What you’ll see at a national park or nature preserve is unknown. Shy coyotes and reclusive bobcats sometimes make an appearance, but hikers are more likely to spot deer and common songbirds. Try one of these great walks.
Murray River Walk – Departs from McCormick Environment Centre in Renmark, South Australia
You can meet local wildlife experts and spend your nights on a houseboat on this 25-mile walking tour through the Murray River region. The 4-day, 3-night walk is rated from easy to moderate. The pace is relaxed, and groups top out at ten participants, so the tours feel intimate. Because the route goes through private property, access to the Murray River Walk is exclusive.
Murray River Walk
A river cruiser carries passengers to the starting point of an 8-mile walk on your first day. Tea is served when the group reaches Reny Island, and after lunch, the walkers look for emus and kangaroos as they make their way to the Headings Cliffs. Variegated fairywrens, white ibis, yellow-billed spoonbills, royal spoonbills, whistling kites and many other birds and animals also make their homes, or pass through, this area.
Murray River Walk
On day two, after spending the night on the houseboat and dining on cuisine seasoned with Murray River salt, the group disembarks for Amazon Creek junction, where there are spectacular wetlands and water birds. The houseboat floats along with them, and its double occupancy rooms offer great views of the scenery and sunsets. On the last day, the hikers pass lock six on the river, and enjoy lunch and drinks at a lowery brewery. They’re returned to their starting point via vehicles.
Murray River Walk
Coyote Valley, Estes Park, CO
Surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes is a great place to see elk, mule deer, big horn sheep and black bears. You may even spot mountain lions, bobcats and lynx. Beavers swim in the waterways around the town or build dams on the Colorado River. Keep an eye out for smaller creatures, too, including bats, mice, garter snakes and rare boreal toads.
Coyote Valley Trail begins a few miles north of the park’s Grand Lake Entrance and is an easy, round trip hike that covers about a mile. It’s also wheelchair accessible. Shy coyotes are sometimes seen in the area, along with hawks, deer, golden eagles and many other wild creatures. Estes Park will host an Elk Fest on Oct. 1 and 2, 2016, to celebrate the big animals with bugling contests, elk seminars, Native American music and more. Ask for a self-guided elk tour map.
Channel islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary, CA
The visitors center for the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary is located in Ventura, CA, but you’d be wise to book far ahead to reach the islands, which are accessible only by park concessionaire boats and planes or private boat. Cross the channel or pick out a viewing spot on any of the several islands. California sea lions and harbor seals frequent Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara and San Miguel islands.
National Park Service
Look for northern fur seals on Santa Rosa and San Miguel. Rare Guadalupe fur seals and Stellar sea lions, which are very rare, are occasionally sighted on San Miguel. During the summer, park rangers lead hikes on San Miguel, and the best place to see pinnipeds—marine animals with front and back flippers—is at Point Bennett, on the western tip of the island. It’s a 15-mile round trip, so be sure you’re up to it. But even if you only go halfway, you’ll likely spot thousands of elephants seals and hear them vocalizing low, guttural sounds.
The only breeding colonies of the once-endangered California brown pelican in the western U.S. are on West Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands. They’re making a comeback after being federally classified as endangered from 1970 until 2009. Keep your eyes open to spot their huge nests in trees, hidden in vegetation or even on the round.
Richmond Park, London, England
This largest of London’s eight Royal Parks is a National Nature Reserve and a great place to see herds of red and fallow deer. Charles I once hunted them here, after bringing his court to what is now the park in 1625. Today, the deer graze peacefully among the woodlands, gardens and grasslands. Free guided tours are frequently given, starting at 9:30 or 10 a.m. and ending around midday. Check the website for dates, times and meeting places. Unless otherwise indicated, most walks don’t have to be booked in advance.
Bempton Cliffs RSPB Nature Reserve, East Riding County, Yorkshire, England
Birders, bring your binoculars and life lists. Bempton Cliffs is considered England’s premier spot for watching seabirds. Over 250,000 of them nest around these high, chalk cliffs. The best times to see young hatchlings or birds building nests is from April to August. Look for puffins into mid-July. Gannets and kittiwakes are also found here; in fact, Bempton hosts the biggest kittiwake colony in mainland Britain. Spotting wildlife is easy from one of six viewing platforms on the edges of the cliffs, and oversized TV screens inside the seabird center follow the live action outdoors.
Lundy Islands Wildlife Walk, Bristol Channel, North Devon, England
Add your wildlife sightings to the logbook kept in the Marisco Tavern on Lundy Island. You’re likely to catch sight of puffins and seals as you wander around. Lundy, a granite outcrop, is only open to visitors during the day between April and October, and the designated route takes about two hours and covers four miles. It’s considered moderately difficult. Your first sighting of puffins will probably be around Jenny’s Cove and the Devil’s Chimney. Look sharp, because their numbers are in decline, and the birds are hard to see on the sheer cliffs. It’s easier to spot other sea birds like guillemots and razorbills.