Once upon a time the word ‘safari’ could only mean an overland trip – usually in an off-road vehicle – to see wild animals dwelling on terra firma. However, nowadays the definition has expanded.
An ocean safari gives you rare access to some of the most exotic flora and fauna in the world’s great seas. You’ll know it as soon as you book it – this’ll be one of the best holidays you’ll ever take.
From Australasia to Latin America, Northern Europe to Antarctica, there’s a whole other world of things to see and do in the water. Here’s our pick of the best.
South Africa: Bay of Delights
Located in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, Plettenberg Bay is truly blessed with the ‘big game’ of ocean safaris. Humpback and the southern right whales are easy to spot between July and December, while the endangered humpback dolphin is a rare sight.
While the tour boats will not travel within 50 metres of the whales, the whales themselves often voluntarily get closer.
You can stop off at the Robberg Peninsula and watch the cape fur seals saunter about in their natural habitat among the keurboom trees.
Australia’s Shark Spotting
There are 340 species of shark in the area, but only a handful are dangerous to humans. The best way to spot them is on a scuba dive organised in Cairns.
You’re most likely to see a mean-looking but shy and harmless 1.5 metre-long blacktip reef shark. The other usual suspects are weird-eyed hammerheads, the large but docile tawny nurse shark and the grey reef shark.
It’s a good idea to locate yourself around the aquatic attractions that you’ll want to see. The Great Barrier Reef spans 133,000 square miles, so a liveaboard should serve you best.
The safari goes psychedelic in early December when the water temperature is at least 27 degrees and there’s a mass-spawning of fluorescent coral. You’ll want to snorkel for a ringside seat to this show, although the view from the crystal clear surface is impressive too.
At the other end of the country you could dive with fur seals in Tasmania, see humpback and southern right whales. There are also plans to launch a shark cage diving experience in Tasmania.
Other options include Ocean Safaris in Puerto Rico. Look for Puerto Rico rentals rather than hotel chains if you want real flexibility and value. And if trips to the warmer regions of the world don’t appeal, perhaps an ice-cold ocean safari is for you?
Ride on a 35-foot Maderia boat around the fascinating Breiaafjaur islands and take in the dream-like glacial scenery, awe-inspiring seabirds and cute seals.
No longer merely the preserve of upper-class explorers and obscure scientists, Antarctica is now very much open for ocean safari tours that not only put you amongst the penguins but offer sea kayaking, mountaineering and skiing on the side.