Walk on the Wild Side

After three years of living in Denver where I was a short drive from the mountains, I now find myself in the busy and noisy city of New Orleans. While I love all that the city has to offer, I’m realizing that I truly miss the serenity of nature. And while I’m currently writing this post from Park City while on a girl’s getaway in the mountains (stay tuned for an upcoming post), I decided to focus this week on wildlife eco-tours. Hey, why not? If you’re like me, and you’re yearning for time in nature, you might as well discover some exotic wildlife. And places like Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Brazil all fit the bill. Here, some incredible eco-tours that are ripe for the taking—all offered by Wild Planet Adventures (a wildlife specialty tour operator that just received its fifth “World’s Best 50 Trips” award from National Geographic Traveler).

Monkeys in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Wild Planet Adventures

Monkeys in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Wild Planet Adventures

The Costa Rica Ultimate Wildlife Eco-Tour features 13 admissions to national parks and attractions. Not only will you enjoy exclusive wildlife activities in remote destinations (including eight national parks and wildlife reserves), but you’ll also have the added benefit of professional naturalist guides, wildlife experts and scientific researchers who will fill you in on all of the wonderful habits and quirks of the animals you discover.  Wildlife destinations on both coasts include Corcovado National Park, the world-famous Sloth Sanctuary (these peaceful beings are a must-see), a hands-on wildlife rescue center, rafting and floating on two rivers, canopy tours, lazy relaxation on beaches, hot springs exploration, sea-kayaking with dolphins, snorkeling at night in the bioluminescence and more (as if that’s not enough!). 9-day tours starting at $3,098

Panama is teeming with wildlife. Photo courtesy of Wild Planet Adventures

Panama is teeming with wildlife. Photo courtesy of Wild Planet Adventures

I don’t know about you, but the Panama Canal is on my must-visit list. Whether you’re traveling with your partner, or with friends, this is one trip where there’s something for everyone. So, if you’re looking for some chill time on the beach or if you’re looking for all-out adventure, you’re sure to find it here. The Panama Ultimate Wildlife Eco-Tour offers the best of both worlds with whitewater rafting, canopy tours and kayaking the Panama Canal. Oh, and if ocean life intrigues you, the snorkeling here can’t be beat. 8-day tours starting at $2,498

If Machu Picchu is beckoning, just wait until you try the Peru: Ultimate Wildlife Amazon & Machu Picchu Tour. It includes a tour of Manu Biosphere Reserve (the No. 1 park in the world for biodiversity, with over 200 species of mammals—including 13 species of primates—and 1,000 species of birds) and the Tambopata Biosphere Reserve (which features five species of macaws, and 15 species of parrots and parakeets). Other highlights include Cusco and the Sacred Valley (some of the best wildlife viewing in the Amazon Rainforest), an exclusive opportunity to float downstream for a sneak peek at jaguar and tapir as they come to the river to drink at dawn and an expedition to see pygmy marmosets. 13-day tour starting at $5,498

Catch a glimpse of jaguars in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Wild Planet Adventures

Catch a glimpse of jaguars in Brazil. Photo courtesy of Wild Planet Adventures

A friend of mine who is a merchant marine and who has traveled all seven continents once told me that his favorite place in the world is Brazil. While it may not have been the wildlife that piqued his interest, it surely deserves attention. The Brazil—Jaguar’s Trail: Pantanal to the Amazon Tour starts in the world’s largest wetlands (the Pantanal), which is home to the largest population of jaguars in the world. Safari activities include hiking, boating, horseback riding and Jeep explorations for intimate sightings of giant otter, hyacinth macaws, giant anteater and anaconda. 15-day tours starting at $7,198

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