Top 13 Cruise Destinations for Wildlife

A Keel-billed Toucan sitting on a branch in Costa Rica
A cruise can be the best way to immerse yourself in the wildlife of several countries. | Author: Zdeněk Macháček

If you are a lover of wildlife, you may feel as though a cruise wouldn’t be the best thing for you. You’d be limited to visiting ports and wouldn’t be able to get to any fascinating wildlife spots. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are many great cruise destinations for nature and wildlife all across the globe and you’re going to be able to see some incredible sights, whether you are looking for marine life, birds or fascinating land animals. Here we look at the best cruise destinations where you are going to be able to take in some wildlife wonders. 

13. Komodo, Indonesia

There is, perhaps, an obvious clue in what can be found at this cruise destination from its name. It is the home of the Komodo Dragon. The largest lizards in the world were named after the island and it has constantly been a common habitat for them.

The males are able to grow to around eight and a half feet long and they are a fascinating sight to behold. They are the closest thing that you’re ever going to get to seeing a real dragon and it’s great to see them in their natural habitat.

It is part of a fascinating group of islands that contain a huge amount of wildlife. There is a great choice of cruise lines that run through the area to be able to see these amazing creatures. Crystal Cruises are a great luxury choice for anyone wanting a wildlife tour. 

A big Komodo dragon in the nature on Komodo in Indonesia
Komodo will offer you the opportunity to see the largest lizards in the world. | Author: Joshua J. Cotten

12. Vancouver, Canada

Canada is a vast country that is home to many different types of wildlife. It’s great to be able to explore the country for those that love nature and wildlife. One animal that thrives there are black bears and visiting Vancouver is a great place to find them.

Vancouver Island is home to some of the biggest black bears in the world and British Columbia has around a quarter of all of the black bears in Canada. It’s a great experience to be able to see these animals close up in their natural habitat. 

Canada is a great place for spotting wildlife and it has many great cruise destinations. You have a great selection of cruises in the area but Princess Cruises, in particular, offer a huge amount of vacations in the region with some epic itineraries.

11. Dominica, Caribbean

The Caribbean has a lot of wildlife and people often head there to explore the many coral reefs that they have, which are teeming with marine life. But if you head a bit further out though, there are some incredible animal sightings to be seen.

If you head off the shores of Dominica and you love whale watching, then you are going to be in for a treat. It is a great place to look out for sperm whales and you will more likely catch a glance of many other incredible whales too.

As you can imagine, the Caribbean is an area that cruise ships love to sail through. If you want to travel there in luxury then stepping onboard a SeaDream Yacht Club dream will help to give you a memorable experience on a small ship.

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10. Dunedin, New Zealand

New Zealand is a notoriously beautiful country where you are going to be able to see rolling green hills and fantastic landscapes. There is also a lot of wildlife to explore too, including the ability to participate in some whale watching. 

There is also a great opportunity to head off to Penguin Place in Dunedin where you are going to see a reserve for these beautiful animals. You might also get the opportunity to spot some dolphins swimming and seals on the rocky outcrops.

You’re not going to be able to visit New Zealand without coming across a great range of wildlife. In order to get you there, Regent Seven Seas run some great itineraries that are going to be able to give you an experience like no other. 

9. Tonga

Visiting the South Pacific island of Tonga is going to give you a remarkable experience for many reasons. It’s a unique culture and the island life is something that you will fall in love with. Offshore though, there are huge animals to be found. 

Tonga is where humpback whales head to mate and give birth which means vast numbers of them can be seen. If you want an experience of a lifetime, you also will have the opportunity to swim right next to these friendly giants.

Whilst it is a fascinating destination, there aren’t actually many cruise lines that head off to the remote South Pacific destination. Thankfully Holland America Line is one company that a can take you to see these amazing whales. 

8. Svalbard, Norway

If you don’t mind wrapping up warm while you are on a cruise, then a visit to Svalbard would certainly be a memorable one. While it is a part of Norway, it’s an island that is north of the mainland, giving it a unique ecosystem.

One amazing sight that you can see in Svalbard is the Aurora Borealis which can frequently be seen there. In terms of wildlife though, it is an excellent place to spot polar bears and you are going to be able to watch them roam in their natural habitat. 

They are fearsome creatures when they need to be but they are also magnificent. Being near them will take your breath away. Hurtigruten Cruise Lines have many cruises that pass by Norway to enable you to get up close and personal with a polar bear.

A polar bear laying in white snow in Svalbard in Norway
Going on a cruise to Norway, you will be able to sea polar bears in their natural environment. | Author: Annie Spratt

7. Puerto Madryn, Argentina

South America is a captivating place, as it has some beautiful scenery and also a culture that is fun and exciting. Argentina is a great destination and in Puerto Madryn, you’re going to be able to see a great range of sea-based animals. 

There is a good chance that you are going to be able to spot some whales but that’s not the only thing that you are going to see. There are also plenty of sea lions, penguins and seals for you to look at too and it makes for a thrilling adventure.

A trip around the coast of South America will give you a wonderful view of the wildlife that you can discover. With Princess Cruises, you’re going to be able to head out on such a trip and for those wildlife lovers, it would most definitely be a memorable one. 

6. Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a diverse ecosystem that is quite remarkable and it helps to make it one of the best wildlife spots in the world. A lot of land is covered in rainforest with excursions able to give you a glimpse into life beneath the canopies.

You’re going to be able to see the likes of howler monkeys, sloths, toucans and iguanas. In the port town of Puntarenas, there is also a rescue center that houses large sea turtles and crocodiles, among other animals. 

It’s an exciting part of the world to visit and you will be constantly thrilled about what you are able to see. Royal Caribbean can take you on that nature adventure as they have numerous great itineraries running past Costa Rica.

5. Patagonia, Chile

The most famous fjords in the world can be found in Norway but Chile is also home to the amazing spectacle of sailing between towering hills. In the region of Patagonia, not only is there immense natural beauty but also great wildlife too.

Many penguins are going to be found there but also plenty of other sea life such as seals, whales and condors. There is plenty more to see too and with the combination of the landscape, it would be an unforgettable trip.

You’d have to wrap up warm as temperatures would be mild and it’s best to travel there in the summer season, which for Chile runs from around October to March. If you’re looking to travel there in style then Ponant would be the perfect option for you.

4. Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The wildlife in Africa is notorious in regards to having the most popular and revered animals in the world with the likes of lions, leopards and elephants. It is full of incredible safaris and savannahs but unfortunately, most of it is inaccessible from a cruise ship. 

In South Africa, though you have the opportunity to see those animals with some cruises operating long stops to be able to visit a safari, but for animal lovers on a shorter trip, Addo Elephant Park is only a short distance away from Port Elizabeth.

That will enable you to see the incredible animals in a huge park and it’s great to see what they are doing to make sure that the magnificent animals stay protected in their surroundings. Silversea is a great operator and will get you there in style.

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3. Alaska, USA

Alaska is another cruise destination where you are going to have to wrap up warm in order to visit. If that doesn’t bother you, then you’re going to be able to see some marvels of nature and wildlife. The national park territory has some great excursions. 

The state is a great place to be able to see many different types of whales from killer whales to humpback whales and beyond. It will give you memories that are going to last for a lifetime, and a wonderful adventure.

Alaska is also home to amazing scenery and nature too for even more amazement. Azamara Club Cruises have many ships that sail through the waters of the upper northern hemisphere to be able to see such amazing sights.

2. Amazon, Brazil

An Amazon river cruise is going to be able to give you a breathtaking experience. There are some cruises that go incredibly deep into South America as you are able to reach the cruise destination of Manaus, which is 650 miles from the coast.

A cruise ship will take you down the river and along the way you are going to be able to see all manner of different jungle wildlife. It will be an endless series of wonders with excursions available at the stops to see the wildlife even closer up.

It’s a journey that is going to take the breath away from everyone, let alone lovers of wildlife. It’s amazing that a cruise ship is able to go that far down a river but that’s exactly what Oceania Cruises can do.

1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

In terms of wildlife destinations, it doesn’t get more famous than the Galapagos Islands. It is a hive of wildlife activity and for any animal lover, it is a destination that they simply have to see. Thankfully, there are many cruises to take you there.

Whether you want to see some blue footed boobies or giant tortoises, you are going to be able to enjoy all the wonders that being there will give you. You’ll be able to see nature and wildlife in all its glory as they dominate the land.

There are some great wildlife cruises that you are going to be able to enjoy that can get you to the remote location. Celebrity Cruises offer such trips where you are going to see nature in its truest form and wildlife in their natural habitat

A blue footed booby sitting on a rock by the sea on the Galapagos Islands
Being the top cruise destination for wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are dominated by nature and animals. | Author: Andy Brunner

Cruise destinations for wildlife

Just because you’re on a cruise ship, doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to be able to get in touch with wildlife. Thankfully there are many destinations in and around ports that are going to allow you to see wildlife as you’ve never seen it before.

As you can see from this list, there are plenty of places around the globe. There are also plenty of cruise ships that offer great itineraries to enable you to enjoy such beautiful wildlife. All that’s left to do is book and plan your trip to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

To make your search easy and fast, you can check out the best cruises going to the top 5 cruise destinations for wildlife directly here: 

1. Best Galapagos Cruises

2. Best South America Cruises

3. Best Alaska Cruises

4. Best Cruises to Northern Europe (Baltics)

5. Best South Sea Cruises

Check out these articles for more top destinations: