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Enjoy Creature Comforts with TAP

From enormous polar bears to tiny, adorable puffins, wildlife encounters run the gamut. But no matter the animal’s size, the same excited hush quiets the group every time someone spots a new species on a wildlife tour.

Groups can travel in comfort to see polar bears, African lions, sandhill cranes, buffalos, puffins and more on these fauna-focused tours from Travel Alliance Partners.

Ultimate Polar Bear Adventure

Anderson Vacations

Most wildlife tours try to sneak up on shy animals. Polar bears’ spot at the top of the food chain ensures a certain amount of confidence in their demeanor. In Churchill, Manitoba, groups can witness this boldness as the animals sometimes come right next to tundra vehicles to peek inside.

The six-day Ultimate Polar Bear Adventure with Anderson Vacations explores Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world, for chances to look these massive creatures in the eye. Safe inside vehicles custom-made for the Arctic, groups can watch the bears waiting for the winter icepack to freeze on the Hudson Bay.

The tour also explores the area at various historic sites such as Cape Merry. To feel one with the snowy scenery, groups ride on a two-mile dog sled excursion. If there is no snow, the dogs pull the sled on wheels.

Inside a warm tent, guests sample local berry jam, bannock and hot chocolate as they hear entertaining stories about the dogs.

All tours keep an eye out for the northern lights, since the night light show appears about 300 out of 365 days a year in Churchill. Groups end the tour in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

Shebby Lee Tours

American bison stand taller than most cars and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. Groups can feel the ground rumble from 1,200 buffalos running at the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup with Shebby Lee Tours.

The six-day trip features the yearly South Dakota event, which the American Bus Association awarded “Top Event” in 2015. The trip allows groups to watch cowboys and cowgirls brand, sort and vaccinate these magnificent beasts.

The tour also explores the area’s other highlights, such as Rapid City’s downtown, Deadwood’s gaming establishments and the historic 1880 Steam Train featured in many Hollywood films. The Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival offers entertainment, arts, crafts and buffalo burgers.

At the Crazy Horse Memorial, guests learn about the unfinished mountain carving dedicated to Native Americans. Groups also stand in front of the iconic Mount Rushmore for a day visit and evening lighting ceremony.

The tour ends at the Badlands National Park. The otherworldly landscape inspired early explorers to describe the lands as “hell with the fires burned out.” The world-famous Wall Drug also provides a memorable shopping stop.

Tanzania and the Great Migration Safari

CTN Travels

Groups can feel like they have walked on the set of a wildlife documentary on CTN Travels’ Tanzania and the Great Migration Safari. The game drive runs from December to early March as thousands of migrating wildebeests, Cape buffaloes and zebras gather in a spectacle not found anywhere else on the planet.

Safari rides come close to animals in their native environment. Elephants sometimes chase vehicles, and sightings of the Big Five game animals are common.

The 12-day tour starts in Lake Manyara National Park, where guests can enjoy views of the Great Rift Valley from their lodge. The area also preserves the Olduvai Gorge, where the remains of early prehistoric man and the oldest known human footprints were discovered.

Groups then enter the Serengeti for the wildlife migrations. Optional hot air balloons allow visitors to see sweeping views of the impressive wildlife event. A visit to the local Masai village reveals the local culture of the area.

At the Ngorogoro Crater, guests see some of Africa’s most stunning wildlife havens. Visitors can relax at a hotel with views of the steep crater rim.

The day after arriving, groups descend more than 2,000 feet to the floor of the crater’s extinct volcano. The excursion normally includes wildlife sightings of pink flamingos and the Big Five. Tours of a local school, farm and coffee plantation show the human side of the region.

Wings of Willcox and Tucson Adventure

Southwest Adventure Tours

Tens of thousands of sandhill cranes fill the skies each winter in Willcox, Arizona. Southwest Adventure Tours’ Wings of Willcox and Tucson Adventure lets groups witness these majestic birds fill the skies with their six-foot wingspans and trumpeting calls.

The tour focuses not only on the graceful birds but on the other ecological and cultural treasures in the area as well. Ornithologists consider southern Arizona one of the prime bird-watching areas of the United States because of its mix of species from the United States and Mexico. Scenery also varies from rugged deserts to looming mountains over the course of the seven-day trip.

The trip runs in the winter for the sandhill and other bird migrations, such as hawks. Professional wildlife photographers and wildlife biologists will accompany the group, which the tour operator limits in size so the ratio of guides to guests is 10 to 1.

The tour begins in Tucson, Arizona, with a visit to the Pima Air and Space Museum’s 350 historical aircraft. Participants also visit Tucson’s Aircraft Boneyard, Old Tucson Movie Studios and Adventure Park, and Mission San Xavier del Bac, and explore the outdoors at the area’s Saguaro National Park and Sonoran Desert Museum.

Groups learn the true story about the gunfight at the OK Corral on their trip to Tombstone, along with other Tombstone historic sites. The tour offers plenty of chances to admire the sandhill cranes, including at one site where participants can photograph the birds with the Dragoon Mountains as a backdrop.

Circle Newfoundland and Labrador

Atlantic Tours

Three separate boat excursions serve as cornerstones of Atlantic Tours’ 13-day Circle Newfoundland and Labrador itinerary. On each, groups encounters a different element of Newfoundland and Labrador: whales and icebergs at St. Anthony, picturesque scenery at Gros Morne National Park and puffins at Bay Bulls.

For many visitors, the delightfully cute puffins stand out in the captivating tour. Only eight inches tall, the shore birds perch on cliff tops and bob on the water’s surface, much to travelers’ delight.

Whales, moose, caribous and other wildlife also endear guests to Newfoundland and Labrador, known for both their pristine wildernesses and hospitable people. The Canadian province has been called a mix of Irish culture and Alaskan natural beauty.

The trip embraces both sides of Newfoundland and Labrador. Participants discover three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, Red Bay National Historic Site and Gros Morne National Park. Groups also visit Gander, the town that served as the basis for the hit Broadway show “Come From Away.”

On a tour of the quaint, historic town of Bonavista, groups discover the history of the town and learn about the difficulties encountered by lightkeepers at Cape Bonavista Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site.

The old seaport of St. John’s intrigues guests as North America’s oldest city and Newfoundland’s capital. Engaging city tours point out the town’s Victorian architecture, dramatic granite cliffs and panoramic view from Signal Hill.

Atlantic Tours offers 12 guaranteed departures in 2020, with more options as a custom tour that can be combined with trips to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.

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