The chance to jet off to Africa or Asia in search of wildlife is beyond many people’s reach, but there is somewhere much closer to home that offers a great chance to see animals in their natural habitat – Wales. With 216 Wildlife Trust nature reserves; 11 RSPB sanctuaries; and 4,122 square kilometres of National Park, you really will be spoilt for choice.
Whether you would prefer to be walking along the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, hiking through woodland or splashing around in the lakes and rivers, there is something for everyone. Simply click through to the Visit Wales website to get started or read on for more ideas.
The sea around Wales is home to a large number of species, from leatherback turtles and seahorses to dolphins and porpoises. The latter two are easier to spot and it is amazing how many people see them when undertaking a walk by the coast without even trying.
A good way to maximise your chances of watching these majestic animals frolicking in the waves is to go somewhere they are known to visit. This includes Cardigan Bay, which is home to bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises and seals.
They can often be seen from the shore and especially the clifftops, although there are several operators that offer boat tours out to sea to get a closer look. These are navigated by experts who understand the behaviour of marine animals, making it easier to find them. Nothing compares to seeing dolphins jump at the bow of your boat.
There are interesting birds to see in Wales all year round, but the season in which you visit will have an influence over the species that are in residence. Red kites spend the winter in the country and Mid-Wales in particular is a great place to see them.
A number of feeding stations are set up each year to help these stunning birds make it through the harshest months. At the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre near Aberystwyth the kites are fed at 2pm during the winter.
Visitors are welcome to make their way to this wonderful setting in the forest by the lake and watch the birds come in to eat. It makes the perfect focal point for a day exploring the area.
The Wales Coast Path is another great place to spot birds with each section having specific varieties to look out for. On Anglesey it is cormorants; osprey in the Glaslyn Estuary; and stonechats on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast.
People who don’t normally live in the countryside will be absolutely thrilled by the sight of salmon leaping up the waterfalls. If you visit Wales during the autumn and winter months up to December you will find it very easy to spot such a spectacle.
The River Marteg in the Gilfach Farm Reserve in Radnorshire is thought to be the best place to see them, but it is even possible to see salmon leaping up the River Taff by Blackweir in the centre of Cardiff at the right time of year.
But it is not just tourists who are attracted to the salmon’s annual migration upstream – the otters take a keen interest too. This is the best time to see these fairly reclusive animals as they try and catch the fish to eat.
The sight of them waiting by a waterfall for salmon to jump is amazing and one that you will never forget.