Dedicated wildlife holidays offer an exciting opportunity to experience flora and fauna thriving and interacting in its natural environment or habitat. Itineraries can take you to steamy jungles and inhospitable tundra, to the rolling grasslands of Kenya or the breathtaking glaciers of Greenland. But even the most extensive wildlife holiday can be made or broken by the quality of the guidance and instruction of a professional naturalist tour leader.
Leading by Example
When you book a holiday with a reputable specialist wildlife travel company, you should expect to be led or accompanied by at least one naturalist tour leader, depending on the size of your group. This guide may accompany you on the flights to and from your destination, or they may meet you upon your arrival. Your group leader/guide is the most precious resource you’ll have, as he or she is responsible for the logistics of the trip, coordinating group activities, sorting out any questions and problems, and sharing their in-depth wildlife knowledge and expertise.
Understanding the Role
The most important part of the job of a naturalist tour leader is being out in the field, helping wildlife enthusiasts identify the various plants, birds, and mammals that live in the region the tour is visiting. Your guide might lead you on a search for the elusive Red-fronted Macaw in Bolivia, or point out the cheeky lemurs hiding in the treetops in Madagascar.
First and foremost, a professional wildlife holiday guide is an expert naturalist. A naturalist is a person who studies or is an expert in natural history – that is, the sciences that deal with all things in nature. They are likely to be an expert in zoology or botany, or perhaps both. The expertise of your professional guide (who may even be a local of the region) will help you to understand the plants and animals that you see and also ensure your safety.
Do Your Research
When you’re looking into booking a trip with a dedicated wildlife holiday travel company, ensure you also research their guides, if possible. A reputable company will employ guides who are carefully matched to the destinations in which they are working. A good guide should have foreign language skills, a deep knowledge of the area, and specialist knowledge of the flora and fauna you can expect to see.
With an experienced, knowledgeable, and energetic naturalist tour leader, your wildlife holiday can be one of the most eye-opening and awe-inspiring experiences of your life – whether you’re in the rainforests of Borneo or the highlands of Scotland.