Here we provide some information about the largest and most popular nature reserves in the world, excluding Africa. There are special areas undisturbed by urbanisation, where it is possible to see animals and plants in their natural habitat, protected from any future encroachment by developers. There are reserves from the Arctic to the Equator and here we list some of the largest and most popular.
Founded in 1974 and expanded in 1988, this 604,000 square kilometre park is the northernmost national park in the world and encompasses the interior and north east coast of Greenland. A large portion of the land is covered in ice sheets and home to polar bears, walruses, and musk oxen while the waters off the coast house several seal species and narwhal and beluga whales. The only people with regular access are hunters from a native Inuit tribe though they accept around 500 visitors each year.
The 4050 square kilometres of forests of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park of Colombia have been threatened by drug growing, herbicide spraying to kill the drug crops and now housing developments, yet it contains species include the critically endangered harlequin frog, the uni-coloured Oldfield mouse and the green and orange Santa Marta parakeet.
The thin chain of coastal hills of the 8165 square kilometres of the Western Ghats world heritage site in India is home to many endangered species including Asian elephants, lion-tailed macaques and nilgiri tahr, a mountain goat. Tea and coffee plantations have fragmented the forests, while new roads and mines are the current plans meeting global resistance.
The protected area covering 51,352 square kilometres of Venezuela is famous for its tepuis, table-top mountains that create a landscape of soaring cliffs with flat tops and plunging waterfalls. Species have evolved on its isolated plateaus that exist nowhere else. This is a vital area for dozens of species, including the Fernandez's sword-nosed bat, the saffron-breasted redstart bird and the rare Sapito Rojo Del Yapacana frog.
Famous for its geothermal features that include a unique system of geysers and thermal pools, Yellowstone National Park covers 8991 square kilometres of the USA, allowing you to see grizzly bears roaming the mountains. You can also witness herds of elks, bison, antelope and wolves.
On the border of Belarus and Poland, the Bialowieza National Park is a vast wildlife reserve in Europe that is almost untouched, with some parts of the reserve only accessible through guided tours. The dense forests provide home for bison, elks, deer and wild boar all live in the dense forests and you can also see the locally named żubroń, a bison-cow hybrid. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the untouched nature of the forest, although the Tsar had a hunting mansion (Palace Park) in Białowieża, that is of historical interest.
This national park in India is known as the “Tiger-spotting Capital of Asia”. At 446km2 this area is split into four zones known as Tala, Magdhi, Khitauli, and Panpatt. Tala is the main area for tiger-spotting, though the Alpha Male of the park, Bamera, has territory in all four zones, and may appear in any of them. The park has a large population of breeding leopards and some deer, but most visitors come to witness the tigers and their inter-rivalry. Bamera is the son of legendary tiger B2, and it is likely that he killed his father to become leader.
Located in the barren centre of Australia, the large red rock that gives the park its name is also known as Ayres Rock. This a site of spiritual significance to the indigenous Australian population, which has led to it and the surrounding area to be preserved as a nature reserve. Wildlife at Uluru-Kata Tjuta include mammals such as bats and moles, and cold-blooded reptiles, including the native thorny devil. There are also 13 species of snake and even a type of frog that buries itself in the sand, and many species of birds.
Canada’s Vancouver Island stretches 460 kilometres and is situated off the west coast of the mainland. This reserve is a working community with fishing and logging the primary industries. Famous for whale-watching, pods of Orcas visit the area regularly, but it is also possible to swim with salmon or track grizzly bears. This is a tourist-friendly area, hosting a number of festivals throughout the year, including the Pacific Rim Whale Festival.
Khao Sok in Thailand has stunning mountains, lakes and rainforest in an ever-changing landscape. It is a good place to view a large variety of local wildlife, via canoe or jeep. There are leopards, tigers and gibbons as well as elephants. The area is also known to have venomous cobras, though only 10-20 people die in the country from snake bites a year.
Located in Victoria, Australia, the Croajingolong National Park is a lush, green area of 875 square kilometres with the Pacific on the south side and the Bemm River on the west. A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the area is officially owned by the Aboriginal people. The park has camp-sites, and picnic areas and is as much a tourist attraction as well as an Aborigine reserve. Enjoy water-sports here, just sit and admire the view or watch kangaroos and koalas.
Famous for untamed wildlife from anacondas to tree frogs, the Amazon rainforest is a unique experience giving a hint as to what the world was like before man intervened. With an area of seven million square kilometres, this is a nature reserve that has no other match on the planet. It is home to hundreds of species that do not exist elsewhere. To see creatures in their natural habitat, the Amazon rainforest is the trip of a lifetime in untamed, dense vegetation.