Five amazing wildlife excursions

Lorna Cowan / 17 November 2016

Planet Earth II was last year's must watch TV. There's something about baby iguanas and sloths that make us all want to experience it for ourselves.

Ever since the first episode of Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II was shown on BBC1 a few weeks ago, we’ve been glued to our seats every Sunday night watching the challenges animals face to survive in iconic habitats around the world.

A whole nation of TV fans gasped as a baby iguana made a great escape from a gauntlet of racer snakes. And who didn’t dance in their chair at home last weekend while observing those grizzly bears getting rid of a particularly scratchy itch?

This Sunday's episode (20/11/16), episode three, goes to the jungle, and thanks to cutting-edge technology and ground-breaking filming techniques, we can get closer than ever to remarkable creatures living on our planet.

Some of the destinations featured in this episode of Planet Earth II are countries visited on Saga’s Central American Discovery cruise. Don’t miss these top five wildlife excursions.

Experience the thrill of whale watching in Mexico or St Lucia

Every year, eight of the 11 known species of whales come to waters off the coast of Mexico as part of their migration.

And while in port at Puerto Vallarta - affectionately called the friendliest city in the world – cruise passengers will be able to embark on a thrilling whale-watching excursion.

It’ll be tough to drag yourself away from Puerto Vallarta’s long sandy beaches, but this trip on a comfortable motor catamaran is not to be missed.

Humpback whales are regular visitors in Banderas Bay, and catching sight of an adult – who can be up to 52 feet long – is truly magnificent.

The warm sea and good weather entice the humpback to return to the same spot year after year.

It’s the perfect place for them to mate – listen out for the males who can ‘sing’ for up to 20 minutes – and the bay offers the whales near-perfect conditions to give birth and nurse their calves before all the family make the trek back to Alaska.

A similar trip is available from the beautiful island of St Lucia, also on the cruise itinerary. Humpback, sperm and pilot whales frequent the seas here, as do striped and spinner dolphins, famous for their acrobatic displays.

The ORCA experience: go whale watching with the experts

Seek out sloths, lizards and monkeys along Costa Rica’s Tortuguero Canal

Costa Rica is home to a wealth of weird and exotic animals – in this Planet Earth II’s jungle episode, you’ll witness a male glass frog taking on giant wasps to protect his young, risking his life in the process.

While in port in Golfito, a small seaside town in the south of the country, cruise passengers will have the opportunity to enjoy a three-hour adventure along the Tortuguero Canal, often referred to as Costa Rica’s Amazon.

Around 250 inches of rain falls on the imposing rainforest every year, making it an ideal habitat for some curious creatures, including the three-toed sloth.

The basilisk lizard, also known as the Jesus lizard as it has the ability to run on the surface of water, is often spotted too. As are plenty of cheeky monkeys – the howler, spider and white-headed capuchin.

Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park is also a twitcher’s paradise – 375 species of bird live in the area so keep your binoculars close and be on the lookout for toucans, kingfishes, blue herons, parrots and peacocks.

Cruise wildlife: the many animals you can see while on a cruise

Go river rafting alongside giant iguanas and crocodiles in Belize

If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a Bear Grylls character, then this excursion is for you. While your cruise ship is docked in Belize City, grab the chance to go on a bamboo river-rafting expedition through the tropical rainforest, catching a glimpse of howler monkeys nestled in trees en route.

Don’t worry, though, the trip doesn’t exclude those of a more wary disposition. Safety briefs are all part of the excursion and an expert guide will accompany you on the ride. He’ll do the paddling too.  

The Belize River, also known as the Old River or the River Wallace, flows for 180 miles through dense forest teeming with a variety of birds and other wildlife. Along part of the route, you may spot giant iguanas, some a huge 4.9 feet in length.

Eagle-eyed adventurers may even clock a crocodile or a cute kinkajou, sometimes called a honey bear.

Join an exhilarating encounter with turtles in Barbados

Once relaxed in Barbados, there is plenty to explore on land in the capital Bridgetown. However, taking a dip in the sea and potentially snorkelling alongside turtles will be an experience of a lifetime, one you’ll always remember.

Both hawksbill and leatherback turtles are protected species but can be found in stunning azure waters all around the Caribbean.

They are a little shy, but hawksbill turtles, which can grow to three feet in length and weigh over 12 stone, like to spend time in shallow lagoons and coral reefs, so will regularly come face to face with swimmers and snorkellers.

The Saga excursion, onboard a catamaran, is also perfect for passengers who don’t want to get wet. Simply sit back, relax, bask in the sunshine and take in the beautiful scenery.

Spot jaguar, puma and tapir while visiting Guatemala

Stopping off at Guatemala, cruise passengers will be able to join an excursion to Chapin Safari Park. On the Pacific coast, the Saga Sapphire docks at Puerto Quetzal, the largest port in the country.

Chapin Safari Park, founded in 1980 as a natural reserve, is one of the largest such parks in the whole of Central America. The emphasis here is on conservation, and many of the endangered species have been rescued and housed in conditions that are as near as possible to their natural habitat. There is also a successful breeding programme.

In this episode of Planet Earth II, viewers will witness a jaguar, the third largest cat after the tiger and lion, and the one with the most powerful bite of any wild cat, preying on caimans.

Native to Guatemala, jaguars love swimming and will often hunt by rivers. While at Chapin, you’ll stroll through the Zoological Garden and have the opportunity to view at close quarters these astonishing animals, as well as pumas, large cats with incredibly long tails.

The puma is also incredibly agile and can run to speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. A leap can take them 18 feet into the air.  

Another Guatemala native, the tapir, also resides at Chapin. A similar shape to a pig, and with a short snout, tapirs have white-tipped ears, stubby tails, and splayed, hooved toes. With four toes on each front foot, and three on each at the back, these help them walk on muddy ground.

Join Saga for and exhilarating voyage to Central America and witness these wonderful creatures for yourself

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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