Search for a place or activity

Here's Where To See Some of the Rarest Animals in the World

Where to see the world’s rarest—but resurging—wildlife species.

Hi, I'm Tamara!

Tamara Hinson is a UK-based freelance writer who loves snowboarding, scuba diving, and cycling. Her favourite regions include East Africa, Asia, and South America and her happy place is the mountains.

Although the situation can sometimes seem a little bleak when it comes to the world’s wildlife, there are various reasons to be hopeful, whether it’s the rebounding of certain species such as Bengal tigers, or the growing number of organizations going all out to protect the habitats crucial to certain species’ survival.

To ramp up the feel-good factor, we’ve sniffed out some animal success stories—nine species that have made spectacular comebacks after facing potential extinction. Here's how you can see these odds-beating beasts and contribute to continued conservation efforts.

1. Bengal tigers, India

A Bengal tiger resting in the jungle
Where to spot the majestic big cats.Photo Credit: dangdumrong / Shutterstock

A ban on hunting has brought these beautiful cats back.

Project Tiger is a ground-breaking conservation program that transformed the fortunes of India’s tigers. When the organization launched in 1973 (just a few months after its director, Kailash Sankhala, convinced Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to ban tiger hunting) there were just a few hundred. Now, there are 3,167 of these big cats in India.

One of the best spots to see tigers is in Bandhavgarh National Park, where you can stay at the Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge, which is owned by Sankhala’s grandson Amit, a trustee of the NGO Tiger Trust. Alternatively, you can just head out on a tiger safari.

2. Manta rays, the Maldives

A manta ray swimming through the ocean
Go snorkeling to spot the rays.Photo Credit: cineuno / Shutterstock

Where to float alongside these angelic creatures.

In 2014, manta rays were placed on the Maldives’ list of endangered species, making it illegal to harm them. But soaring demand farther afield and a lack of protection in nearby countries such as Sri Lanka called for stricter measures, such as the creation of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas). The species’ comeback in the Maldives has been aided by collaborations between resorts and conservation organizations. For example, marine biologists from UK-based charity Manta Trust have partnered with the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort—head there for manta-spotting snorkeling sessions, or try your luck from the capital of Malé.

3. Smooth-coated otters, Singapore

A smooth-coated otter frolics on the sand
Visit a designated "crossing" to spot smooth-coated otters.Photo Credit: Tam and Trace Photography / Shutterstock

Watch these playful animals at a nature preserve.

It’s hard to keep track of the conservation-related success stories Singapore can lay claim to. This is, after all, one of the few places in Asia where you stand a chance of spotting the critically endangered pangolin. But smooth-coated otters are another great example. Once hunted for their fur, their numbers have risen dramatically since the 1980s, when Singapore set about cleaning up its waterways. One of the best places to spot smooth-coated otters is near Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, where the nature reserve’s close proximity to the seafront has prompted local authorities to create dedicated otter crossings.

4. Blue iguanas, Cayman Islands

A blue iguana shows off its vibrant colors
Check out these supercolorful, supersized reptiles.Photo Credit: May_Lana / Shutterstock

Catch sight of these colorful creatures.

Trust us—your bog-standard iguana will look pretty plain after you’ve laid eyes on these beauties. When Grand Cayman's Blue Iguana Recovery Programme was launched in the 1990s, there were fewer than 40 left in the wild. Fast forward 30 years and there are now over 1,000 of these supersized reptiles, which can weigh up to 26 pounds (12 kilograms). Their recovery was a multipronged approach that involved captive breeding, the release of hatchlings into protected areas, and additional protection for the iguanas’ habitats.

5. Red kites, United Kingdom

A red kite soars through the air
Look to the skies for a different kind of kite.Photo Credit: Karl Weller / Shutterstock

Do some kite-spotting.

In the Middle Ages, kites were so prized for their street-cleaning skills that they were protected by royal decree in the UK. But in the 1600s, gamekeepers and egg collectors were blaming kites for attacks on their livestock and livelihoods. By the 1930s, there were only a handful of pairs left.

Their comeback kicked off in the 1960s, when a reintroduction program organized by the RSPB, Natural England, and Scottish Natural Heritage saw kites return to large areas of England, Scotland, and Wales. If you’re keen on kite-spotting, locations in the UK include Derbyshire’s Upper Derwent Valley and the Scottish Highlands.

6. Eurasian lynx, Spain

Two Eurasian lynx keep watch in nature
Lynxes are famous for their extended ear tufts.Photo Credit: Rudolf_photo / Shutterstock

Head to a national park to see these unusual wildcats.

Persecution, deforestation, and loss of wild prey were all factors that led to the Eurasian lynx being considered extinct for over 200 years. Lynx luck began to change in the 1970s, though, when the species was slowly reintroduced to Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria. Meanwhile, organizations such as the European Rewilding Network and the LIFE Lynx initiative aided their comeback by transforming the attitudes of local communities and hunters. Fantastic lynx-spotting areas include the wonderfully wild Sierra de Andujar National Park in Spain, Montenegro’s Dinaric Alps, and Romania’s magnificent Piatra Craiului National Park.

7. California condors, US

A California condor perches in a canyon environment
Where to spot Northern America's largest bird.Photo Credit: Martin M303 / Shutterstock

Big Sur is your best bet to spot this big bird.

North America’s largest bird, which can soar to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters), has faced multiple threats over the years, including habitat destruction. By 1982, there were just 22 California condors left in the wild, prompting the US Fish and Wildlife Service to launch the California Condor Recovery Program. This captive breeding program was a success, and in the early 1990s condors that had been bred in captivity were released into the wild. These days, condors can be found in California, Arizona, Utah, and northern Mexico. However, one of the top spots to see them is along California’s Big Sur coastline.

8. European bison, Poland

A herd of European bison traveling together
Herd movements actually help with seed dispersal.Photo Credit: Ondrej Prosicky / Shutterstock

A breeding program helped these bison bounce back.

A supersized beast that recently teetered on the edge of extinction, the European bison could once be found across Europe. By the 1930s there were just 50 captive bison left, prompting the creation of a breeding program followed by a managed release of bison into Poland’s Białowieża Forest. As a so-called keystone species, their presence is vital—their heavy trampling creates niche habitats for plants, insects, and lizards, while herd movements aid seed dispersal. Now thriving across Germany, Poland, and Romania, five free-roaming European Bison were recently introduced to the UK in a reserve in Kent’s Blean Woods.

9. Beavers, UK

A beaver swims through the water.
Where to watch eager beavers.Photo Credit: Cavan-Images / Shutterstock

Beaver dams help develop important wetlands.

Over the years, beavers have faced multiple threats, ranging from trapping and water pollution to habitat loss due to the drainage of wetlands—despite their ability to create vital wetlands by building dams. In recent times the Beaver Trust has launched several reintroduction projects, the first one of which took place in Devon in 2015. Similar projects saw numbers rocket across the UK and Scotland. In late 2022, the beavers got legal protection when they were formally recognized as native wildlife.

Find more things to do in Europe

1 / 5

Keep reading

1 / 5
Do more with Viator
One site, 300,000+ travel experiences you'll remember—direct to your inbox.
Stay in the know