The experiences we have when we travel stay with us for the rest of our lives. Many times, those experiences involve animals.
I recently had a pretty awesome experience with a llama in Machu Picchu, Peru. The cutie was relaxing on one of the terraces and I was able to go right up to him and pet him. It was so frickin’ cool! So I got to thinking… I wonder what other memorable animal encounters people have had?
Therefore, I’ve asked a few of my fellow bloggers to tell us about their amazing experiences with animals from around the world…
Sloths in Panama
While most people view sloths as the laziest creatures in the world any time out of the 4 hours they spend awake eating, digging holes to poo, or simply smiling might change your mind to deeming them as the cutest creatures in the world. Going on African safaris, freeing turtles and pelicans, and becoming avid birders couldn’t prepare us for the cuteness that ensued during our half hour at Casa Mariposa in El Valle de Anton. The ability to feed, hold, hug, and simply interact with Frankie, Sharkie, and Dahabie was incredible.
As our 315th date of 365traveldates we will always remember Ursula’s huge heart for sloths. While many of us think of wildlife and observations in nature we sometimes forget the need to help one another, three toed and two toed creatures included. If you ever get the chance to go to Panama visit this hostel and home and understand what makes these creatures so special and wonderful. These creatures high on hibiscus leaves will surprise you with their speed and cuddliness. Watch them while they sleep and you might also fall into a deep slumber. But catch them when their awake and you’re sure to have a great time with them at this amazing sanctuary.
Bull sharks in Mexico
I began diving back in 2010 in Venezuela where I was lucky to see much of the local underwater creatures. When I saw a boat with shark fins on it I thought that I never ever want to encounter one of them. That opinion shifted when I pursued diving more in depth and with a growing passion. I went to Playa del Carmen, Mexico to become a professional diver. Many divers told me about the beautiful bull sharks that stop by every winter. I knew I had to come back as soon as the sharks got there. So I did! I spent Christmas in Mexico and went diving with one of the most beautiful animals in the world! It was simply incredible! There was not one but like 7 (!) big bull sharks that were swimming right in front of us. Completely peaceful and relaxed as we were just the most unenjoyable being. We just laying on the sand watching them do their thing. This was one of my most memorable dives so far!
An elephant in Sri Lanka
Cinnamon Wild Yala, a luxury property just 2km away from the Yala National Park in the South of Sri Lanka would be my base for a few days filled with safaris and other exciting activities in the area.
And so I got to see leopards, monkeys, water buffalos, crocodiles and many other species within the park. That was part of the plan and I was very happy about it. But little I knew I’d be facing an unexpected big fellow on my way back to the cabin after a full day checking them from the comfort of a 4 wheeler.
What it sounded like a monkey in the bushes, turned out to be a big elephant that the person escorting me and I could not see at first in the dark. As a sustainable lodge, animals are free to roam everywhere. Oh joys of the nature! Frightened, we run upstairs the nearer tree cabin and patiently waited for about 15 minutes till the creature finished his dinner and moved on. Priceless.
Possible ocelot in Ecuador
I worked on a rural farm in Ecuador for six months where I slept at the top of an open-air cabana. It was a long corridor of six beds filled with other female farmhands and volunteers. Each night I closed my eyes listening to the rustle of bats circling the room and the steady hum of a million different insects.
Once night, I was awoken by the sounds of two animals that had ventured up to our room. The animals hissed, snarled and shrieked while sprinting and tumbling back and forth across the room of sleeping girls. I shot up in my bed and attempted to shine my headlamp on the floor, but they were moving so quickly and my pupils were still adjusting to the white light. I couldn’t catch a glimpse before they chased one another down the ladder-like staircase. Once they were gone, we all looked at each other sitting groggy eyed in our beds, shrugged it off and went back to sleep.
The next morning, our floor was covered with fur and animal poop. We went downstairs for 6 a.m. chores and found our friendly, fluffy farm cat lying dead under the bamboo sofa. It is still somewhat of a mystery what killed him. My guess is an ocelot.
A dog in Peru
It was my second time in Peru, and this time I actually spoke almost perfect Spanish. That meant communicating with the locals, and finding out about places that most travellers on the Ògringo trailÓ would not even dream of going to. One of them was Marcahuasi, a hiking trail located at about 100 km from Lima. It is perhaps the most remote place I have been to in Peru. It took me 5 hours to get from Lima to San Pedro de Casta, the starting point and a tiny village of no more than 300 people.I started my hike well early in the morning. I was the only tourist in the area and set to go for a lonely hike. As soon as I set on the trail, right outside the village, I saw a big, black and friendly dog was following me. I imagined he would get tired soon enough, and leave me to hike on my own. Apparently, he was on a mission to show me Marcahuasi. Every time I stopped for breath (I started from an altitude of 3000 meters, and reached 4000), he would yelp, almost as if saying that I had to keep going. When we eventually made it to the top, he relaxed and gladly shared some snacks with me. He then took me back to the village. We hiked together for 8 hours, on what was a memorable day!
Leeches in Sri Lanka
Whether leeches are animals or not, this is certainly a memorable creature encounter, if just for the fact that it was so disgustingly gross. It is memorable because, trust me, I have not forgotten it.
We were in Sri Lanka, and had a driver. This is important information. I needed to relieve myself, so asked Mr. de Silva to pull over in the jungle. I couldn’t wait for civilization. I then did what I needed to do. As we were driving away, I felt something odd on my nether regions. I asked Gordon to check. There were leeches – note the plural, lots and lots of leeches.
I naturally became hysterical as Gordon was pulling them off. I could see our wonderful driver in the rear vision mirror trying to not burst out into hysterical laughter. While it is amusing now, sort of, it still haunts me as a disgusting yet memorable animal encounters.
I don’t have a photo of the event, but here is a picture of Sri Lanka, which will give you an idea of the situation.
Camels in Iran
This picture was taken last year in a desert called Dasht-e Kavir in Central Iran. I was driving there with a taxi driver that I had hired for a day trip to the famous Kalut Mountains, sand dunes and caravansaries in that region.
I was staring out of the window at the deserts bizarre sand formations when the driver stopped all of a sudden. And then I saw them, a bunch of wild camels standing in the middle of nowhere. We even started to feed them slowly with some old, dry bread and it came out that they were pretty handsome. What a great but somehow surreal situation. I still have to laugh out loud when thinking of me standing in the desert somewhere in Central Iran feeding camels. If you want to know more about my trips to this beautiful country, be sure to check out my Guide to Backpacking Iran.
Elephants in Thailand
When visiting Chiang Mai, Thailand, there was no question we had to see elephants but instead of opting for the trekking camps that often treat their elephant inhumanely, my sister and I had our hearts set on the Elephant Nature Park. Pulling up to the park, the scenery alone left you breathless, rolling hills, luscious greenery, and among the grounds wandered elephants freely. The next two days were absolutely unforgettable. We had the chance to feed the elephants, make special food for the older elephants, get up close and walk and pet them, and learn about their heartbreaking stories of where each of them had been rescued from. This adventure gave me such an appreciation for these majestic animals, and was an experience I’ll honestly never forget.
A snake in Malaysia
I’ve lost count of all the memorable encounters with cute animals I’ve had on my travels. Donkeys in Greece, monkeys in India, cute cats in Istanbul… yet, when I think of ‘animals’ and ‘travel’ the first one that comes to mind is a red ringed snake (or at least, I think that was the name) that we met while we were lost in the jungle of Taman Negara.
My husband and I were hiking, but we lost our path, and were frantically trying to find a way back before dark. All of a sudden, we see THIS. We were petrified – didn’t know what to do, as we were afraid the snake would bite us if we moved, and we would die of its poison. We stood frozen for 15 mins or so until my husband had the bright idea of pushing it away with his tripod… shortly after the snake slithered away, we found our way back.
Monkeys in Japan
One of our favourite things to do when we travel is to find fantastic nature and wildlife experiences. That’s how we ended up travelling 3 hours from our Tokyo hotel, navigating 4 different forms of transport, and then hiking in the snow through Hell’s Valley in the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. It was all to see these beautiful Japanese Macaque known as snow monkeys. We went in late winter and everything around us was heaped high with fresh powder snow after two days of blizzard conditions. Just a short distance into the trail I was so excited to see my first monkey but he totally ignored us; that turned out to be the pattern for the whole day. They had no more interest in people than in individual trees or rocks. You can get so close to them but they neither interacted nor shied away, they just continued on with their business. The whole day was an incredible experience. At one stage a baby monkey climbed out of the pool and dropped to the ground inches from my foot before wandering off up the snowy bank. If we get back to Japan in winter time a stay in Nagano will be top of our list so we can spend another day with the snow monkeys.
Camels in Jordan
We had finally made it to the siiq (narrow gorge) that lead us into the city of Petra, we skipped the donkey rides so we could take our time walking through and take it all in. Eventually we got our first glimpse of the well-known structure, Al Khazneh, widely known as the Treasury. We played the Indiana Jones theme song as we marched into full view of the treasury, what a sight!
In front of the structure sits two camels with their owners; they’re offering camel rides that loop around in a circle in front of the Treasury. I just wanted to hang out with the camels and give them some pets; I can’t help but feel a bit of sadness for animals being used for the pleasure of humans. While I was petting “Mr. Camel” he kept trying to either lick, or kiss my face so I leaned in to pretend to give him a kiss until he got way too close and I backed away. I got a good laugh from the whole experience, camels are so cute!
Dolphins in the Bahamas
A few years ago I made a trip that was on the top of my bucket list since forever. I got to visit the Grand Bahamas Island. The island was as I have imagined it, turquoise waters, white sand and a laid back way of life. My trip there had another purpose as well, a close encounter with dolphins. The first time I saw dolphins was in an aqua park in the Canary Islands and I immediately fall in love with them. So when I discovered that in the Bahamas I could actually touch a dolphin, I was thrilled! On the Gran Bahamas Island there is a center called UNEXSO that arranges this kind of experiences. After meeting at their central facilities we were taken by a boat to the Sanctuary Bay which is home to 14 dolphins. There we sat around a swimming pool and had an educational experience about the dolphins. At the end came the best part I got to enter the pool and touch the dolphins while one of them gave me a kiss. It was a day I will never forget!
Foxes in the US
I was supposed to meet a friend at Longmire Inn in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington for a hike. Instead I got distracted on my way down the mountain. I am leaning against a 10ft snow bank watching a Cascade Fox sleeping on the bank across from me. I bring up my camera to take another photo when some movement catches y eyes. I lower my camera and watch for the movement. It moves again. It’s a small tan kit poking his nose out of its den. The adult fox isn’t just sleeping; she is taking a well-deserved nap from motherhood. The little one is trying to develop the courage to join is mother at the top of the bank. It’s like he is playing peek-a-boo. In! Out! He can’t make up his mind. While watching him be indecisive, I catch mom being attacked by his three siblings. The sounds of his siblings having fun bring him out of the den and into the fray. I missed my hike, but watching the kits play was worth it.
Elephants in Thailand
This photo is of me feeding an Asian elephant at the Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. We spent an entire day at this elephant rescue sanctuary, learning about their herd of elephants rescued from logging camps and from being used as street performers. We were able to help feed and bathe them. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Southeast Asia. I can’t pretend to be especially brave feeding this elephant. She was 77 years old, blind and her mahout (caretaker) was standing nearby.
Needless to say, the experience was definitely worth a blog post. So, if you’d like to read more about it and see some more photos, you can do so here.
Camels in Morocco
After nearly two days of driving from Marrakesh, we finally made it to the Sahara desert. Tired and exhausted from the long trip, the sight of the camels brought a smile to my face. They were strange animals but there was something special about them. I asked for the name of the one I was going to ride, but the guide said it didn’t have one. I should have thought for a name fit for that camel but nothing came to mind. I had a female camel, and my boyfriend Jon had a male one. We were the last two to be lined up for the group of eight other travellers. The perfect moment had arrived, the scene I had in my dreams for my first camel ride. Under the setting sun and across the orange Erg Chebbi sand dunes of the Sahara desert in Morocco, I experienced my first camel trek. The desert at sunset was a truly picturesque scene fit for a postcard, and being there on a camel ride was just perfect. It was an overwhelming moment I will never forget.
So what do you think of these animal encounters? Have you had any amazing encounters yourself? We’d love to read about them in the comments below! 🙂