One of my favorite things about traveling is seeing and interacting with wildlife. I always try to have some sort of animal spotting no matter where I go, even if it’s just something simple.
I asked a few fellow travelers to share their favorite animal encounters from around the world. Below are their responses.
1) Chiang Mai, Thailand
Read below on how Lauren from Lauren’s Travel Adventures adopted an elephant for the day.
“If you’ve never been to Thailand, I’m sure you’ve at least heard about their elephants. Sadly, elephants (and many other animals) are abused daily for tourism purposes in Thailand. Since I love animals and would never want to support animal abuse, I decided to skip the elephant rides and instead volunteered to adopt an elephant for the day. I got to feed, bathe and take care of my elephant, Calm, for the day. The mommy elephant shown below was rescued from the logging industry. Her two children, one 2 years old and the other, 3 months old, were playfully fighting for her attention. Elephants are truly gentle giants and deserve to roam free either in the wild or in nature preserves like this one.”
You can read more about Lauren’s experience here.
2) Kotor, Montenegro
Sometimes the best animal encounters are with domestic felines! Read about Gerard from G&G Journeys experience with some cute kittens in Kotor.
“We got more than we bargained for when we arrived at our Airbnb in Kotor, Montenegro. The bonus that we knew we had signed up for was a lovely garden with a spectacular view over the bay – and it was every bit as spectacular as had been suggested. What we didn’t know we were getting were 3 absolutely adorable little kittens who shared our garden and our view with us. I won’t claim to be a cat person – neither is my wife – but these little guys just absolutely stole our hearts. We shared many a breakfast on the terrace with these little guys, and these breakfasts were honestly such a big highlight of the trip. Early morning sunshine – tick; coffee and fresh fruit – tick; gorgeous little kitten friends – also tick!
There was a steep set of steps that we had to climb every evening when we were going back ‘home’ for the night. The view made the climb worth it, but the kittens waiting to greet us were such a brilliant bonus too. We named them of course. Scruff, Joey (as in snowy) and Tabbs. I’m sure these aren’t their actual names, but they were to us. We left Kotor after staying here for 9 days. We had very heavy hearts, mostly because we’d had a great time there, but also because we were leaving behind our new little furry friends. Honestly, packing up our backpacks was particularly difficult in Kotor. All I wanted to do was take the little guys adventuring with us. We didn’t, and wouldn’t, of course. But if my heart ruled my head all the time, I could be telling a very different story here; one about kitten kidnap and two Irish cat burglars. Thankfully for everyone involved, we left them in Montenegro, but they remain in our hearts to this day. My wife has always insisted that we get a dog when we ‘grow up’ and own our own place. I think we’ll be adding kittens to that list too now!”
While walking on the beach one evening in the Maldives, Mansi and Abhishek from @75Travel came across a few locals cleaning fish they caught that day. As the locals do every night, they were throwing the parts they didn’t need back into the ocean. One of the locals asked if Mansi and Abhishek wanted to feed the sting rays that were quickly gathering.
“We walked till the water level was just around our shins. He held the piece of fish under the water and the stingrays came straight for his hand. Mansi, my wife, was so scared that she quickly left the water and for a good reason. The sting ray’s sting can kill a human in seconds, and this got us really nervous. The local man, Ibrahim, couldn’t stop smiling looking at us. Very nonchalantly, he said, ‘Don’t worry, just stay away from the sting (tail) and you will be fine.’
I mustered the courage to take the piece of fish from him and dipped it under water. Within seconds, multiple stingrays were in touching distance. Their mouth is on the underlying part of their body and hence when they come close to take a bite of the fish, they come over your hand to eat it from below. At this moment, Ibrahim just swiped his hand on the sting ray. He encouraged me to do the same. When it would turn around to go away, I had to ensure its long tail didn’t touch me. A few minutes into doing this, the nervousness went away and I was enjoying the experience more and more. After watching me do this for a while, Mansi finally decided to give it a try though she was still terrified!
This was by far one of the most memorable off-beat experiences of our travel life so far. And the cherry on top was that we didn’t have to pay a penny for such an incredible experience.”
Sarah from Life in Full Flavour had a lovely honeymoon with her husband in the Maldives and had a similar experience to Mansi and Abhishek. Below is a short description of Sarah’s experience.
“My husband and I spent our honeymoon in the Maldives, and for anyone who wants to get up close and personal with marine life, this is an amazing holiday destination. We stayed in a water bungalow, where we got fantastic daily views of dolphins, turtles, and more fish than you can imagine. On one particularly humid morning we couldn’t sleep in the heat, so we got up for a walk at about 5am. The sun was up and the tide was in, encompassing the shore which lay between the bungalows and the main island. The ocean was absolutely awash with sea creatures and as we crossed the bridge to the main island we saw a number of gigantic rays and a huge nurse shark. It was amazing as we were the only two people there. It was definitely worth getting out of bed for and if we’re ever lucky to go back to the Maldives, I would set my alarm to get up at the same time again!”
4) British Columbia, Canada
Some of the best animal encounters are unexpected. Read about Nick from Budget Break’s experience spotting a bald eagle!
“Winter in British Columbia’s interior region is harsh, the mountains bleached white with snow and the forests desolate with most of its residents asleep or migrated south for the warmer weathers. Temperatures this winter were regularly a staggering minus 25°C, too cold to comfortably be outside. After months of seeing little if any wildlife, while driving next to the Thompson river we spotted the most majestic juvenile Bald Eagle, the low sun reflecting off of her brilliant black beak. Mother nature couldn’t have given us a more beautiful sign that winter is over and spring is upon us.”
5) Kutai National Park, Indonesia
Though some animals can be seen in a zoo, seeing them in their natural habitat is truly rewarding. Read about Margarida Vasconcelos from Daisy and Thyme’s adventure to find orangutans.
“I’ve dreamed of seeing orangutans in the wild for a long time but finally made it in 2016. There are several rehabilitation and conservation centres where you can get closer to orangutans, but some of them offer a zoo-like experience, and I wanted to observe them in the wild without disturbing them. Hence, I travelled, for hours and hours, by car and then by boat, to Kutai National Park. Prevab, the park’s rangers station offers a great option to explore the natural home of the Bornean orangutan. Unfortunately, a few hours before my trek I felt very sick and could hardly move. But, I just couldn’t miss the opportunity of seeing orangutans in their natural habitat. Thus had no option but to drag myself into the forest. I breathed a sigh of relief when the rangers spotted these lovely creatures. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw mother and baby lounging on a tree. Their cuteness melted my heart. I was feeling very poorly, but even so, I was still able to enjoy my encounter with these amazing animals. It was a short but magical moment that I’ll treasure forever.”
Check out Margarida’s entire post here.
6) Cape Hillsborough, Australia
Everyone has heard about kangaroos in Australia and many have dreamed of someday seeing them up close. Check out Clazz from An Orcadian Abroad’s experience with kangroos at sunrise!
“It’s hard to pin down some of the best moments of my travels – but a lot of them tend to involve wildlife. One of my favourite experiences was in Australia – I had read about a beach near Mackay in Queensland where you can see kangaroos, and we stopped there on our way up the east coast, only to find a few wallabies and not much else. To its credit, it’s a beautiful beach and worth spending time at. But that’s when I realised that for the true magic, you need to come at sunrise.
Which is why we found ourselves back at Cape Hillsborough on the way back down. It was a 5am start, but when we arrived at the beach and a kangaroo came bounding over, it was immediately worth it. A ranger was on hand to make sure nobody fed or mis-handled the kangaroo, and before long another one had joined her! Together, they found shrubs in the darkness along the edge of the beach, occasionally bouncing out to pose in front of the rising sun. It’s like they knew exactly what they were doing!
You can see kangaroos anywhere in Australia, but there’s definitely something magical about seeing them on a beach. If you get the chance, I highly recommend making the stop at Cape Hillsborough!”
You can read more about Clazz’s experience here.
7) Rottnest Island, Australia
Australia definitely has some of the best wildlife. Read about Gabs and Dan from Restless Pair and their amazing encounter with quokkas on Rottnest Island.
“Quokkas are only found on the West Coast of Australia and they’re so cute! On Rottnest Island, they’re free to roam about as they please (although they’re mostly attracted to the picnic areas!). There’s heaps of information on how to keep the quokkas happy and healthy – including how to interact with them and what not to do (i.e. feed them, stroke them etc.).
They’re famous for taking great selfies and they really didn’t disappoint. It was nice to see them out in the wild because if you only go to the east coast of Aus you can only see them in a zoo. It was great to get up close and personal with the little critters!”
Check out Gabs and Dan’s more detailed post about their experience here.
Do you have an animal encounter that’s been on your bucket list? Read about Linn from Brainy Backpackers experience crossing one of her bucket list items off her list!
“Last year I went to Madagascar. In November. For one reason. It was whale shark season in the north of the island. It has been a dream and a bucket list experience for many many years to swim with whale sharks and I was finally going to it. And it turned out to be my most incredible wildlife encounter in Madagascar.
I stayed at a private island with only an eco-lodge, Ankazoberavina, outside of Nosy Be and we went out by boat looking for the whale sharks. It was only us and another boat around the whale shark and we jumped in every second time to not scare the massive animal. It was an unbelievable experience to be face to face with this beautiful, calm creature. I have no words to what it felt like being so close that I could have reached out my hand and touched it.
It is important not to touch the whale sharks as their skin might be harmed by sunscreen and other lotions we have on our hands. Also, coming near them might scare them away or even changing their habits with time. Therefore, I am grateful to have had this experience off the beaten track, and I recommend you to find a place that is not so frequently visited for such an incredible experience.”
Check out Linn from Brainy Backpackers full post here.
9) Kluane National Park, Canada
Some animal encounters are dangerous at the time, but provide a good story later on. Read about Davin’s experience with a grizzly in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
“All the most memorable wildlife interactions I’ve had have been unplanned. One time I was on a backpacking trip in Kluane National Park in Canada’s Yukon Territory. It was the first night around 10 pm, and after setting up camp and making our dinner, three of the four of us went down to the creek to clean our pots. As we started up the hill towards our tents, a grizzly appeared on the trail several steps in front of us. He locked eyes on us and walked forward in a threatening posture. We backed up slowly, grouped together, and moved off the trail into some marshy ground. The bear kept coming, so I fired a banger (a loud, small explosive charge with spring-loaded pen-shooter) straight up in the air. At this point he retreated to the top of the hill. However, he then turned back around, stomped his front paws into the ground and swung his head back and forth before taking a run at us. He stopped a stone’s throw away in the blink of an eye. Where we had dropped our dishes to free our hands for bear spray, he picked up those scents and began to rummage around in the creek for the tiny bits of food that hadn’t yet been washed away. While he was preoccupied, we walked slowly in a wide radius around the hill, climbed it from the other side, and furiously packed up camp. It was close to midnight by the time we set up another camp about 2 km further along the valley and needless to say, the sleep was not particularly restful.”
Check out some more of Davin’s pictures from the Yukon here.
10) Tsavo, Kenya
Animal lovers from around the world have dreamed of going on a safari in Africa and seeing some of the most amazing animals the world has to offer. Read below about Hannah from Pages, Places, & Plates safari experience in Kenya.
“I was fortunate enough to go on safari two times over the past year, both in Tsavo, Kenya. I knew it would be magical but seeing all those animals for the first time was amazing – absolutely stunning up close! I loved seeing all of them, from the elephants and giraffes to the wildebeest and dik-diks, but my favourite was seeing two lionesses perched on a hill. To be so close to something that dangerous… It was a breath-taking moment, reinforcing my love for wildlife once again. They weren’t doing anything particularly special – just sitting there, watching their prey in the distance – but it was a memorable experience that we all talked about for days to come. I can’t wait to be able to go on safari again, and I urge anyone considering it to go ahead and do it… It’s something you’ll never forget.”
11) Blue Mountains, Australia
Beth was hoping for one kind of animal encounter and came across another. Read below about her experience in the Blue Mountains of Australia.
“Sometimes patience pays off with animal sightings and sometimes you just need a bit of luck. My friends and I went to the Blue Mountains, Australia, and felt like intrepid explorers by renting a cabin in the woods and cooking over a fire. We heard a koala calling in the night, but weren’t fortunate enough to see him or her. We tried harder to see a platypus, because we knew that they had been seen in the shallow river nearby. We sat separately in silence at dusk trying to give ourselves the best chance to see one, but without any success. It was only on going out for a walk one afternoon we were fortunate enough to see a wombat just nibbling on grass by the side of the path. She was so relaxed we were able to stand and watch for ages without disrupting her.”
Read more about Beth’s experience here.
12) Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam
Sarah from The Unconventional Grasshopper had a unique experience visiting a rescue center in Vietnam and spending some time with the pangolin. Read below to learn more!
“I had never seen a pangolin before, or a binturong! In fact, until that day, I didn’t even know what a binturong was! I have an unconditional love for all animals. So it was a real privilege to have been invited to visit Save Vietnam’s Wildlife rescue centre in Vietnam’s beautiful Ninh Binh province. Housed deep in the woods of the Cuc Phuong National Park, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife is an amazing non-profit organisation, whose team of vets and carers and volunteers work tirelessly to rescue, protect and rehabilitate wild carnivores in Vietnam.
At the centre of their mission is the world’s most trafficked animal, the pangolin. Learning about the fate of so many of these lovely scaly creatures, at first, brought up a lot of sadness and anger – smuggled for their scales, but also their meat, they are kept in appalling conditions and often suffer some unconceivable injuries.
But as with many animal welfare enterprise, once the initial shock has subsided, hope and happiness surface as you realise that all the people around you dedicate their life to fighting for these animals, and teams of volunteers from all over the world give up their vacation time to support them.
Of course, seeing wild animals, especially the ones from faraway lands is always so exciting. But what is truly heart-warming is knowing that there are so many of us making the world a better place, for them and for us!”
13) Ushuaia, Argentina
Who doesn’t love penguins?! Check out Lauren from Lauren’s Travel Adventures experience on visiting a penguin island in Argentina.
“The main reason I visited Ushuaia, Argentina was to visit an island full of penguins! The penguins travel from far away to nest on this island year after year. We boarded a small boat that took us to the island and as we approached, I could already see penguins on the shoreline! We hopped off the boat and were guided on a path to see penguins on the beach, nesting, and being playful. There were three different types on the island including the magellanic penguin, gentoo penguin, and one king penguin!
We were only able to walk in certain areas and couldn’t approach the penguins to protect them. It was hard to remember they’re wild animals, even though they’re so small and super cute. My favorite part of the whole experience was when we came across a mommy penguin and the cutest little fluff ball baby sitting in their nest.”
You can read more about the penguin island here.
Have you had any amazing animal encounters around the world? What has been your favorite?