Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, this park is the most accessible in the country. Find endangered lemurs such as the black-and-white ruffed lemur, diademed sifaka, and indri, the island’s largest lemur. The park also has a lot of chameleons, lizards, frogs, and snakes.
The unique environments that exist within Ecuador have spawned a variety of distinct animals that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. The country may not be known for its diversity, but the short list of unique animals that live here are coveted by many wildlife photographers.
- Galapagos Islands: Famous for inspiring Charles Darwin to conceptualize the theory of evolution, these islands have a large concentration of endemic species such as the Galapagos tortoise, Galapagos penguin, and the marine iguana. Responsible for contributing so much to science, a visit to these islands is indeed an excellent opportunity for any wildlife photographer.
- Arenillas Ecological Reserve: Although you need a permit to access the site, visiting this reserve is worth all the time and effort especially if you’re a bird photographer. The 135 bird species that live here include the grey-cheeked parakeet and the blackish-headed spinetail. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised to encounter the sechuran fox, jaguarundi, iguana, and Robinson’s mouse opossum among many other animals in the area.
- Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve: This reserve is a biodiversity hotspot where you can find beautiful animals such as the white-fronted capuchin, jaguarundi, and the giant anteater. You can also photograph plenty of reptiles and amphibians in this reserve including the spectacled caiman, gliding tree frog, iguana, and snapping turtle.