Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are famous for their safaris. Journeys where the main goal is seeing and photographing wild animals. Mexico is rarely seen as a safari destination, and it gets few tourists for this reason..ok, I have never seen lions or elephants on Mexican parks, but what about bisons, bears and they big white sharks?

Here are my top 12 recommendations to see exotic and wild fauna in Mexico:

1. White shark

Australia and South Africa are famous for their cage-diving with the super predator: the white shark. However, in my opinion Isla Guadalupe located in the coast of Ensenada (Baja California) is the best place to see this amazing and huge animal. Although it is not cheap (around US$2,000), the experience will be worth it. The best season for cage-diving is  January to June.

2. Jaguar

Did you know that the third largest big cat in the world lives in the Americas, all the way from North Mexico until North Argentina? Though the jaguar is an endangered species in our contry, with a bit of luck you can find it in Calakmul (Campeche). In this  Biosphere Reserve close to the huge Mayan ruins, you can hire a local service to follow the trail of the jaguar. This might take as much as 3 days in the jungle. You will grow into the feeling that it is the jaguar following your trail and not otherwise. I guarantee you that the search of this feline will be a nice small talk back home.

 

3. Black bear

 

You might be surprised to find wild fauna in a urban environment. Well, that is the case of Monterrey, located in the northeast of Mexico. Here you can find black bears coming down from Chipinque (urban park and reserve) searching for water during the extrem weather months in summer. If you are interested in seeing this animal, I suggest you to visit Chipinque in August. You can try hiking or taking a bicycle tour around this place.  Sierra Picachos (a natural reserve about 80km far from Monterrey) is also home of this awesome animal. Here you can see some bear cubs playing with hikers in Chipinque.

4. Bison

United States is not the only place where you can find this magnificent and strong animal. Some time ago, huge herds of bisons grazed in all northern Mexico. However, in these days you can still see them in the northwest of Chihuaha, near of Janos area. In fact, 3 years ago a herd of bisons was reintroduced in this region. In Coahuila (Sierra de Arteaga) and Durango there are also ranches with semi wild herds. Some of this areas, especially Janos see their fair share of snowfall in winter time. Guess you were not expecting that in sunny Mexico.

 

5. Gray whale

Because of its huge size (around 20 meters long) and calmness, this animal is considered a beautiful and poignant animal. It is one of the main reasons to travel to Baja Peninsul. Even if you can not swim with them, your best chances to have a wonderful morning with them are around Laguna Ojo Salado in the center of Baja Peninsula. The trip there requieres some logistics but is well worth it. Puerto Vallarta also sees some of this aquatic mammals in reduced number compared to Baja. Season is from November until March.

6. Whale shark

Make sure to see the biggest animal of the world. You can find it in the calm waters of Holbox (Yucatan) and Isla Contoy (Quintana Roo) and even swim along it without problems. Maybe you will find a lot of people in high season (from June to August), but do not worry everyone can swim with the shark whale for some minutes because of its high speed that its out of reach for us.

7. Flamingo

Saturated in the sanctuaries of Rio Lagartos and Celestun, their beautiful color pink rewards a trip to Yucatan. I would recommend you to rent a boat from the local cooperatives (around $800 mxn) and sail by the swamps in order to see this beautiful birds that reach up to 1,2 meters of height. Seeing them searching for food it´s not just beautiful, just wait to see them fly and dye the sky in pink.

8. Berrondo antellope (Antilocapra americana)

The antelopes are the kind of animals most seen in the African plains and savannahs. But in America you can find a unique specie of antelopes called: the pronghorn. This animal is also found in the north Chihuaha and Sonora, so do not miss the oportunity to see them. The pronghorn graze in the same area as the bison and bald eagle, so you will the complete experience as an african safari. Though this animal moves at high speeds, be ready to take a fast photo from a distance of 60 or 70 meters.

9. Sea turtles

Did you know that ten of the eleven species of sea turtles that lives in the world oceans, arrive to Mexico? That´s right, the arrival of turtles and the eclosion of their eggs its considered as an amazing spectacle. The leatherback sea turtle (around 1,2 meters) is considered as the star of all the turtles. You can be part of the activities for the conservation of this species from Jalisco to Chiapas and from Quintana Roo to Tamaulipas. Be witness of how turtles lay up to 100 eggs; a moving experience that you will love it. The best place to see this animal is Colola, a beach located in Michoacan.

10. Quetzal

A bird famous because of the feathers of its tail, that were exclusive used for the tlatoanis and governors of the pre-hispanic time, nowadays is endangered in Mexico. Its tiny size is inversely proportional to the sparkling colors of its chest and feathers. However, in order to see them you must go into the fog forest of south Chiapas, especially in the reserves El Triunfo or Montes Azules. As a recommendation, do not schedule a trip in rainy season, since its really rare for them to place on the branches on rain.

 

11. Monarch butterfly

Some generations of monarch butterflies take time to arrive from the forests of Canada, where they spend the summer, until the reserve in the east of Michoacan where they enjoy a warm winter. This means that not all of these butterflies complete their journey. However, in November you can see the branches of the trees saturated with millions of these orange, yellow and black butterflies. If you visit this reserve, you should be careful of not step on this little butterflies that do not reach space in the trees.

 

12. Prairie dog

It’s not a dog as its name says, the prairie dog is like a yellow squirrel. However, the reason of its name is because of the noise that resembles a barking when they’re calling each other. Its habitat is the arid climate of the north Mexico. The best place to see them is rancho El Tokio in Nuevo Leon, also in the highway from Juarez- Nogales, Monclova-Torreon, and Zacatecas-Saltillo. If you come to visit Saltillo, make sure to go to Museo del Desierto, where you can find a special area of prairie dogs. This animal is the favorite of the kids, because of their nice face.