“A boat is a hole in the water, surrounded by wood or fiberglass, into which one pours money”
It’s not hard to stretch this analogy to photography. It won’t be difficult to bump up against your price limit.
I’ve been doing outdoor photography for just over five years and moved to a DSLR about two years ago, so I’m just a couple steps ahead of you.
For wildlife, you should consider a telephoto lens. I have a Canon EFS 55-250mm. It’s a bit of a compromise I made as a beginner. A good lens, but 300mm would come in handy.
Consider getting a macro lens. Shooting a moose from 100ft is quite a thrill, but they don’t stick around. You might end up shooting a lot of wildflowers in between the exotic animals.
Get a sturdy bag! You want one that will shelter your camera when it tumbles down a fifty foot cliff. Never mind how I know ;—)
Get extra accessories. Lens caps get lost. If you travel for an extended period a spare battery would her quite handy.