When most travelers think “safari,” they think “African safari” — but North America is home to some of the most beautiful, unique, and amazing wildlife in the world. For those looking to take an active, nature-centric vacation, check out these three wildlife safari tours that don’t require a trip across the pond.
Spot Polar Bears on the Canadian Tundra (Churchill, Manitoba)
Polar bears are among the world’s most fascinating and fearsome land mammals. Sadly, there are few places in the world where travelers can reliably spot or track them. Hudson Bay in northern Canada is one exception. The tiny town of Churchill, Manitoba, is home to less than 1,000 full-time residents and scores of wild polar bears. Every fall, the bears descend upon the surrounding tundra in search of food stores ahead of the long Canadian winter. Tourists can venture into their habitat via “buggies” — large, purpose-built, all-terrain vehicles designed to traverse the tundra in search of the elusive beasts. For decades, Natural Habitat Adventures has been the go-to expedition leader in the area. The company’s Classic Polar Bear Adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that includes three full days of polar safari in search of Arctic fox, Arctic hare, and, of course, polar bears. Dog-sledding is also included, and, although it’s unpredictable, spotting the Northern Lights is a possibility. Prices start at $6,195 per person and include flights within Canada, meals, and just about everything else you’ll need.
Track Bears and Wolves in Yellowstone (Wyoming/Montana)
There is, of course, no bad time to visit Yellowstone National Park, but autumn is an especially unique time of year. The bears begin to stock up on food ahead of their winter hibernation; elk bugling peaks when dominant, 700-pound bull elk keep a watchful eye over their mates; and the wolves are out in packs. A wildlife safari in fall also guarantees a stunning backdrop of brilliant autumn colors as the leaves are changing. Among a long catalog of nature- and wildlife-centric expeditions, Teton Science Schools leads seasonal safaris, including the Fall Elk Bugling, Wolves, & Bears Expedition into the heart of Yellowstone to experience it all. The three-day trips often include stops at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful, and Mammoth Hot Springs. Prices start at $1,450 per person and include meals.
Sail the Sea of Cortez (Mexico)
Going on safari needn’t be only about land animals and big game. Located south of California, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez is home to a larger biodiversity of marine life than anywhere on earth. Jacques Cousteau called it “the aquarium of the world,” and John Steinbeck described it as “ferocious with life.” AdventureSmith Explorations’ Baja Bounty marine safari is one of the best ways to see it all. Days are spent kayaking, snorkeling, and paddleboarding in search of massive dolphin pods, sea lions, mobula rays, and endemic birds. Top-side, passengers have the option of hiking the area’s rugged, red rock cliff formations and relaxing on the beach at sunset with cocktails and bonfire. Prices start at $2,995 per person.