My Top Ten Wildlife seeing Experiences (So Far)
• One of my most unforgettable wildlife travel experiences has to be diving into the water to snorkel alongside giant whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef on the west coast of Australia. During my independent wildlife trip, I’ll never forget watching these majestic creatures swim with their one meter wide open mouths coming towards me before they gently glided past. Then doing it again, and again, and again…
• Having a personal encounter with the cutest ‘three toed’ and ‘two toed’ sloths at the Sloth Sanctuary in Cahuita, Costa Rica has to be one of the most noticable of my independent wildlife trips. The sloth sanctuary helps nurse baby orphans who would otherwise have died, whilst also taking care of sloths that have been run over or electrocuted since their natural ecosystem has been encroached by tourism. I was lucky enough to visit them every month whilst working as a tour leader in Costa Rica and monitoring their progress was joyful. With their cute basin haircuts and long-lasting smiles, these adorable creatures made this wildlife trip one which I’ll never forget.
• I enjoyed my 31st birthday in Namibia at Etosha National Park watching in awe as the scarce white rhinos came to the watering hole followed by no less than 27 elephants of all sizes. Sipping red wine and watching this amazing social spectacle by two members of the Big Five, I enjoyed an unforgettable birthday on a wildlife adventure trip of a lifetime!
• A rare and truly exceptional independent wildlife experience for me was seeing the Giant leatherback turtles in Tortruguero, Costa Rica. These enormous however graceful 300kg creatures slowly come up the beach at night time, dig a hole with their flippers and lay a hundred eggs which they then cover over before heading back to the ocean leaving a definite track in their wake. On a wildlife trip in Costa Rica such as this, you can also ride down the rivers, keeping an eye out for caiman, toucans, sloths, spider monkeys, poisonous red and black dart frogs, cane toads, herons, ibis, otters, iguanas and the Jesus Christ lizard aptly named because it walks on water!
• To add to this list of incredible independent wildlife trips, I can’t miss out my snorkelling trip in Shark and Ray Alley just off the reggae island of Caye Caulker, Belize, with a frenzy of huge prehistoric looking sting rays and nurse sharks directly below me. In addition to seeing tese beautiful creatures during this amazing wildlife holiday, I was extremely lucky enough to be graced with the presence of two manatees (sea cows) and watch their “dancing” mating ritual.
• Penguins used to be my favourite animal before I discovered sloths and now they come a close second. My first out-of-zoo encounter was at Phillip Island near Melbourne in Australia. During an independent wildlife trip here, we sat in an outdoor stadium with special lighting and gasped with delight when they appeared by the groups and waddled up the beach upon return to their nests.
Punta Tumbo in Patagonia, Argentina was also a bit of a penguin fest because their eggs were hatching, so during this independent wildlife adventure, we were lucky enough to see the fluffy creatures slowly appear. What’s more, on a wildlife trip at Boulders Beach in South Africa you can truly swim with them (but seemingly they have nasty bite which defies their adorability).
• Another of my favourite wildlife adventure trips has to be exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal buried thorough in the steamy jungle in Guatemala. With so many colourful birds and swinging howler monkeys in the tree canopies, this really was an unforgettable independent wildlife trip. What’s more, climbing the pyramids gives a bird’s eye view of the keel billed Toucans and Aricaris. There are over 40 different types of Toucans with different coloured beaks, if you see one you typically see a few in series. Once here, I ate a live termite because the guide told me it tasted of carrots and I didn’t believe him but it was true!
• On an independent wildlife trip in Ubud, Bali, my travel partner was bitten by a very cheeky little monkey who truly drew blood as he reached for a yellow leaflet out of his rucksack which the monkey mistook for a banana. The white faced (capuchin) monkeys in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica may look innocent, but are truly quite aggressive. As a consequence of daft tourists continuously feeding them, they now take it upon themselves to delve into the bags of unsuspecting tourists to steal their food whilst they are swimming. You have to keep a sharp eye, as their adept however naughty little fingers can open zips and locks!
• One independent wildlife trip that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon has to be on a wildlife tour in Monteverde cloud forest save, Costa Rica. I was shocked when the guide put his torch to a hole in the mud wall right near my head and out flew a bird; inside was a big fat hairy tarantula that had just had its lunch interrupted. And boy did I scream!
If you don’t mind these creepy crawlies, then there are a few other places you can identify them. In the Pantanal, Brazil there were some dancing tarantulas, and in Belize they are large enough to identify crossing the road. In Cambodia they are a delicacy and served as road side snacks during long journeys. Here you’ll find local girls carrying thorough and crispy fried tarantulas in a bowl on their heads, with a real live one scurrying across their chests as an advertisement of what’s on offer.
• On a wildlife trip in Laos near Luang Prabang, I was kitted out in stylish denims for men and stayed in the jungle to learn how to be a mahout (elephant trainer). We bathed the elephants, fed them and rode them (trying to remember all the commands to make them turn left or right). During this wildlife holiday, I discovered that the elephants liked to suck up the mud with their trunks and sprinkle us with dirt. They are surprisingly hairy with wire wool on their huge heads. During this particular wildlife adventure, I remember being absolutely petrified when getting on and off or as they got up and kneeled down in case I fell off.
• On an elephant ride during an independent wildlife holiday in Chitwan National Park in Nepal, I saw rhinos up close and one so close that I could see its armour like skin. On the same wildlife trip in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, after hours of waiting in the halting cold we saw a beautiful tiger, albeit in the distance.
• I can’t miss out my unforgettable wildlife adventure trip in the heart of the Amazon river where I fished with live worms on the end of a bamboo rod in Northern Brazil for sharp-toothed piranhas, and grilled them later…delicious.
• Oh and then there was another time on a wildlife holiday in Australia on Fraser Island where i saw a Dingo…oh dear, I think I’m way past 10 now…oops!
I’ve had some incredible encounters with some fascinating creatures, but with so many amazing and noticable independent wildlife trips to choose from, a ‘top 10 list’ barely scrapes the surface!