Experience the best of the American West on this superb road trip up the California coast, travelling through Yosemite and Death Valley to Las Vegas, before ending in the iconic landscapes of Zion, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon.
A wildlife enthusiast’s guide to North America
For wildlife lovers, North America is a continent that simply has to be explored. A huge percentage of the land in both the USA and Canada is protected by the government, meaning North America offers endless opportunities to spot animals in their natural habitat. Here at Imagine, we’re lured back time and time again due to our never waning determination to tick off all the incredible natural inhabitants of this vast continent. Read our wildlife guide to get the lowdown on what we believe to be North America’s most exciting creatures…
One of the things that makes wildlife spotting in North America so great is the amazing job the Canadian and US National Park Systems do to encourage tourism with minimal impact on the wilderness. We highly recommend taking advantage of the continent’s many hiking trails that are on offer – these are a great way to get into the wilderness and to spot animals along the way. Thanks to the rangers and the park visitor centres, you can gain a great deal of knowledge on the animals you’re spotting too. Our top tip for a wildlife enthusiast in North America is to never switch off – even when you’re inside a vehicle travelling between parks you may come across some spectacular animal sightings. So always keep a look out – it’s amazing how little some animals fear the roads. We’ve whittled down our top five animals to spot in North America.
Spotting whales is the top of many wildlife enthusiasts’ bucket lists, largely due to their immense size. Sitting powerfully at the very top of the food chain, whales play a hugely significant role in the overall health of the world’s marine environment. We believe North America offers some of the best whale watching spots worldwide. If you head to Tofino on Vancouver Island’s magnificent west coast during the months of March to May you can witness first-hand the incredible annual northern migration of approximately 20,000 grey whales. These whales feed in the food rich waters and protected bays of Clayoquot Sound on their way to the Bering Sea from the lagoons of Baja Mexico. From June to November, along with the resident grey whales is a whole host of other mammals that visit the west coast of Vancouver Island, including orcas and humpback whales.
Stay at Long Beach Lodge, a stylish beach lodge magnificently set between rainforest and ocean near Tofino on Vancouver Island and our favourite base for wildlife explorations in the area.
2. Brown Bears (or Grizzly Bears)
Brown bears (more commonly known as grizzly bears) are mostly found in Alaska, north-western Canada, north-western Montana, Yellowstone National Park, and northern Utah. They are known as grizzly bears because the hairs on their backs and shoulders frequently have white tips, thus giving them a grizzled appearance. The fur of the grizzly bear can range from very light to almost black, meaning distinguishing them from black bears is harder than you may think, but they are recognisable by the large hump on their back. They are known to be somewhat aggressive creatures, but with our expertly trained guides you have an excellent chance of spotting these impressive bears while maintaining a safe distance from them at all times. Seeing your first grizzly bear roaming free in its natural habitat is thrilling and humbling at the same time. Our favourite place for spotting grizzlies is in Denali National Park, Alaska. With park visitor numbers capped to keep the park as natural a habitat as possible for the animals who call Denali home, the park offers a really exclusive wildlife spotting experience and a high chance of spotting a grizzly.
Read our blog on tracking grizzly bears in Denali National Park – a lifelong dream come true for one of our specialists.
The Alaska or Yukon moose is the largest moose species in the world, so there’s no better place than North America to go in search of these majestic creatures. Found almost all over Alaska and Canada, as well as in some western and north-eastern US states, the moose is another one of our favourite North American animals. The numbers of moose in Alaska is vast, outnumbering bears three to one. Although they appear to have a gentle demeanour, the sheer numbers of moose in Alaska makes them a force to be reckoned with, and they can hold their own against the bears. The moose has poor eyesight so becomes easily threatened when it finds its space being invaded. For this reason, it’s important to follow the instructions of your ranger carefully to avoid aggravating the moose. Our favourite place for spotting moose is in the Yukon – one of Canada’s great wilderness regions. Visit the excellent Yukon Wildlife Preserve to spot moose in their natural habitat, as well as seeing Dall and bighorn sheep, elk, caribou, bison and musk-ox.
Stay at Northern Lights Resort and Spa – a charming small Swiss chalet style lodge which provides the perfect base for trips out to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
Ever since the early American settlers first came across them, bison have often been mistaken for buffalo due to their similar appearance. But while buffalo are only found in Africa and Asia, bison are the heaviest land animals in North America. They can run at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour and have sharp horns, so they should of course be approached with caution! While it is estimated that there were once 30 million bison in North America, today there are thought to be only 350,000, most of which are privately owned for meat production. However, thanks to the National Park System, there are still areas where wild bison can be spotted, such as in Wyoming, South Dakota and some other national parks. Yellowstone is where the most bison herds are found, which is where we recommend going if you want to spot them in the wild. Head to the beautiful and unspoiled Lamar Valley at dawn or dusk for a magical bison spotting experience in one of North America’s finest wildlife spots.
Stay at Old Faithful Snow Lodge – a government-run lodge in Wyoming’s magnificent Yellowstone National Park which we believe is the park’s best base for wildlife viewing.
5. Black Bears
Black bears are timid bears that are as cautious around humans as humans are around them. They normally try to keep a low profile where humans are concerned, making them tricky but very rewarding to spot. Black bears are most commonly found in forested areas on the east and west coast, the Rocky Mountains, Alaska and throughout Canada. Misleadingly named, black bears are not always black, but they can usually be distinguished from brown bears by their smaller size and bigger ears. Although timid creatures, it’s really important that the bears aren’t lured into areas frequented by people, where they may start to feel threatened. Our guides will help you search out the bears while ensuring human impact on the creatures is kept to a minimum. Our recommended place for spotting black bears is Clayoquot Sound in Tofino, British Columbia. Exploring these scenic islands and inlets gives you a fantastic opportunity to spot black bears unobtrusively and observe their behaviour in their natural habitat.
Take a look at our Whales and Bears in British Columbia itinerary which offers excellent wildlife spotting potential, including world-class orca, humpback and grey whale viewing on Vancouver Island and a thrilling floatplane adventure to track grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. We can tailor this into your perfect trip – get in touch with our specialists on 020 3733 3988.