Explorers looking to stray from the usual sightseeing routes or tropical destinations and go off the beaten path are in luck as high-end travel companies begin to offer more journeys that embrace wildlife and nature.

Costa Rica
Photos courtesy NATURAL WORLD SAFARI

Enjoying 24 hours of daylight on a cruise through icy waters, standup paddle boarding in the vicinity of pink dolphins and trekking through a national park to appreciate the sight of tigers and elephants are just a few of the many exceptional offerings from luxury travel companies.

“Travelers are now more than ever looking for extraordinary moments filled with authenticity and personal value,” says Sarah Casewit, co-founder of curated experiential travel company Naya Traveler. “It’s no longer enough to check off the must-see list, or come home with a suitcase full of souvenirs. They’re seeking personalized experiences that go beyond the tourist sightseeing route, in favor of opportunities to engage with locals and their traditions.”

When it comes to the exact locations that allow for unique, nature-driven travel, destinations all over the globe have a lot to offer, but Casewit notes that a few particular locations are of high interest lately. “These destinations attract a similar traveler profile due to the adventurous nature of the experiences, complete with adrenaline-filled activities,” Casewit says, noting that clients usually look for rustic chic lodges and a high-end glamping experience that infuses unique cultural elements including music, art or cuisine to complement the journey.

According to luxury travel company Natural World Safaris, one such location is Norway — experience life under the midnight sun with 24 hours of daylight while cruising the icy waters of the Svalbard Archipelago. “Great for those seeking a niche experience with an interest in wildlife, polar regions and conservation efforts,” is NWS’ Polar Bear Explorer trip, starting at $9,305 for 11 days.

Costa Rica
Photos courtesy NATURAL WORLD SAFARI

Set sail north from Longyearbyen aboard some of the smallest expedition ships to cruise these waters with just 12 passengers for a uniquely intimate voyage. “This small ship expedition isn’t possible to book yourself, plus NWS offers the expertise of specialist leaders including National Geographic photographers,” says Will Bolsover, NWS founder and managing director.

The Polar Bear Explorer journey includes walking and sailing through incredible landscapes, fjords and waterfalls, and searching for colonies of walrus, polar bears and other marine mammals. The small ships are perfect for exploring the icy waters, creating the opportunity to have unrivalled up-close encounters with Arctic wildlife.

For a warmer destination, adventurous families looking for a multi-activity break can venture to Costa Rica for NWS’ 10-day, tailor-made trip, starting at $3,520. The excursion can include activities such as whale-watching, observing turtle nesting on the beaches, learning more about the species found in Costa Rica at butterfly, frog and iguana farms and exploring tropical Tortuguero, home to tapirs, jaguars, monkeys, sloths and more.

The safari is full of adventure, with jungle walks, horseback riding and canoeing, as well as the chance to witness four species of primate in Manuel Antonio National Park. If Bolsover had to pick just one experience that every client or visitor must take advantage of in Costa Rica, he says: “It has to be zip lining through the jungle canopy.”

Marine wildlife and tropical birds abound in Peru, where Naya Traveler offers a three-night journey in Puerto Maldonado combined with three nights aboard River Cruise in Iquitos starting at $900 per person per day. The country has three distinct regions, one of which is the virgin rainforest, which covers about 60 percent of the country and is rich in a biodiversity that is native to the Amazon. Journeying from Iquitos, travelers can explore the rainforest from the river on an intimate cruise, or stay in a missionary-style hacienda on the banks of the river in Madre de Dios.

“Visitors can cruise along the Amazon River and witness the meeting of the waters, standup paddle with pink dolphins surrounding them, and fish for piranhas at night,” says Casewit. She recommends taking a “night safari” through the Amazon rainforest, where travelers can see the animals that come out at night.

South India — Photos courtesy Naya Traveler

The Amazon
Photos courtesy Naya Traveler

Across the South Atlantic Ocean in South India, Naya Traveler’s six-night journey consists of trips to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Coorg, starting at $600 per person per day. This journey can be curated to include trekking alongside a tribal villager through Periyar National Park, a wildlife sanctuary that is home to some of India’s most majestic creatures including tigers and elephants, riding a skiff through the backwaters of Kerala to see locals living in equilibrium with nature, or spending the night on a traditional houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala.

Cultural diversity and a rich heritage abound all throughout South India, including Kerala, where language, music, art, cuisine and architecture can vary from one state to the next. The region also boasts a varied topography, with rolling hills, winding backwaters and tropical valleys to explore during the trip.

The land throughout the Southernmost continent in the world is barely touched by humans, offering breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Travelers can ride among whales, pinnipeds, albatross and penguins, and take a flight over the Geographical South Pole on a journey through Antarctica with Naya Traveler’s ‘The White Desert by Cruise’ trip.

“Cruise through Drake Passage with Antarctica on the horizon, take a dinghy to walk on Earth’s White Continent, witnessing Emperor Penguins breeding,” Casewit says of the trip, consisting of 10 nights starting at $1,300 per person per day. The excursion can also be altered to travel from South Africa to Antarctica by private jet and stay in luxury pods for eight nights, starting at $80,000 per person.

Antarctica — Photo courtesy Naya Travler

If you’re looking to explore more than a single continent in one sweeping trip, Natural World Safaris’ 18-day multi-destination experience, starting at $37,391, takes travelers on a journey from the red African deserts to Antarctica’s white landscapes. This safari expedition includes activities such as quad biking across the deserts of the Makgadikgadi Pans, a hot air balloon flight over the sand dunes of Sossuvlei, and discovering the desert-adapted wildlife of the Kalahari.

Each day offers a unique experience, such as flying in by jet to land on an ice-runway in Antarctica, where you can spot penguins and trek on the tundra. Bolsover says, “This is a finely-tuned safari which is coordinated to maximize on time and uses the expertise of the team to ensure the best experiences in each destination.”

No matter what destination your wildlife-oriented journey brings you to, Casewit recommends taking advantage of a travel company to enrich the experience, noting “These trips are designed to provide a unique space for clients to discover a destination through the eyes and knowledge of those who know it best.”