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Top 5 holiday destinations for animal lovers

There are lots of reasons people go on holiday: to catch some rays; to partake in some extreme sports; or to fit in some retail therapy! However, it’s also a great opportunity to discover the local wildlife, and spot animals that you wouldn’t normally see in Ireland. If that sounds like the kind of holiday for you, then read our rundown of the top destinations for animal lovers. Whether you love dolphins, turtles, or even goats, there’s bound to be somewhere that’s ideal for you…

Iguana at Majorca Safari Zoo
Iguana at Majorca Safari Zoo

Majorca

Majorca has plenty to see and do for your little animal lovers. The Safari Zoo park outside Cala Millor on the east of island is a sure fire hit with kids of all ages, with over 600 animals including lions, giraffes, iguanas and monkeys roaming in wide open enclosures. You can rent a car and explore the park yourself, or you can hop on one of the safari trains, which snake through the enclosures at regular intervals during the day.

If you prefer friends of the feathered variety, then there are plenty of bird watching opportunities in the Tramuntara mountains. The range is home to rare bird species such as the Osprey, the Black Vulture and Audouin’s Gull. So be sure to pack your binoculars!

Spot butterflies at Palmitos Park
Spot butterflies at Palmitos Park

Gran Canaria

With their close proximity to the equator  all of the Canary Islands are great for discovering wildlife, however we particularly love Gran Canaria, home to Palmitos Park.  The botanical garden and zoo has a wide range of species to discover, including primates, aardvarks and cute meerkats! The real highlight is the huge House of Butterfiles, which is the biggest butterfly enclosure in Europe. To be in these gardens with so many butterflies fluttering about is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a great photo opportunity!

The Canaries are also well known for their marine life, so hop on a boat and take advantage of one of the many whale and dolphin spotting excursions from the island. These graceful and majestic creatures love the warm waters around Gran Canaria, so this is the perfect opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.

A 'kri-kri' at Samaria Gorge, Crete
A ‘kri-kri’ at Samaria Gorge, Crete

Crete

The biggest island the Greek archipelago, Crete is home to some of the most spectacular landscapes in the Mediterranean. Perhaps the most breath taking is the Samaria Gorge, which slices through the White Mountains down to the south coast. It’s a World Biosphere Reserve, so naturally there are lots of wildlife to see in their natural surroundings such as butterflies and rare birds.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the “kri-kris”, or Cretan wild goats, which can only be found in Samaria and the surrounding gorges. They are incredibly nimble and can balance on the smallest of ridges – in fact, it isn’t rare to see a whole bunch bleating to each other on the side of a sheer cliff face!

Costa del Sol is the place to be for crocodile lovers
Costa del Sol is the place to be for crocodile lovers

Costa del Sol, Spain

If you like your holidays to have a little bite, then head to Costa del Sol in Spain. The town of Torremolinos is home to Cocodrilos Park, which has over 200 crocodiles! Here, you can hold a little baby crocodile in your hands, or you can marvel at the size of “Big Daddy” – the largest crocodile in the enclosure.

If crocodiles aren’t your thing, then not to worry. There are a huge variety of other animals in the park too, including tortoises, ducks and peacocks.

Baby loggerhead turtles in Zante
Baby loggerhead turtles in Zante

Zakynthos

Love turtles? Then you should head to the beaches of Zakynthos in Greece, where the Loggerhead Turtle goes to breed every summer.

Under the cover of night, the adult females return to the beach where they were born and drag their heavy body up the dry sand to nest her eggs. Two months later, the eggs hatch and the little new born turtles scuttle down the beach to sea. It’s a rare sight to see, but if you are lucky you might catch this miracle of nature in action.

Where do you like to go on holiday to see the wildlife? Let us know in the comments!

Images by JoytrekGlen Bowman, Juan Ramon Rodrigue z Sosa, GanMed64,radioedit and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service under Creative Commons Licence.  

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