Wildlife watching doesn’t need to stop when you hit the coast. Whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and a myriad of impressive sea-birds can be found across the planet.
Encounter spectacular animals by boat
There’s an old preconception that you can either be on safari looking at wildlife, or on the beach – and never the twain shall meet. The truth is more nuanced and it’s absolutely possible to undertake rewarding marine safaris and relax on a beach.
Marine safaris are indisputably different from land-based safaris and it is important that expectations are managed. Many marine mammals, notably whales and dolphins, spend most of their time below the surface, so the ability to predict where they will be at any point and then spend time with them is a very different proposition to watching a herd of elephants or family of gorillas.
That said, witnessing a 30-tonne humpback whale launch itself out of the water, or a pod of dolphins playing in the wake of your boat is incredibly rewarding. Add in to the mix magnificent frigatebirds, albatrosses, enormous turtles, inquisitive seals, colourful fish or a curious octopus and it soon becomes apparent that actually there aren’t many marine environments not worth exploring.
In some places, such as the Galapagos, the marine element is very much part of the experience, snorkelling with sea lions being an absolute highlight for many. In others the species being sought out may be seasonal, bordering on the ephemeral – swimming with whale sharks falls into this category.
We’d suggest that wherever you are planning to go, whether Africa, Central America or Asia, consider whether there are any coastal options that can sensibly be added into the mix. The complete change of environment can be both massively rewarding and great fun. All but a very few cases can be experienced from a boat or snorkelling rather than needing any hardcore diving training and equipment.
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- Humpback whales off the coast of Madagascar
- Swim with sea lions from your charter yacht in the Galapagos
- Snorkel with whale sharks off the coast of Mafia Island
Highlights of Marine Safaris
Often the best safaris involve looking beyond the obvious highlights. It’s about the exhilarating encounters that will make your heart sing. These are encounters that nobody could ever predict, but that make your safari genuinely unique.
BEST TIME TO GO ON A MARINE SAFARI
Many marine phenomena can be witnessed year-round, a few however require precise timing, patience and a large dollop of good luck.
Humpback whales are amongst the most widespread mammals on our planet having a truly global distribution from the Arctic to the Antarctic, so theoretically you could see them in any ocean. To have the best chance of seeing them and to see them at their best, it is imperative to refine your search. Fortunately, being highly migratory as well as seasonal breeders, we now have a fairly good idea of where they will be and what they will be doing at any point of time. If you want to see their exuberant breeching and tail slapping displays we might suggest the wonderful Masoala Peninsula of North East Madagascar in September. Or, if you want the opportunity to swim with great pods of them in the warm pacific waters, head to Tonga between July and October.
If you have a specific goal in mind – such as watching turtles hatching or encountering whale sharks, then you’ll need to focus entirely on the best dates and places to have any chance of ticking that off. Assuming a more generalist approach then factors such as the weather, water temperature and what you’re seeking on the land-based portion of your safari are likely to be important factors or where you might head to and why.
BEST TIME TO GO ON A MARINE SAFARI
Top marine experiences
Freediving with Humpback Whales
A wonderful expert-guided multi-day ocean adventure to track and free dive with migratory humpback whalesDiscover More
Top Parks & Areas for Marine Safaris
- Protected rainforest with a wealth of rare species
- Spot the glamorous red-ruffed lemur
- Swimming, sea-kayaking and snorkelling
- Stay in the beautiful Masoala Forest Lodge
- Tropical island life
- Swahili culture
- Perfect combination with Tanzania safari
- Turquoise sea and white sandy beaches
- Snorkel with whale sharks
- BBQ seafood on private sandbanks
- Sail on traditional dhow
- Excellent diving
- A truly remote experience
- Un-touched rainforest and beautiful beaches
- Superb wildlife
- Walking in the Osa Peninsula
“The more you learn about the dignity of the Gorilla, the more you want to avoid people.– DIANE FOSSEY
From Our Travel Guides
Month by Month Guide to Visiting Madagascar
Top 5 Wildlife Safaris
Top 5 Safari Destinations to see Wild Dog
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They picked out good places to stay that fitted the criteria. Very thoughtful and attentive. They called back and they sent emails with suggestions….
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Our family Kenyan safari trip to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary was perfectly planned by Catherine from the moment we landed in Nairobi, to ou…