To mark World Wildlife Day (March 3) we wanted to highlight some incredible experiences on our own doorstep – including some you might not know about.
From watching seals being born in Lincolnshire, to spotting whales and puffins off the North East coast, and staying at a lion lodge hotel in Kent, these are the best places to see wildlife in the UK.
Visitors are advised to check individual websites before travelling while restrictions remain in place. See www.visitengland.com for the latest guidance.
Watch seal pups being born on the East Coast
Britain is home to around 40% of the world’s grey seal population. One of the best places to see seals in the UK is at Donna Nook National Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire between November and December when the seals give birth to their pups.
You can also go on a seal spotting Beans Boat Trip to Blakeney Point, a nature reserve in Norfolk run by the National Trust, which is home to Common and Grey seals – and the 3,000 new pups which are born each year.
Prices start from £13 for an adult and £7 for children (aged 14 and under). Boats run seven days a week between April and October, and also throughout the winter.
See puffins in Northumberland
Puffins, or as the locals like to call them ‘Tommy Noddy’, gather in their tens of thousands on Northumberland’s Farne Islands between April and July to breed.
Sailing along Inner Farne and Staple Island, you’ll see the Puffins as they nest and search for food. You could also spot over 20 other species of breeding seabirds, including Guillemots, Razorbills and Eider Ducks.
Take a day full day trip on one of Billy Shiel’s Boats to appreciate the wonder of these beautiful birds and their comical walks.
Prices are £40 for adults and £25 for children. Trips are available between May and July.
Spot dolphins off the South Coast
At least seven species of dolphin swim the waters around the UK – and England’s South Coast is home to white-beaked dolphins that put on a show, performing flips, jumps and dives, and getting friendly with the local boats.
Join St Ives Boat Services on their Four Sisters pleasure boat tour, which offers the chance to get as up close as possible to pods of dolphins as possible.
Common and bottlenose dolphins are also often spotted and will often accompany boats as they make their way along the coast.
Prices start from £15 an adult and £10 for children. During off-peak hours kids under 16 go free, for a maximum of two children.
Whale watching in North Yorkshire
Once known for its whaling fleet, Whitby is now thankfully becoming famous for its whale watching instead.
In summer minke whales appear following the Mackerel shoals. These fantastic mammals are the most regularly seen along the coast.
Harbour porpoise can also be spotted throughout the year and on most whale watching trips. While bottlenose and white-beaked dolphins are now being seen every year on the coast in increasing numbers.
Take a one day Yorkshire Whale Watching & Seabirds trip on Blue Sky Wildlife. Prices are £90pp.
Red squirrels in Merseyside
While we’re accustomed to seeing grey squirrels almost everywhere, our native red squirrels are a pretty rare sight.
Pushed out of the country by the introduction of American grey squirrels, there are only a few places left in England where these rusty-red squirrels survive.
Visit Formby in Merseyside and take the designated National Trust Red Squirrel Walking Trail where you’ll catch a glimpse of them feasting on hazelnuts and pine cones.
Deer watching in Cheshire
Deer have been at Lyme Park in Cheshire for over 600 years and their presence has played a pivotal role on the estate, which is famous for appearing in the Pride and Prejudice film starring Colin Firth.
The best time to visit is during rutting season in October where you can witness the stags showcasing their prowess – or in June as baby deers are born.
Designated walks take you around the grounds where you’re almost guaranteed to see a deer or two grazing.
Shark watching in Cornwall
Cornwall is England’s unofficial shark capital, and home to an array of shark species including the blue shark, smooth hammerhead – and the gentle giant of British waters, the basking shark.
Hop on a Padstow Sealife Safari RIB and travel 25 miles along the stunning Cornish coast exploring the marine life inhabiting the waters and coastline, as well as countless seabirds.
August and September are the best months to capture the beauty of the basking sharks as they enjoy the sun and stunning Cornish waters.
Prices are £39 for adults and £25 for children for a two hour trip.
Stay at a lion lodge in Kent
Experience lions in the most unique way with a stay in a Lion Lodge at Port Lympne Hotel, set on a 600-acre wildlife reserve in Kent.
Get up and close and personal with the majestic animals in their natural habitat and stay in a choice of accommodation, from luxury lodges to unique treehouses.
There are other animals to stay amongst, including giraffes, tigers, rhinos – and the new Leopard Creek which has a range of stays, from Cosy Cubs for couples to luxury Wigwams that can sleep 4.
Prices range from £179 for more basic accommodation to £1,200 a night at the luxury end.