What is it about wildlife experiences in their natural habitat that we find so awe-inspiring? Whether we go Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, swimming with whale sharks in Mexico or simply walk alongside the penguins in the frigid cold of Antarctica, there is just something about animal encounters that is so breathtaking and wonderful.
Maybe it’s because connecting with wildlife can make your travel experience more meaningful?
Whatever it is, wildlife experiences have to be some of the best encounters we can have as humans. With that in mind, here are the 10 best wildlife experiences around the World.
Animal Encounters: 10 Best Wildlife Experiences Around the World
1. See the Blue-Footed Boobies Mating Dance in the Galapagos Islands
Imagine the perfect blend between mind boggling biological diversity and beautiful island life? That is what you get when you visit the Galapagos Islands. It is a magical paradise where you can see rare animal and bird species that can only be seen in a few places on the planet.
The Blue-footed Booby is one such bird.
There are 3 types of boobies on the Galápagos Islands: Blue-footed, Red-footed and Nazca. Though it’s common to see them all while exploring the area, it’s a little rarer to witness a Blue-footed Booby mating dance. This dance was their unique courting ritual, which included rocking side-to-side while lifting their eye-catching baby blue feet. On our last day of exploring the Galapagos Islands, on North Seymour, we saw one very popular female bird surrounded by a few male Boobies who were strutting their stuff trying to impress this desirable lady. It was quite a spectacle!
2. Go on Safari in Serengeti National Park
Straddling the border between Kenya and Tanzania, the Serengeti National Park has it all. From the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros) to a whole lot of birds, open savannah and some simply spectacular lodges.
And better yet, go when the wildebeest migration is happening. The annual wildebeest migration is where herds of the animals migrate from Serengeti National Park to the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. With the number of wildebeest estimating at over 1 million, plus hundreds of thousands of other animals, this immense movement is powerful and the singular reason many travelers go on an African Safari in Tanzania.
READ MORE: Glamping in the Center of Africa’s Serengeti National Park
MORE INFORMATION: Serengeti Wildebeest Migration month to month map
3. See the Bison in Yellowstone National Park
Built like tanks, the Bison is one of the most physically impressive animals on earth. The males can be up to 2,000 pounds!
Yellowstone Country has so much to offer, and hanging out with the bison at Yellowstone National Park ranks high on that list. Head into the park any time of the year to see these marvelous grass eaters roam the wilderness.
4. Kayak with Beluga Whales in Manitoba
Between mid-June to September one of Canada’s most incredible wildlife display happens — the beluga whales come to town. More than 50,000 of these sociable creatures patrol the Arctic in Northern Manitoba, and the Hudson Bay coastline sees the world’s largest population.
Nicknamed ‘melon heads’ these majestic, fluorescent white creatures will mesmerize as much as baffle you as they swim right up to your kayak. I glided along while whales swam underneath and next to me, a couple babies even came right up to the boat to inspect my GoPro.
5. Swim in Jellyfish Lake in Palau
When most of us imagine our ideal Ocean expedition, we think of swimming with Manta Rays, snorkeling through a coral reef and maybe even diving with sharks. What many of us do not think about that often is swimming with Jellyfish. That’s mostly because none of us wants to have to ask our friends to pee on us once we get stung!
Jellyfish Lake in Palau, Micronesia, is home to millions of jellyfish that are deemed relatively harmless since their sting is so light. It was still frightening for the first five minutes to be surrounded by jellyfish, some brushing up against my body. But, after the panic dissipated, this was one of my all-time favorite bucket list travel adventures.
6. Release Baby Turtles into the Ocean in Costa Rica
There is more to Costa Rica than picturesque white sandy beaches. There are opportunities to give back and anytime you get that chance it can make your travel more meaningful.
Releasing baby turtles into the sea at the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had around the world. With about 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity packed in 700-square-miles, your good will gesture will definitely be rewarded as you watch your tiny turtles disappear into the ocean.
7. Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
With only about 600 of these giants left on this green Earth, Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Uganda has to be one of the most unique and exclusive experiences on anyone’s bucket list.
Found only in The DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, about 60% of these powerful close relatives of Man can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The trek itself is surreal as you march through the thick misty undergrowth of the forest that they call home. Coming into close contact with a fully grown male Mountain Gorilla brings into sharp contrast just how small we are in reality.
BOOK A TRIP: 4-Day Gorilla Experience from Entebbe
8. Swim with Manatees in Florida
Created to protect the endangered Florida Manatee, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the one place where you can go swimming with these gentle giants. Although you are not permitted to approach or touch them, if you are lucky enough, one of these big nosed, wide-eyed, round bodied and huggable behemoths might just approach you.
While you are down there, take some time to walk through Heritage Village; see 100-year-old oak trees and shop in the cute little stores.
BOOK A TOUR: Day Long Swim with Manatees
9. Swim with Whale Sharks in Mexico
If you had a chance to run with the dinosaurs, would you take it? Well, since Jurassic Park only comes alive in Hollywood, swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico is the next best thing to frolicking with ancient giants.
On the Yucatan Peninsula, you can swim with these gentle leviathans of the sea. The species goes back about 60 million years and the biggest of them can grow to 40 feet or more. Be prepared before you jump in the water, it will take you aback the first time you come face to face with on of these giants!
BOOK A TOUR: Cancun Swim with Whale Sharks
10. Walk Alongside the Penguins in Antarctica
It is believed that over 12,000,000 penguins live on Antarctica. With no indigenous population, just some temporary research residents, the penguins here do not experience human interaction often. So when you visit, they may come up close and personal to see what you are all about.
Most people visit Antartica via cruise and there are plenty of options—from luxury to adventurous to off the beaten path (check out the options on G Adventures, Adventure Life and Oceanwide Expeditions). Each will give you the chance to have an encounter with these fascinating birds.
These are some of the most exciting wildlife experiences this wonderful planet has to offer. The thing about having these sorts of experiences is that once you start visiting these places, you quickly develop a taste for it.
Soon you may find yourself chasing after Komodo Dragons in Indonesia and the few remaining Pandas in China. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a beautiful world with lots of thrilling experiences to offer.
Take in as much as you can while you can.