Wildlife travel: Islands and coasts

Islands can offer a haven for threatened species and distinct ecosystems that deliver unique evolutionary outcomes.

BBC Wildlife magazine travel supplement, March 2014.

Islands can offer a haven for threatened species and distinct ecosystems that deliver unique evolutionary outcomes. 

South Georgia, Southern Ocean

There was a time, not so long ago, when South Georgia was chiefly famous for having been the Argentinians’ first port of call during the Falklands War. Not any more.

Today it is regarded as one of the world’s most outstanding wildlife destinations. Why? Because of the sheer quantity of animals for a start, huge numbers of elephant and fur seals and Macaroni penguins, as well as albatross in their thousands.

All the wildlife is highly approachable, which means that you can leave your spotting scope at home this time. In addition there is the world’s only meat-eating duck, the South Georgia pintail.


Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

One of the few wildlife spots that need almost no introduction, the Galápagos Islands are famous for aiding Charles Darwin in his quest to unravel the secrets of evolution. But there’s so much more to them than a dozen finches with different types of beak.

Swimming with Galápagos sealion cubs is an experience never to be forgotten; watching marine iguanas taking to the Pacific Ocean is another. Some of the other endemics, such as the giant tortoise and flightless cormorant, have to be seen to be believed.


Bruny Island, Tasmania

When walking along the beach at the southern end of Adventure Bay on Bruny Island, try not to rub your eyes and stare too hard at the all-white marsupials.

They’re Bennett’s wallabies, a Tasmanian subspecies of the red-necked wallaby, and on Bruny there is a high occurrence of all-white individuals.

The island is a good place to see those other antipodean oddities: the egg-laying monotreme, the echidna and the little (blue or fairy) penguin, which is the smallest penguin on the planet.


Shetland Islands, UK

A trip to Noss National Nature Reserve to see its gannets or to Scotland’s (and therefore the UK’s) most northerly point, Hermaness on Unst, to see the puffins and great skuas will leave you in no doubt – seabirds are spectacular breeders.

The incredible fecundity of Shetland is what makes it such a special place to visit. In the summer months everywhere you look something is either caring for its young or about to give birth. One of Britain’s best wildlife destinations – without a doubt.


Discover 44 more amazing wildlife destinations in the March 2014 issue

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