Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Sun November 08 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | November 8, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    10 Cruises Offering Amazing Wildlife Adventures

    10 Cruises Offering Amazing Wildlife Adventures

    Photo courtesy of AdventureSmith

    Although the large cruise lines offer plenty of outlandish entertainment, those seeking to get in touch with nature and catch a glimpse of wildlife should consider a small-ship cruise. These 10 cruises offer some of the best opportunities to experience the great outdoors in every corner of the globe.


    Malaysia’s island of Borneo has the oldest and most bio-diverse rainforest on Earth, with an estimated 15,000 species. Several small river ships offer orangutan tour expeditions of the Kalimantan River, including the Kalimantan Explorer, which will bring passengers on a four-night voyage to orangutan rehabilitation centers within national parks. There are several opportunities to see gibbons, monkeys, crocodiles and a variety of endemic birds.


    AdventureSmith Explorations has more than 25 vessels and itinerary options on four to 10-day cruises in the Galapagos. Ships range from luxurious yachts to classic sailboats, and often include time onshore. Depending on season, guests may see albatross, marine iguanas, sea lions, Nazca and blue-footed boobies, green sea turtles, penguins, giant tortoises, flamingos and more.


    To truly get off the tourism path, the MV Mahabaahu, operated by Pandaw, will sail along India’s Brahmaputra River. Experience a safari by elephant while searching for the greater one-horned Indian rhinoceros and Indian tiger at Kaziranga National Park. Along the river, passengers may encounter dolphins, eagles, vultures, water buffalo, monitor lizards, otters and kingfishers.

    Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

    Known as “the aquarium of the world,” the Sea of Cortez is more than a whale-watching destination. With Pacific Catalyst II, travelers will cruise aboard the MV Westward, a classic wooden boat from 1924 that has been meticulously restored. Snorkel with sea lions, watch (or even pet) pods of whales, witness colonies of frigate birds, and hike the shorelines to find clues left by the ancient aboriginal people.


    Although True North has pricey cruise tickets, the voyages grant truly unique experiences (think helicopter rides during shore excursions). On the 13-night “Kimberly Ultimate Cruise,” witness some of the most dramatic scenery in Western Australia including the King George Falls, a crocodile-filled river, a rare rainforest and a champagne sunrise atop a mountain. 

    Costa Rica

    The well-established National Geographic brand has a “Costa Rica and the Panama Canal Photo Expedition,” that will give passengers an up-close look at this gorgeous region. Highlights of the trip include the Osa Peninsula, an area in Costa Rica that remains relatively untouched by tourism, and the snorkeling paradise of Isla de Coiba, in Panama. Go hiking and kayaking for a chance to photograph three-toed sloths, spider and howler monkeys, parrots, toucans, and tropical vegetation.

    The Amazon

    Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia all offer river cruises in the Amazon, although the Bolivian route on the Rio Ibare and Rio Mamore tends to be the most affordable. The crewmembers aboard the Reina De Enin river ship (from Rainforest Cruises) are all locals who are familiar with the flora and fauna. Over 450 species of birds can be seen as well as howler monkeys, piranhas, pink river dolphins, anteaters and sloths — to name a few. 

    Canadian Arctic and Greenland

    The 198-passenger Ocean Endeavour embarks on the “Heart of the Arctic” journey from Greenland to the Canadian Arctic for impressive vistas featuring glaciers, fjords and wildlife. Humpback and minke whales, reindeer, polar bears, walrus, seals, and seabirds like the Canadian thick-billed murre are just a few of the majestic creatures that might make an appearance.


    Small ship cruising in Alaska has been expanding and offers passengers an opportunity to explore the Inside Passage in greater depth. Keep an eye out for bald eagles, bears, sea lions, plus orca and humpback whales from the decks of the MV Sikumi, which sails between Juneau, Petersburg and Sitka. The ship explores quiet coves, tidewater glaciers, uninhabited islands and tranquil waterfalls.


    The luxurious Zambezi Queen sails the Chobe River in South Africa on a round-trip safari cruise with five-star dining and accommodations. Passengers can board small tenders for up close experiences with such wildlife as rhinos, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, and tigers as well as enjoy bird watching along the river. 


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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