Top 10 Animal Encounters around the World
By Viator, September 2011
Where do the alligators grow so mean? Down in Louisiana, of course, and not forgetting Florida. You wouldn't want to encounter an alligator in the wild, or your backyard, but gator parks put your safety first with guided wildlife encounters and reptile shows. Stay on for feeding time or take an airboat ride through the swamp.
2. Big Five
An African animal safari means spotting the Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffaloes. With luck, you have the chance to spot the Big Five at game parks across southern Africa, including Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. But the most popular place to start your Big Five safari is South Africa, more specifically Kruger National Park, one of the largest and most varied parks in Africa.
If swimming with dolphins is on your to do list, the world is your oyster. You can encounter dolphins at Florida aquariums and Hawaii water parks, San Diego SeaWorld and Mexico’s Riviera Maya dolphin discovery centres. An eco encounter with wild dolphins at sea is even more thrilling as the dolphins are free and unconfined. Try snorkelling and swimming with dolphins in the warm waters of the Bahamas, off Western Australia or in colder seas off Kaikoura in New Zealand.
Just like horses, donkeys were once used as working animals. Over the centuries donkeys have been put to work pulling wagons, carrying humans, tilling fields and milling grain. Now you can visit donkey sanctuaries around the world to learn more about these gentle equines, and try some hands-on donkey grooming and walking. Perhaps the most famous donkey sanctuary is in Devon, but you’ll also find them in Africa, Mexico, India, the USA and Australia.
Thailand’s beast of burden is the elephant, and at elephant camps in Lampang, Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi, Khao Sok and Surin you can take a gentle elephant ride or full on elephant trek through the countryside. To help support elephant conservation efforts, visit the Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, where hands-on elephant encounters include washing, feeding and overnight elephant helper visits.
What’s cuter than a baby bear? At US nature parks in locations such as South Dakota you can cuddle baby grizzlies, help with feeding time and see the youngsters at play. Come equipped with binoculars when you visit national parks like Yellowstone to safely spot adult grizzly bears in the wild as they forage for food and amble across meadows. Keep safety in mind though by sticking to designated trails and carry bear spray if you’re hiking.
There are more than 100 of Australia’s cutest marsupials in residence at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Not only can you spot the furry grey mammals sleeping in the eucalyptus treetops, at Lone Pine you also get the chance to cuddle a koala and have your picture taken as a take-home memento of your experience.
To see orangutans swinging from the trees, head to the sanctuaries and parks of Borneo, Sarawak, Kota Kinabalu and Indonesia. You can see them in the wild from a riverboat in Kinabatangan, or visit a rehabilitation centre at Sepilok, in Sabah, to help feed and care for orphaned orang-utans while they’re being prepared for release back into the wild. For a real hands-on experience, visit Singapore zoo to share breakfast with orang-utans, the zoo’s flagship critters, and then watch them at play in their re-created rainforest habitat.
9. Polar bears
If polar bears are your favorite animal, plan a visit to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, in October/November. It’s one of the southernmost places where you can spot them congregating on the tundra before their wintertime return to their icy feeding grounds in Hudson Bay. Heaps of tours run out of Churchill, often including fly-in access, luxury wilderness lodge accommodation and transportation out onto the tundra to spot the bears in the wild. You might also spot caribou, Arctic foxes, hares and wolves, plus snowy owls and falcons.
10. Whale watching
Southern hemisphere countries like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are brilliant for glimpsing whales frolicking and spouting, either viewed from the water on-board a cruise or from the land if you time it right. Head to Hermanus in South Africa or Warrnambool in southern Australia to spot southern right whales from the bea
Tours & Tickets
Enjoy a private tour of the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary (also called the Elephant Orphanage Sanctuary), an elephant conservation center managed by the ... Read more
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Duration: 8 hours (approx.)
Visit the incredible Aquila Game Reserve -- the closest game reserve to Cape Town – on this full-day safari tour! With hotel pickup from your central Cape Town ... Read more
Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 10 hours (approx.)
For the truly adventurous! Approximately 37 miles north of Chiang Mai, situated on the banks of the Ping River, is Chiang Dao Elephant Camp. In an unspoiled ... Read more
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Duration: 7 hours (approx.)
Visit Africa’s breathtaking Victoria Falls on this 3-day trip from Johannesburg with flights and two nights of 3-, 4- or 5-star hotel accommodation included. ... Read more
Johannesburg, South Africa
Duration: 3 days (approx.)
Get up close and personal with Bali's wildlife on this thrilling nature tour. Combine a heart-pumping white-water rafting experience on the spectacular Ayung ... Read more
Duration: 8-9 hours
Explore Yellowstone National Park in search of wildlife on this exciting enclosed vehicle tour with a naturalist guide. In the early morning, you’ll get the ... Read more
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Duration: 12 hours (approx.)
Want to do something fun and adventurous? Why not go on an elephant ride and jungle trek tour from Pattaya.
Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes (approx.)
Approximately 60 Kilometers north of Chiang Mai, situated on the banks of the Ping River is Chiang Dao Elephant Camp. In an unspoiled setting, marvel at these ... Read more
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Duration: 9 hours (approx.)
Head to Botswana and spend a day at Chobe National Park on a day trip with a local Botswana guide at your side. Step into a world of unspoiled savannah scenery ... Read more
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Duration: 12 hours (approx.)