Wildlife is one of the top reasons I love travelling. There is, of course, the lure of delicious foods, fascinating culture and the chance to try out new thing but ultimately, it’s always the wildlife that really makes a trip special for me.
On the way out into the bay, there are great views of seabirds as well, including cheeky puffins poking out of their nesting holes to watch the boats go past.
Iceland is the place to go for marine encounters. Although you might not want to take a dip in the freezing Icelandic waters, there are plenty of boats that go out from Reykjavik for an hour, half day or full day to scour Faxaflói bay for whales, dolphins, porpoise and seal. There are regular sightings of Minke and humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises. On the way out into the bay, there are great views of seabirds as well, including cheeky puffins poking out of their nesting holes to watch the boats go past.
If Iceland’s too cold, but you still want the sea, Spain might be more your answer. Head to Andalucia in September for the annual birds of prey migration, with thousands of raptors passing over Tarifa towards Africa for the winter. I’ve heard this windy spot isn’t too bad for windsurfing either, in case the raptors aren’t showing.
Not far from Tarifa is Gibraltar, a few hours drive down the coast. When in Gibraltar, head up to The Rock to get unnervingly close to the Barbary macaques that live in the National Nature Reserve. Just don’t forget to look after your lunch, as they’re notorious thieves, and will do anything for the chance to steal an icecream or sandwich!
If you’re not an early bird, 10pm can bring badgers and pine martin to your very doorstop if you’re in the right spot
The Donau-Auen national park on the outskirts of Vienna has a thriving population of beavers- although difficult to see out on the Danube itself, there are a couple kept in an enclosure about an hour's walk from the park edge that give ridiculously good views. There is also deer and a tame magpie nearby too, in case the beavers don't show up for a while.
For a location a little bit closer to home, Scotland is a fantastic country. Boasting epic natural views, the land of Scots also offers the ‘Big 5’ species- red deer, otter, harbour seal, golden eagle, and red squirrel. 6am on the Isle of Arran, Scotland, turned out to be the perfect time to otter watch outside our holiday house- if you’re not an early bird, 10pm can bring badgers and pine martin to your very doorstop if you’re in the right spot. Unfortunately these are both prime time for midges, so be sure to cover up if you’re not looking for an insect wildlife encounter!