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Top 5 wildlife experiences

Spirit of Discovery is setting off on an incredible adventure in January. Her exciting 49-night transatlantic crossing will see her calling in at a string of sun-dappled Caribbean islands before continuing to destinations along the coast of Central America.

With plenty of opportunity along the way to soak up breathtaking landscapes and local culture, the voyage will also be filled with chances to experience the region’s diverse wildlife. Spend time swimming with turtles in Barbados, go in search for alligators in the Everglades and go whale watching in Madeira.

Here’s a roundup of just some of the top wildlife experiences you can expect on a cruise to the biodiverse regions of the Caribbean and USA.

Go swimming with turtles in Barbados

A hawksbill turtle swimming in the ocean

Barbados and its many palm-fringed islands are a dream destination. Spend time here relaxing on soft white sands and dipping your toes in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. But away from unwinding in the sun, one of the best things to do in Bridgetown Barbados is to head off on a wildlife watching experience.

Colonies of nesting sea turtles live along the country’s picture-perfect coastline, namely the hawksbill and the leatherback turtle. Over 500 hawksbill turtles lay their eggs on the beaches of Barbados every year, making it the second-largest population in the Caribbean.

Relish the opportunity to swim with turtles in Barbados on an excursion as you go in search of the spectacular sea creatures. Board a catamaran along with a guide and discover the beauty of seeing turtles swimming freely alongside a colourful spectrum of tropical fish in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean.

RIB ride out in search of dolphins and whales in Madeira

Dolphins leaping out of the ocean

Madeira is a verdant, mountainous island formed from a volcanic eruption and known for its namesake wine. Often described as the ‘floating garden in the Atlantic’, the island is crowned by the world’s largest laurel forest and botanical gardens where exotic indigenous plants grow.

The island’s rich biodiversity continues along the coast. The waters around the archipelago are alive with marine life, but it’s the marine mammals which pass along the shores here that really steal the show.

Dolphin and whale watching in Madeira can be enjoyed year-round thanks to the wide array of species that can be spotted. Set off with a marine biologist on a RIB as you discover the majestic marine mammals in their natural habitats.

Look out for alligators in the Everglades

An alligator in the Everglades, Florida, USA

Embark on an exploration to spot alligators in the wetlands of Everglades National Park. Located right at the south-eastern tip of Florida, Miami is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world. The long sandy beaches attract tourists all year round, and many Americans have made this their permanent home after retirement.

Nearby, the grassy wetlands of the Everglades National Park hide an abundance of wildlife which includes the world-famous alligators. Take a thrilling ride though the Everglades on an airboat with a knowledgeable guide to find ‘gators among the vast natural landscape. Incredibly, the American Alligator can live for up to 35 years and grow up to sizes of sixteen feet in length.

Explore the limestone Hato Caves, home to Curacao’s long-nosed fruit bats

Inside the Hato Caves, Curacao

Tropical Curacao was once a centre of trade in the Caribbean. The capital Willemstad was founded by Dutch colonists in 1634 and today the UNESCO-listed harbour and inner city is a patchwork of European influences. Today the island’s sandy beaches bring visitors from far and wide, but when it comes to other things to do in Curacao, a collection of captivating wildlife experiences await.

The cathedral-like caverns of Hato Caves play host to a colony of long-nosed fruit bats, cave paintings, waterfalls and unusual rock formations. Formed over millions of years, the caves are made from marine coral which was once below the sea. Around 790 feet long and spanning an area of over 50,000 square feet, entering the caves feels like stepping into a portal to the prehistoric past. Join an excursion as you discover the cave’s history and natural inhabitants.

Visit the iguana farms of Honduras, where hundreds of reptiles can be seen in a protected habitat

A black iguana on Roatán, the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands

Roatán, the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands, boasts white-sand beaches protected by the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef that almost surrounds it, making the water here ideal for diving and snorkelling. The island’s mountainous interior is great for hiking and scenic panoramic views, but these landscapes also provide the ideal destination for spotting a collection of Central American wildlife.

Visit one of the local iguana farms for the chance to see the large population of free-roaming iguanas. The native black iguana is an intriguing reptile can reach up to 5 feet in length and can be seen in their thousands living among the shaded foliage of their protected habitat.

Discover more about Caribbean and Central America Discovery departing in 2025, aboard Spirit of Discovery.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.