Best Place for Wildlife (2015)


USA TODAY 10Best teamed up with wildlife travel experts from Natural Habitat Adventures to name the world's Best Place for Wildlife. After four weeks of voting, the polls are closed and the results are in!

  • Galapagos Islands

    Galapagos Islands

    Isolated in the Pacific 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these islands were Darwin’s laboratory for formulating the theory of natural selection…and today they are still home to unique and endemic wildlife, which is unafraid of humans! Swim with sea turtles and Galapagos penguins, snorkel with friendly sea lions and step gently among iguanas and blue-footed boobies on walks ashore.
    Photo courtesy of Greg Courter / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peruvian Amazon

    Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peruvian Amazon

    The Pacaya Samiria Reserve near the Amazon River's headwaters in Peru is a 5-million-acre mosaic of pristine habitats including flooded and dry forest and extensive wetlands. It's home to some of the largest wildlife populations in the Amazon: pink and gray river dolphins, troops of howler monkeys, elusive sloths, flocks of brilliant macaws and bright butterflies. Lagoons covered in giant lily pads teem with fish and caiman, while scores of marsh birds hunt from shore.
    Photo courtesy of JJ Huckin / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • Costa Rica

    Costa Rica

    Flanked by long, wild beaches on the Pacific and the Caribbean, Costa Rica’s interior is a lush tangle of rain forest, mist-veiled mountains, humid cloud forest, active volcanoes and habitat for some of the greatest biodiversity on Earth. Within the greenery hundreds of wildlife species thrive: neon-bright parrots, resplendent quetzals, three-toed sloths, monkeys, peccaries, crocodiles, iguanas and frogs, for starters!
    Photo courtesy of Patrick Endres / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • The Pantanal, Brazil

    The Pantanal, Brazil

    Brazil’s Pantanal is a vast system of flooded marshes that sprawls over 75,000 square miles in the heart of South America. Though the Amazon is better known, this region is home to the planet’s densest concentration of wildlife, including 10 million caimans, nearly 700 bird species, Brazilian tapir, capybara, giant otter, maned wolf and the endangered jaguar, which is making a comeback due to concerted conservation efforts.
    Photo courtesy of Cassiano Zaparoli / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • Katmai National Park, Alaska

    Katmai National Park, Alaska

    Remote Katmai is on few Alaska travel itineraries, as it is not accessible via cruise ship or motor coach. But visitors who make the effort to get to here are rewarded by close encounters with Alaska’s mighty brown bears, the world’s largest coastal grizzlies. They gorge on spawning salmon as the fish swim up the rivers that pour onto Katmai’s wild beaches, and of course, the bears are on display fishing at Brooks Falls, which offers one of the world’s most iconic wildlife photography opportunities.
    Photo courtesy of Brad Josephs / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • Okavango Delta, Botswana

    Okavango Delta, Botswana

    The world’s largest inland delta sprawls across the Kalahari Desert sands in northern Botswana, bringing life-giving water year-round to an otherwise harsh and arid region. The huge marsh, dotted with dry islands, teems with wildlife, from prolific hippos, crocodiles and hundreds of bird species to a multitude of dryland mammals – a host of small luxury safari camps offer Africa’s most intimate wildlife viewing.
    Photo courtesy of Dave Luck / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • Churchill, Manitoba

    Churchill, Manitoba

    Each fall, the world’s greatest concentration of polar bears convenes near Churchill on the edge of Hudson Bay, waiting for the sea ice to form and their hunting season to begin. Visitors ride in custom-designed tundra vehicles to observe the bears in their native realm, also looking for Arctic fox and Arctic hare. And in the summer, hundreds of beluga whales swim up the Churchill River.
    Photo courtesy of Mike Macri / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • Yellowstone National Park, USA

    Yellowstone National Park, USA

    America’s oldest national park is duly famous as one of the world’s great wildlife meccas. In addition to its large populations of elk, bison, moose, black bear and grizzly bear, the park is perhaps most noted for its gray wolves, reintroduced into the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1995. The wide-open expanse of the Lamar Valley in particular offers the world’s best chance to spot elusive gray wolves in the wild.
    Photo courtesy of Henry Holdsworth / Natural Habitat Adventure

  • Serengeti/Maasai Mara, Tanzania & Kenya

    Serengeti/Maasai Mara, Tanzania & Kenya

    East Africa’s vast grasslands sustain a staggering amount of wildlife with classic game such as elephant, giraffe and gazelle; stealthy predators like lion, cheetah and hyena; and most noteworthy, the world’s largest animal migration: some two million wildebeest and accompanying zebra make an annual circle from the Mara to the Serengeti and back, following the rains that bring new grass.
    Photo courtesy of Greg Courter / Natural Habitat Adventures

  • Ranthambore National Park, India

    Ranthambore National Park, India

    One of India’s most renowned nature reserves, Ranthambore is famed for its population of approachable tigers and offers the world’s best opportunity to view them in the wild. The former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, Ranthambore’s dry deciduous habitat makes it easier to spot tigers here than in locations where vegetation is more dense. In addition to tigers, visitors may see spotted chital deer, nilgai, jackal, various jungle cats, sambar, chinkara gazelle, wild boar, langur monkeys, rhesus macaques and sloth bear.
    Photo courtesy of Toby Sinclair / Natural Habitat Adventures


Two wildlife-centric destinations fought tooth and nail to be crowned Best Place for Wildlife, but in the end the Galapagos Islands came out on top. The 'Enchanted Isles' off the coast of Ecuador inspired Darwin's theory of evolution and are still home to some of the planet's most unique endemic species.

Coming in a close second place was the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon. Located near the Amazon headwaters in Peru, the reserve is home to some of the biggest wildlife populations in the Amazon.

The Americas dominated the winners list, with Costa Rica, the Brazilian Pantanal and Katmai National Park in Alaska rounding out the top five.

The winners in the 'Best Place for Wildlife' contest category for USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice are as follows:

  1. Galapagos Islands
  2. Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peruvian Amazon
  3. Costa Rica
  4. The Pantanal, Brazil
  5. Katmai National Park, Alaska
  6. Okavango Delta, Botswana
  7. Churchill, Manitoba
  8. Yellowstone National Park, USA
  9. Serengeti/Maasai Mara, Tanzania & Kenya
  10. Ranthambore National Park, India

Congratulations to all these winning destinations!

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