The world’s 15 best winter wildlife experiences


From red-crowned cranes and snow leopards to bobcats, bison and lynx, the world’s most alluring species are more active in the colder months. While others seek the warmth and comfort of their sitting rooms, true wildlife lovers wrap up in thermals, grab their binoculars and head out into the cold to catch a sight of some elusive bird or beast. 

But while a get-up-and-go attitude and a pair of long johns are both invaluable, the real trick is knowing where to go, and when. To help you get started, here’s a quick guide to some of the best highlights the animal kingdom has to offer over the next three months.

January 

Ruling the roost

Norfolk, England

We humans may “roost” alone or in pairs, but many types of bird grab shut-eye in mass dormitories. As winter’s day segues into night, these collective sleepovers offer quite the spectacle – and Britain has plenty of them. On Norfolk’s coast, up to 30,000 pink-footed geese yelp their way down an invisible helter-skelter onto Holkham’s grazing marshes. In the Broads, watch 50 common cranes awaken then flap majestically to their feeding grounds in nearby fields. Finish the day mesmerised by tens of thousands of rooks and jackdaws that blacken the evening gloaming at Buckenham Carrs.

How to do it: Norfolk winter birding tours from £845pp for five nights including accommodation, full board, ground transport and guiding. January and February departures. Oriole Birding (oriolebirding.com)

The lynx effect

Jaén, Spain

On rocky slopes in southern Spain’s Sierra de Andújar, the clearing mist unveils an oddly sphinx-like form. With long limbs, insanely tufted ears and a stumpy excuse of a tail, the Iberian lynx is unmistakable. For decades, this cat was as mythical as the fabled Egyptian creature – and extinction beckoned. Fortunately, conservationists saved the species by releasing captive-bred felines into the wild. The descendants of these animals now scour lavender-scented hillsides for rabbits, delighting an ever-increasing number of human visitors with daily sightings during the winter mating season. Look, too, for Spanish ibex, long-horned goats that make light work of the steepest cliffs before posing triumphantly astride craggy outcrops.

How to do it: Iberian Lynx tour from £1,495pp for six nights including accommodation, full board, ground transport and guiding; international flights extra. Departs January. Greenwings (greenwings.co)



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