In A Nutshell: Many people dream of escaping their cubicles and heading off to remote corners of the world to trade in WiFi for an intimate encounter with wildlife. If you find yourself in that position, you can use those credit card travel rewards you have piled up to book a trip with Natural Habitat Adventures. Unlike travel companies that shuttle customers to overrun tourist spots, Nat Hab focuses on unique destinations and experiences that immerse guests in the natural world as safely as possible. From watching elephants wander outside your raised tent to seeing polar bears and sea lions up close, excursions will extract you from office and home life by keeping your adventure both comfortable and exciting.
I have made plenty of wonderful memories during my years of traveling, but the best involve up-close encounters with wildlife. I will never forget the sight of colorful, tropical fish and sea turtles while diving in the Bahamas, but it was awe-inspiring when a manta ray swam right past me.
Hiking near the glaciers of New Zealand made me smile, but eating my lunch just a stone’s throw away from the sea lions and penguins that lingered on the deserted beach was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Similarly, having a dolphin dance so close I could almost touch it as I sailed the sapphire blue waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands is ingrained in my memory.
I may have never had those experiences had I been traveling with the masses. So many tourists cram into seats on tour buses and shuttle to some of nature’s most stunning locations, only to jump out, take a picture, and hurry on to the next stop on their tour. But I need to see nature quietly from a different angle — preferably through close encounters with the wild that remind me of my place on the planet. Of course, I need to feel safe and comfortable — which can take a lot of planning.
And I’m not alone in preferring this style of travel. For decades, adventurers have connected with the knowledgeable and passionate guides at Natural Habitat Adventures for immersive wildlife experiences. Intimate encounters are Nat Hab’s business, and the company has more than three decades of experience introducing sophisticated travelers to exotic animals and beautiful locales in the far corners of Earth. And these bucket-list vacations are made even sweeter when you use travel rewards to underwrite your time far, far away from the office.
“In this day and age, busy workers spend a lot of time in offices, using technology, and on planes. The opportunity to spend time in a natural setting with proximity to wildlife is a rejuvenating counterpoint, and we’ve found that the demand for such experiences is growing,” said Natural Habitat Adventures Editorial Director Wendy Redal. “People yearn to get out and unplug.”
Immersive Experiences, Quality Guides, and a Different Definition of Luxury
Natural Habitat Adventures has created travel packages to visit some of the most remote and natural places left on earth, filled with proximity to animals and natural splendor. In fact, accommodations are chosen for their atmosphere and the number of animals roaming outside your cabin — not necessarily the thread count of the sheets.
“We select the places we stay for intimacy and seclusion — small-scale luxury safari camps and eco-lodges that place our guests directly in natural environments,” Redal said. “We wouldn’t use a big commercialized safari lodge in Africa, for example. We’d go to a small camp where you’d be right out among elephants parading past your tent.”
What makes these adventures so special is that you’re guaranteed to be part of a very small group. The company averages nine people per excursion, with each group led by educated, knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate guides.
“We get guests there in safety and comfort with the best guides on earth — and I know I’m not exaggerating when I say that,” Redal said.
Unique Destinations Set the Stage for a Memorable Vacation
Natural Habitat Adventures specializes in facilitating excursions very much off the beaten path, and that includes approaching familiar destinations in unique ways. For instance, the company offers a luxury safari camp on isolated, private land near Yellowstone National Park so guests can experience the Yellowstone ecosystem far away from crowds, in addition to their time inside the park.
Nat Hab’s nature-focused trips embark to exciting destinations like Sri Lanka, which has a diverse population of wildlife with blue whales off the coast and a range of animal habitats, culture, and history.
Borneo is another addition to the company’s long list of outings. Guests will have the opportunity to view many jungle-dwelling species — including orangutans. Travelers stay at an eco-lodge and take a boat ride up the river 1½ hours away from civilization.
Ethiopia is another bucket-list country for eco-tourists, and, unsurprisingly, Nat Hab does it a little differently.
“They call it the roof of Africa, the Ethiopian plateau we visit. We get up to about 15,000 feet above sea level,” Redal said. “The Ethiopian wolf is the most endangered predator in Africa. We look for those and see those as well as ibex and gelada baboons. These animals live nowhere else on the planet.”
Some of the company’s most popular trips include the Galapagos Islands, a luxury Arctic expedition camp on the east coast of Greenland, and a riverboat cruise to the headwaters of the Amazon.
Safely Approach Rare and Fascinating Wildlife with Experts
Another important detail in embarking on these adventures — the kind that produce stories for generations to come — is that they’re both safe and environmentally responsible. That’s part of the mission at Natural Habitat Adventures, which employs trained expert naturalists who guide the experience. Redal said the guides educate participants about how to behave in the wilderness to stay safe and not disturb the wildlife they’ll see.
And the company practices what it preaches: Nat Hab is a carbon-neutral operation and an official conservation partner for the World Wildlife Fund.
“We’re the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company, and we’ve offset absolutely everything for the last 10 years. We offset every single bit of carbon expenditure on our trips and in our offices, the only thing we don’t cover is guests’ flights to and from their destination,” Redal said, adding that interested travelers can exert some control over that through purchasing offsets through companies like Sustainable Travel International.”
As someone who strives to reduce waste, tread gently on the planet, and be environmentally sensitive while traveling, I understand the importance of Nat Hab’s commitment. Some of the most memorable moments of my life have been spent in the midst of wildlife, and preservation is vital if it’s going to endure for generations to come.
“We see ourselves part of a bigger mission and strive to accomplish that while providing travelers with unforgettable experiences,” Redal said.