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Check out these top destinations to observe wild animals on a budget
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Bucket list wild animal trips with Pirate travel hacks!

If you're anything like us, you're wild about animals. And we love writing about animals just as much as you love reading about them! We've put together a list of places around the world where you are able to be immersive and interactive with animals in their natural habitats...and how you can do it for as cheaply as possible.

This list is certainly not your average trip to the local zoo! Read on to learn more.

Details

1. Sepilok, Borneo

Why you should visit:

Presenting a tropical climate, surrounded by lush vegetation and dense forests, Borneo is rich in wildlife and is one of the few places on earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants live together.

Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center to admire the orangutans in their natural environment and learn all about the habits of these rare monkeys.

In addition to the orangutans, Borneo hosts many other spectacular species, including proboscis monkeys, bearded pigs, clouded leopards, marbled cats and pygmy elephants, as well as the famous flying lemurs and frogs.

How to visit the orangutans on the cheap:

Getting to Borneo can be expensive (in fact, the most expensive part of your trip will be the flights), however once you're there it is relatively cheap. We suggest flight deals to cheaper, larger hubs in Asia and booking with a low-cost carrier to Borneo from there.

We also suggest volunteering with the the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in order to keep costs even lower and extend your time with the local wildlife. Due to covid, volunteering is not currently possible but should be a good way to save some money once it is safe again.

2. African Parks and Reserves

Why you should visit:

Admiring elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, zebras and cheetahs during an adventurous safari in one of Africa's many national parks is a dream come true.

Taking a safari is one of the best ways to observe these wild animals within their natural environment rather than enclosed in a cage in the zoo.

In addition to wildlife, safaris offer unique and exciting activities and accommodations, including camping under the stars, and staying in lodges overlooking zebra herds.

How to do a safari on the cheap:

The golden rule for a safari that fits into your travel budget? Organize it yourself!

Your best friend will be on the site South African National Parks, for gathering information about the access to parks, the rules to follow, the activities to do on site, and even accommodation within the parks.

For getting around, it's easiest to hire a rental car and drive yourself. It is very easy to get around the country, and they drive on the left, just like us. Try our car hire tool to find the best deal.

We think 10 days is the minimum travel time to be able to make the most of your time, without having to rush.

3. The Galapagos, Ecuador

Why you should visit:

This archipelago, rich in wildlife off the coast of Ecuador, boasts pristine UNESCO World Heritage islands and an extraordinary collection of rare, wild animals. Here reign sea lions, blue-footed gannets, bioluminescent plankton, sea turtles and penguins.

In addition to observing the animals, you can also enjoy snorkeling and diving in the crystal clear waters of the Wolf and Darwin islands, to admire the sharks, or embark on an excursion near the Tagus Bay in search of Galapagos penguins and giant turtles.

How to visit the Galapagos on the cheap:

First and foremost, getting to the Galapagos can be pricey, not only it is so far away it also has mandatory park fees.

Look for cheap flights to Guayaquil (known as the Gateway to the Galapagos) or Quito during off-peak season (avoid going December to May).

Another way to save some quid is to book last-minute tours to the islands. It is a risk, as usually you can only book a few days before if you want to get a good deal, but the savings might be worth it.

If taking a trip to the islands is not in your budget, then we suggest heading to Isla de la Plata, which can be reached by boat for a day trip from Puerto Lopez. Isla de la Plata is part of Machalilla National Park and is known for being home to blue-footed boobies and Galapagos albatrosses. This is certainly the cheapest way to snap a picture of the famous blue-footed booby!

4. Cayman Islands

Why you should visit:

Located in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, the Cayman Islands have long been a popular vacation spot. In addition to the beaches, there is also a vast, wild fauna that live both on land and in the sea.

The Cayman Islands are home to one of the most preserved coral reefs in the world, and here you can snorkel while admiring the vibrant coral heads, multi-colored fish, sea turtles and over one hundred shipwrecks.

On land, there are the rare blue iguanas, which can be admired at the Blue Iguana Safari, which implements rehabilitation programs to reintroduce this native population of Grand Cayman into the wild.

How to visit the Cayman Islands on the cheap:

The Caymans are notoriously expensive, but it is possible to save a little money with these tips and tricks.

Visit during summer (from June to September) when it is low season and there are more discounts on accomodation available. Renting an airbnb with a kitchen in low-season can also help you to save on meals.

There are plenty of free activities to do in the Caymans as well, such as beach going or hiking around the island. Many hotels will have bikes and snorkel gear that you can rent out for free or for a small price.

5. Lapland, Finland

Why you should visit:

Lapland, a region of Finland located in the Arctic circle, is famous for hosting the village of Santa Claus. Of course, that's not all this northern destination is home to. You will also be able to observe lynx, gray owls and huge brown bears.

During the summer, you can catch and release the Arctic char and rainbow trout in one of the country's 200,000 lakes and in winter you can hike on husky sleds in the middle of an ocean of snow. To top it off, you will have the possibility of observing the breathtaking northern lights during the winter months.

How to experience Lapland on the cheap:

Lapland can be expensive to get to since it is so far in the north, but to keep costs low you should make your own DIY trip.

EasyJet flies to Rovaniemi, which is the capital of Lapland, from London Gatwick and Manchester. If you want to save £100s off your Lapland holiday then we suggest you go after Christmas in January or February. Flights will be cheaper than the previous months and you still should be able to catch the Northern Lights.