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Holidays to the world’s greatest grasslands

Lorna Cowan / 05 December 2016

The latest episode of Planet Earth II saw us witness wildlife in the world's most famous grasslands. Find out more about these amazing destinations here.

Chobe National Park in Botswana. Watering in the Okavango Delta. African elephants crossing river in shallow water.
The Okavango Delta is one of the seven natural wonders of Africa and plays host to a whole host of wildlife, from Norfolk Mice to Bull Elephants.

Planet Earth II is like a gift that keeps on giving. Last night was episode five (5/12/16) and once again viewers of Sir David Attenborough’s wildlife documentary are in for a treat as animals living in grasslands all over the world demonstrate some extraordinary survival techniques. 

Grasslands cover one quarter of all the earth’s land and support and sustain more large animals than any other habitat. 

Amazingly, there are over 10,000 species of grass found across the globe. And unlike other plants, grasses grow from their base, not the tip, so they can capable of surviving fire, floods, a big freeze and drought.

This latest episode of Planet Earth II takes us to Kazakhstan, the USA, Botswana and Argentina – all countries you can easily visit on a Saga holiday.

Follow the Silk Route in Kazakhstan

The Planet Earth II team drove three days and nights to reach the Eurasian Steppe in the remotest corner of Kazakhstan, hoping to catch sight of the elusive saiga antelope. 

Then hiding in a hole near new-born calves, they waited a further 12 hours for the mother to return, resulting in some fascinating footage. The saiga antelope is quite a bizarre-looking animal with bloated nostrils that point downwards.

A critically endangered relic from the ice age, it would have once upon a time walked the planet beside woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, inhabiting not only the Eurasian Steppe, but Dzungaria in China and Mongolia too.

Endless plains and vast expanses of sparse steppe and desert are what many people believe Kazakhstan is all about. However, wait until you see the impressive canyons, gorges and, of course, the Tien Shan mountain range, often referred to as the Heavenly Mountains.

Then there are the modern cities, such as the capital Astana, with its dazzling skyscrapers and cutting-edge government buildings. 

Any visit to this city must include a trip to the Nur-Astana Mosque. It’s the third largest mosque in Central Asia, and has minarets 63 metres high - the same age as Muhammad when he died.

Stopping at former Silk Route destinations, including the ancient town of Sayram and Otrar, an important ghost town, will take holidaymakers back to a time when many made this journey while trading silk, wool and precious metal. 

Turkistan, a city dating back to the 4th century, is home to the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, which although unfinished, has impressive tile work and bright turquoise domes.

Discover more about Kazakhstan and take a look at holidays visiting the Silk Route - find out more here.

Go in search of wild beasts in Botswana

Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, features twice in this week’s Planet Earth II. In the Savute corner of Chobe National Park, bee-eaters are seen flying in front of a bull elephant as it strides through the grasslands. 

Disturbing insects as he moves, the birds take this opportunity to enjoy an easy snack, with those bee-eaters flying closest to the elephant’s tusk more likely to grab the prize.

The swampy Okavango Delta is also a backdrop in this week’s grasslands episode, in which we see lions taking on their deadliest opponent, the Cape buffalo. 

Only a few prides of lions in the world have learnt how to hunt in the swamps, and they are a brave bunch. An adult bull buffalo weighs almost a tonne, more than the weight of six lionesses combined, and one sweep of his horns could be fatal.

Wily big cats and wallowing hippopotami are also creatures found on a safari in Botswana, considered to be one of the continent’s premier safari destinations. 

And with people displaying much of the charm and idiosyncrasies as described in Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, every holidaymaker is given a warm welcome.

A short flight by light aircraft over the aforementioned Okavango Delta to the edge of Moremi Game Reserve is also a highlight when in this part of the world. 

Moremi’s terrain encompasses lagoons, flood pans, plains and forests, and it’s renowned as one of Africa’s finest areas for wildlife. Herds of buffalo, lions, antelope and wild dogs frequent the neighbourhood – and on a game drive you may witness an action-packed adventure.

Botswana's vast wilderness is home to a breathtaking menagerie of Africa's most charismatic wildlife.  Discover more about holidays to Botswana with Saga

Prepare to be amazed in Argentina

An army of ants in Argentina, some five million of them, are caught on camera in this week’s Planet Earth II, harvesting grass on an epic scale. However, these grass-cutter ants don’t actually eat any of the stuff. 

Instead the clever farmers feed it to underground fungus, which they believe is a much tastier meal.

Holidaymakers to the South American country will see many different landscapes while travelling the 2,295 miles from north to south. 

Argentina is not only home to the Pampas swaying grasslands, there’s also the rusty-red Salta province, as well as the Bariloche Lake District, with its lush forests and glacier-fed lakes.

Talking of glaciers, no trip to Argentina would be complete without feasting your eyes on the magnificent natural ice caps of Patagonia.

And then there’s the jaw-dropping Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfalls system in the world. A huge volume of water rushes over a collection of nearly 300 individual waterfalls, some up to 2780 feet high.

Wildlife enthusiasts won’t be disappointed either. If you head to the Atlantic coast, you can walk through penguin colonies and spot orca, sea lions and dolphins off the Valdes Peninsula.

And when you just want to indulge in architecture, modern art, music or a mouth-watering dinner, then make your way to Buenos Aires, a charming and sophisticated city that will win your heart. If time allows, don’t miss a tango show.

Discover more about Argentina and take a look at holidays visiting this great South American country. Find out more here

Take a walk on the wild side in Yellowstone National Park

In Yellowstone National Park, primarily in the US state of Wyoming, bears, coyote, elk and wolves roam nearly 3,500 square miles of wilderness. 

Also to be found there are an estimated 5,500 bison, seen in this week’s Planet Earth II.

Yellowstone is the only place in the States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times and they are among the few bison herds that have not interbred with cattle. 

Although the largest land mammal in North America, the bison’s size doesn’t prevent it from being agile and quick – it’s capable of reaching speeds in excess of 30mph.

Yellowstone is just one of many fascinating destinations on a Saga sightseeing tour of North America. 

Home of the Old Faithful Geyser, which reliably erupts every 44 to 125 minutes, here you can also enjoy learning more about the tribes and bands who have spent time in the Yellow

Continuing on a touring holiday, memorable stop-offs will include the Devil’s Tower National Monument, an astounding geologic feature also in Wyoming; Goulding’s Trading Post (now called Goulding’s Lodge), a famous haunting ground seen in many Westerns; and for all Calamity Jane fans, Deadwood in South Dakota, named after the dead trees found in its valley.

Discover the USA, from the Pacific Coast Highway to the neck-craning skyscrapers of New York. Find out more here

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

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.