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Top Five Favourite National Parks for Nature Appreciation

  • WHL Group
  • 21 June 2010

Every year, curious travellers journey throughout the globe to escape into the untouched wild. The goal: to witness incredible plant and animal life without human interference. The WHL Group presents here five of its favourite national parks, the kinds of places where nature comes first.

The flightless dung beetle is an endangered species, one of the largest populations of which is in the Eastern Cape of South Africa (photo courtesy of Riverbend Lodge)

The flightless dung beetle is an endangered species, one of the largest populations of which is in the Eastern Cape of South Africa (photo courtesy of Riverbend Lodge)

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

Not far from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, is a must-see destination for wildlife fanatics. Launched in 1931 as a conservation area for the preservation of only 11 elephants, Addo Elephant National Park now boasts over 400 pachyderms on its reserve. It is also home to elephants, buffalos, rhinos and lions, protected from the past carnage of unregulated poaching. Today, travellers can enjoy an Addo Safari and see the dense African elephant population in its safe haven, along with the rest of the Big Seven – the Big Five plus great white sharks and southern right whales! If you appreciate the small things in life too, Addo is one of the only places to see the unique flightless dung beetle, integrating perfectly into the Addo ecosystem and providing an important cleanup service in the area.

Tangkoko National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia, is home to the rare tarsiers, the smallest primates in the world, known for their small bodies, long tails and bulbous eyes. As you can see, they have the largest eye-to-head ratio of all mammals!

Tangkoko National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia, is home to the rare tarsiers, one of the smallest primates in the world, known for their small bodies, long tails and bulbous eyes. As you can see, they have the largest eye-to-head ratio of all mammals!

Tangkoko National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Get into the thick of it. Outside Manado in the north of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, is the rainforest of the Tangkoko Batuangus Mountain Nature Reserve. Here, from the village of Tanduk Rusa, near the city of Bitung, travellers can climb Mount Tangkoko and take in the 8745 hectares of Tangkoko National Park’s wild jungle landscape of endemic flora and fauna. Many rare species are in residence, including the Sulawesi black ape (Celebes crested macaque), maleo bird, cuscus, red-knobbed hornbill, reptiles and snakes. Additionally, the is home to the rare and endangered spectral tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primates. These adorable creatures with huge ogling eyes and long tails can be seen sleeping in the treetops during the daytime. In Sulawesi, the tarsier represents love, as it is monogamous and can be seen entangling its tail with its lifetime mate.

Sian Ka’an, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico, is probably best known as a stopover for cruise ships and a top tropical beach getaway (especially during the North American spring break) littered with all-inclusive resorts. Intrepid travellers in search of nature should, however, not be deterred! Not far from the exquisite sandy coastline and cheap tequila is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, an ecological sanctuary of mangroves and forests, where exotic plants and animals runneth over. As the first biosphere reserve in Mexico, Sian Ka’an (meaning ‘where the sky is born’ is Mayan) is now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and populated by monkeys, jaguars, snakes, reptiles and hundreds of bird species, making it an animal and bird watcher’s paradise! As if that isn’t enough, the sanctuary contains Mayan ruins dating back 2,300 years and shares a border with the second largest coral reef in the world, one often visited by endangered sea turtles that lay eggs on the beach.

Angel Falls, located in Canaima National Park of Bolivar State, Venezuela, are the highest waterfalls in the world. Most of the water actually evaporates before it ever reaches the ground.

Angel Falls, located in Canaima National Park of Bolivar State, Venezuela, are the highest waterfalls in the world. Most of the water actually evaporates before it ever reaches the ground.

Canaima National Park, Venezuela

Home to Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall (16 times taller than Niagara), Canaima National Park is located in southern Venezuela and about the same size as Belgium. Canaima was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique tepui tabletop mountains and the diverse landscapes and climates it encompasses, from tropical lowland forests to high mountain peaks. This environmental medley means it plays host to approximately 9000 plant species not seen anywhere else and is sanctuary to several endangered species, including jaguars, giant armadillos, ocelots, giant anteaters and giant river otters. Canaima is also considered an ornithologist’s nirvana, with hundreds of migrating birds congregating here during the winter. Keep your binoculars handy!

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park, in the Kvarner region of northern Croatia, is widely considered one of the most beautiful places on earth. What could easily be the setting of a fairytale – 16 lakes, cascading waterfalls, pristine forests, serene meadows and unique karst formations – have earned it a spot on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. It is a wonderful place to escape into for the fresh mountain air, colourful plant life and a trek through unspoiled nature on the raised walking trails. The park is also home to many woodland species, both familiar and rare, including brown bears, lynx, grey wolves, foxes, wild boars and many different types of birds.

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WHL Group

WHL Group is the largest local-travel company in the world, a global network of companies that help travellers find unique ways to experience a destination through local tourism professionals. WHL Group companies empower local partners who have practice in experiential and mindful travel and a local's knack for identifying, explaining and sustaining the distinctive qualities of a place. Visit the WHL Group website.
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animal conservation, Croatia, game reserves, Indonesia, lakes, marine conservation, Mexico, national parks, South Africa, top five, Venezuela, waterfalls, WHL Group newsletter, world heritage,

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