One of the most exciting things about jetting off to foreign lands is the wealth of new wildlife. In many resorts you can spot amazing creatures right on your doorstep, and not just on balmy summer days. Winter is the perfect time for a spot of wildlife watching: an abundance of foraging life seen against a stunning white backdrop.
From beautiful birds to powerful mammals, plenty of spectacular species come into their own during the season of snow. Read on to discover just some of them, and where they can be found.
The Alpine ibex may look like a farmyard goat with supersized horns, but these spectacular animals are some of the world’s greatest climbers. They can be found scaling the sheer slopes of the snow-covered Alps, as high up as 3,300 metres. Their talents come from their specially-adapted split hooves, which can grip the rocks like pincers – incredibly useful when fleeing from predators!
With a Latin name meaning ‘sea bear’, polar bears are the rulers of the Arctic. Though surprisingly elusive and difficult to spot, an excursion is well worth the effort. Hunkering beneath beautifully thick, creamy fur as it stalks the sea ice for prey, the polar bear is a sight like no other.
A group of Japanese macaques bathing in a hot spring is the archetypal winter image of the Land of the Rising Sun. The springs are located in Jigokudani Yaen-Koen, in Japan’s stunning Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park, and the macaques visit every year, without fail. However, not everyone gets to warm themselves in the steaming water. The monkeys have a strict hierarchy, with those higher up the pecking order claiming prime position. If you plan on visiting, expect to witness a few fights!
The number of Siberian (or Amur) tigers in the wild currently stands at around 540, so your chances of seeing one are about a whisker’s breadth! With their orange coats casting fire over the Russian snow, Siberian tigers are a rare but captivating sight.
Did you know the Eurasian lynx calls the Alps home? This stunning big cat isn’t the kind of animal you’d expect to spot during a European break, but having been reintroduced to the Alps during the 1970s, the elusive lynx has become a permanent fixture. One of the snowy spots they can be found is Chamonix, although you’d be very lucky to spot one.
Golden eagles might be more associated with Scotland than the Alps, but this is one of the best places to spot one soaring overhead. Like the Eurasian lynx, they can be found in Chamonix, with just one difference… they are much easier to see! Here, the golden eagle population is estimated to be more than 200 birds strong, so your chances of seeing that 2m wingspan are great. Keep your eyes peeled when you’re out hiking or heading up the ski lift.
Winter in Iceland is unforgiving, but these freezing months are one of the best times to visit. As well as gorgeous views of the Northern Lights, you can see even more pods of wild orcas. They hunt shoals of herring that group together and shelter in the country’s fjords, meaning sightings are almost always guaranteed. At the very first sight of a fin, you’ll be enchanted.
Winter really is the most wonderful time of the year, and with so much to see all over the world, it’s never too late to escape somewhere new.