Growing up in Australia, there were always plenty of opportunities to get up close with native animals. Often it did not even need to be an animal sanctuary or zoo to see them in, which makes it even more special seeing native animals in their natural environment.
It is not so unusual to see native Australian wildlife in their natural environment. In fact, most Aussie’s don’t have to travel too far to experience this – kangaroos, wallabies, lizards. You may even get lucky enough to see koalas or emus in their natural surroundings, or an echidna wandering along, or a wombat burrowing. We have an incredible variety of unique creatures and it is no doubt one of the many draw cards for visiting Australia.
And just as Australia is known for its marsupials and other native animals, the chance to experience wildlife in other parts of the world is often a very important part of choosing a destination. We have put together a bit of a round up of some of the incredible wildlife encounters possible around the world.
MARSUPIALS – AUSTRALIA
Since we’ve already mentioned them, it seems natural to kick off with one of the most unique animal families found in Australia – the marsupials. You’d be forgiven for not knowing what kind of animal that is. Chances are you’re more familiar with the subfamilies of marsupials that exist, such as kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, platypus, possums, wombats, tasmanian devils and the bilby. These mammals are distinct in the fact that they give birth to live young, which they then carry in their pouch until big enough to survive on their own. You can see most of these creatures in the wild, but some are harder to find than others due to dwindling numbers. However Australia is full of nature reserves and sanctuaries aimed at preserving and breeding many of Australia’s native animals, to grow their numbers. They also provide an exciting wildlife encounter opportunity for international visitors. While opportunities to see Australian wildlife are everywhere, one of our favourite wildlife reserves to visit is Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. We have been there many times over the years, and I even did my high school work experience there. It’s a perfect chance to feed kangaroos or cuddle a koala while visiting Australia.
GORILLAS – UGANDA & RWANDA
If you’ve ever seen Gorillas in the Mist, chances are you’ve imagined how it would be to see these powerful animals in the wild. Both intimidating yet breathtaking all at once. The best places to do this are in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, with a guided gorilla trek.
GIANT PANDAS – CHINA
Nothing makes you think of China more than the incredible and majestic giant pandas. These playful furry black and white giant teddy bear like animals are pure entertainment to watch and one of the few animals that belong to their native country no matter where in the world they are. In fact, if you see pandas in zoos around the world, they are only on loan from China and not a permanent resident. While numbers in the wild are low, they have grown over the past several years due to incredible conservation efforts. A complete success story. While there are opportunities to see giant pandas in the wild, there are also panda breeding and research facilities that will allow you to experience these beautiful animals up close too.
ORANGUTANS – BORNEO
Another large and majestic creature high on many people’s bucket list is the orangutan. Also sadly low in population, due to the significant impact of their habitat deforestation to allow for palm oil plantations, many conservation efforts are in place to prevent them becoming extinct. Tourism plays into that and there are opportunities to volunteer in Borneo at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. There is no better way to see them than if you can also do your bit to support their future.
POLAR BEARS – THE ARCTIC
If you’re not too put off by the extreme weather and the cold, a trip to the Arctic could prove to be one that stays with you forever. However seeing polar bears anywhere that isn’t in the snow just doesn’t cut it so to really experience them, a visit to the Arctic is a must! Polar bears are massive yet surprisingly playful creatures… with each other. I wouldn’t want to get too close to massive bears at play!! But would love to see them in their natural environment.
THE BIG 5 – SOUTH AFRICA
And then of course the animal experience that comes to mind first for many, experiencing the big 5 and more while on safari in Africa. This is something I know I would love to do one day but have not yet had the opportunity. There are numerous guided tours and safari options to take you safely to view these majestic animals in the wild. See the lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards and rhinos, minus the constraints of a zoo!
These top wildlife destinations around the world are sure to leave you with lasting memories that cannot be compared to that of a zoo or sanctuary, seeing natures creatures in the places they are meant to be! But of course, taking care to preserve their homes and their future in any way we can.