8 of the most iconic wildlife species you can see on an expedition cruise

Travel Advice

An expedition cruise can transport you to the heart of some of the world's most unique and vibrant ecosystems, bringing you face to face with an array of astonishing wildlife. Here are 8 iconic wildlife species you can see on an expedition cruise.

Travelling far from the beaten track, you'll feel like you've just walked into a David Attenborough documentary as you explore ashore and on the water accompanied by expert naturalist guides. From iridescent tropical birds to ancient reptiles, from giant sea creatures to endangered primates, here are just a few of the iconic species you can see on an expedition cruise…

8 iconic wildlife species you can see on an expedition cruise

1. Polar bears

The polar bear is the Arctic's most emblematic species, a majestic and powerful creature that also symbolises the fragility of the ecosystem it inhabits. The best place to see polar bears in the wild is the Svalbard archipelago, an icy land far to the north of mainland Norway. On an expedition cruise you'll have the chance to see these awesome animals in their natural habitat, with Zodiacs getting you up close without intruding on the bears' territory.

Where to spot: Svalbard, Alaska, Greenland, Canada

Read more: Exploring the Arctic on Greg Mortimer

Lindblad Expeditions - Polar bear in the Arctic

2. Emperor penguins

We've never met anyone who doesn't love penguins, and Antarctica is the number one destination for watching these endearingly odd birds waddle along the ice. The emperor penguin is the largest of all the penguin species, but they're also difficult to find as they live at more southerly latitudes than their smaller cousins. Look out for the rare itineraries that visit the remote Ross Ice Shelf and the emperor penguin colony off Snow Hill Island.

Where to spot: only Antarctica!

Read more: A penguin spotter's guide to Antarctica

Quark Expeditions - Emperor penguins

3. Marine iguanas

Marine iguanas are the world's only seafaring lizards, descended from a distant, land-based ancestor which somehow washed up on the shores of the Galapagos. These weird and wonderful creatures display a number of remarkable adaptations, such as a shortened snout that allows them to scrape algae off the rocks more efficiently. You'll see marine iguanas all over the Galapagos, most notably on the black and barren island of Fernandina, where they congregate in large groups.

Where to spot: only the Galapagos!

Read more: The Galapagos on Silver Origin

iconic wildlife species expedition cruise

4. Giant tortoises

Most people associate giant tortoises with the Galapagos Islands, but in fact the world's largest population of these prehistoric-looking creatures can be found on the Aldabra Atoll in the idyllic Indian Ocean. This rarely-visited corner of the Seychelles is home to over 150,000 giant tortoises, along with sea turtles, coconut crabs and red-footed boobies, and the scattered coral islands are perfectly suited to exploration by small expedition ship.

Where to spot: Seychelles, Mauritius, the Galapagos

Read more: The sparkling Seychelles with Silversea

 iconic wildlife species you can see on an expedition cruise

5. Orangutans

Hidden amongst the jungles of Borneo lives one of our closest relatives, the orangutan, a word meaning 'man of the forest' in the Malay and Indonesian languages. These gentle and bewitchingly human-like creatures are increasingly threatened by deforestation and habitat loss, which makes protected reserves such as Tanjung Puting National Park so vital for their survival. A select number of expedition cruises visit Tanjung Puting's famous Camp Leakey, allowing you to witness their important conservation work up close.

Where to spot: Sumatra, Borneo

Read more: The orangutans of Borneo with Silversea

Orangutans in Borneo

6. Humpback whales

There's more to Mexico than dreamy beaches and Mayan ruins, with one of the world's richest marine ecosystems situated just off the Baja California peninsula. The surprisingly little-known Sea of Cortez was once described by Jacques Cousteau as the 'World's Aquarium', and is home to wildlife including sea lions, turtles, whale sharks, as well as the majestic humpback whale and the magnificent blue whale, the largest animal on earth. An expedition cruise allows you to kayak, snorkel and explore by Zodiac amongst this incredible underwater managerie.

Where to spot: Baja California, Arctic, Alaska, Antarctica, Australia

Read more: Whale watching in the Sea of Cortez with UnCruise

7. Komodo dragon

The famous Komodo dragon is the largest lizard on Earth and most commonly found on Komodo Island, an area of spectacular natural beauty with stunning beaches tinged with pink thanks to the high concentration of red coral just offshore, and the waters draw intrepid divers from all over the world. Look to expedition cruises that visit Komodo Island as well as other Indonesian islands where the Komodo dragon can be found such as the staggeringly beautiful Flores, also home to manta rays, whales, and several species of turtle.

Where to spot: Only Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands

Read more: Island-Hopping Around Indonesia on Aqua Blu

komodo_dragon iconic wildlife species you can see on an expedition cruise

8. Scarlet macaws

The brilliant plumage of a macaw is one of the most startling sights in the Amazon, though you'll likely hear these noisy birds before you see them. Macaws are the largest species of parrot, and they usually mate for life, so you'll often see them flying through the forest canopy in pairs. The most spectacular species has to be the scarlet macaw, with its rainbow of red, yellow and blue feathers, and you may also spot blue-and-yellow macaws and green-winged macaws as you travel through the jungle on an Amazon river expedition cruise.

Where to spot: Amazon, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica

Read more: How to choose an Amazon river cruise

 iconic wildlife species you can see on an expedition cruise
Meet the author

Claire is Marketing Manager at Mundy Adventures, having worked with the company for nearly a year and in travel for over 8 years. Her most recent adventure was a cruise on Seabourn Venture and she has also sailed with Ponant. Her favourite adventure destination is Sweden however she's also enjoyed adventures in South America, the Galapagos, Australia, Northern Europe, Southern Africa, and the Far East. When she’s not travelling she loves walking, skiing, camping and weekends away in the countryside.

More about Claire

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