Having grown up fascinated by the wildlife in the zoo we had no idea how it would be to encounter these exotic animals in the raw wild. And then National Geo set wings to our dreams with those jaw-dropping episodes of wildlife encounters. Since then enthusiasts have been seeking different opportunities for a unique experience of the compelling wildlife. Moreover, these zoos and other animal enclosures are a major reason why animals like tigers are endangered hence safaris where one gets to see these animals in natural habitat is the best way to experience the wildlife.
Read on as some of our travel blogger friends share their experiences of wildlife encounters:
That Hair-Raising Experience!
We still remember when on the way back from Kerala to Bangalore we had to drive through the Bandipur National Park. We were elated that we made it just before the gates closed for the public at 9 pm but soon turned into a nightmare when our route was blocked by a family of frolicking elephants. We had to quietly retrace our steps back to the gate and wait all night for the gates to open in the morning.
Jo from WanderWithJo
One of the most exceptional and scary wildlife encounters for me, as a wildlife enthusiast, was in Zululand Rhino Reserve in South Africa. We were in our open 4×4 vehicle and were suddenly face to face with a family of Black Rhinos. Now, it is worth noting that black rhinos are on the verge of extinction and sighting even one is extremely lucky. So, it was no surprise that we had 3 cameras out instantly to capture these three fabulous specimens in front of our eyes. Little did we notice, in all our excitement, that they were agitated and weren’t in the mood for company. Black rhinos have a bad reputation for being extremely aggressive and we were instantly on our guard. We were looking for a family of 3 intimidating mammals – 2 adults and 1 baby rhino.
The baby rhino was so adorable but when it came charging right at our vehicle, we were holding our breaths and just waiting for impact. I almost visioned his armored body hitting our jeep but just a couple of inches from the car, he stopped. It wasn’t over as there were several other attempts and mock charges till they finally left us alone, grunting unhappily.
We, on the other hand, were breathing heavily trying to calm our nervous and adrenaline rush. All in all, it was an experience I will never forget and was talked about with excitement over the next few BBQ bonfires in our resort.
Lance and Laura from Travel Addicts
On a recent trip scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico, we had a most incredible encounter. It was a second dive of the day and we headed to the Paso del Cedral Reef on the west side of the island. We drifted along the bottom following a few endangered sea turtles. When we dive, sometimes we’ll tap on each other’s legs to get the other’s attention and point out cool things. So on this particular dive, my wife quickly rubbed her hand up my leg to get my attention. I turned around to look for her, only she wasn’t there. I remembered she was in front of me. I turned back around and I could see my wife in front of me…and a big shark heading straight for. And it ran right into my chest. It effectively head-butted…twice. When it came around the third time, I pushed the nurse shark’s head down between my legs and it brushed up against me.
Now, nurse sharks aren’t large and they probably couldn’t kill you, but they are extremely scary. It was a close encounter of the shark kind.
Claire Martin from Claire’s Footsteps
When I moved into Byron Bay, Australia I made the most of the amazing weather by camping for five months. I loved living in a tent, I really did. But one thing I didn’t love was the wildlife that sometimes called the tent home. One night I returned to my home to find an unwanted roommate; a brown snake. Eastern brown snakes are found on the Eastern coast of Australia and in some areas of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. They’re the second most venomous snake in the world and the most venomous snake in Australia; certainly not one you want to mess with!
The important thing to remember when confronted with a snake is that they don’t attack unless they’re provoked. So it’s important to not try and pick it up or corner it unless you study ophiology (the science of snakes). Needless to say, the Eastern brown snake can be aggressive and I didn’t fancy spending a night with one, for fear that I could accidentally step on it or it could somehow slither into my bed!
I evacuated the tent swiftly and sought the help of a bush survival expert who was fortunately in the campsite, who removed the snake in a safe way. After this incident, I made sure I always zipped up my tent and double checked for any holes!
Eppie Shepherd from Eppie
When I was just 15 I went on my first ever long haul travel experience to Kenya for a month, traveling through Makongeni to Tsavo National Park. Here we spent a few days, rising at the clock of dawn for game drives to see the African wild. So many incredible moments occurred; a lion creeping upon his prey as we watched from our very own Pride Rock, a heard of wildebeest gathered around a watering hole.
However, the most intense moment was on a sunset drive as the skies turned black and we stopped by a herd of elephants for the last look at their tribe. The biggest of the head suddenly turned to face us, extending his ears and trumping alarmingly. Our group began to panic, “let’s go!” we shouted to our driver.
But he was calm and almost enjoyed our fear for a moment longer as the elephant became more and more aggressive! It was terrifying but also exhilarating to see such a powerful animal defend his family in the wild.
Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across the World
After a night out in Bela Krajina, one of the coolest places to visit in Slovenia, a bunch of friends and I were driving back to our campsite. Nature is wild there, and we were going along a road we had been driving on countless times during the day, cutting through a beautiful, thick forest on a gorgeous hill.
All of a sudden, Alberto, who was driving, hit the breaks and strongly swerved the steering wheel. That’s when I realized a deer was jumping back in the woods. It’s only thanks to Alberto’s driving skills that we didn’t crash: he was quick to react and able to keep control of the car. We fell silent for a good minute then but quickly returned to chatting, with Alberto (who knows the region really well) recollecting more similar stories.
That Overwhelming Moment of Awe and Outrivalled Fear!
That awe-inspiring view of monkeys cuddled up amidst the other frolicking monkeys trying to steal food from the visitors.
Wendy Maes from World Wide Wendy
I was, together with my family, on a safari in Sabi Sands, South-Africa. We were on a night safari where we had a close encounter with a male lion. He was laying in the grass and our ranger parked the car really really close to him. All of a sudden he started roaring and looked really angry at us. We told the ranger we were good to go, but he reassured us, it was all ok. As long as you sit down in a car, the animals see you as ‘one big thing’.
After a few minutes, we saw eyes glistening in the dark and 2 other male lions were joining their friend. Probably he was roaring to call them. They started circling the car. The kids were really scared and started crying. Finally, our driver understood we had seen enough and he left the scene. Even now, 3 years later, our kids still talk about that scary night in South-Africa.
Matt from The Travel Blogs
When I discovered a place called The Monkey Forest, I knew right away I had to go. Maybe it’s different if you grow up around the pesky little buggers, but coming from the UK, I’ve had a long-standing fascination with monkeys and seek out interactions where possible. However, when you visit places such as this, it is important to remember that they are smart, they will unzip your bags, they will steal your food, they will get aggressive if feeling threatened. Knowing this, my visit was amazing, feeling privileged to be so close to them, having them playing all around me.
I’m used to only seeing caged monkeys in European zoos. However, the experience wasn’t the same for the poor Spanish girl that was kept hostage by an angry mother monkey before finally being saved by a man with a big stick.
Sarah from Not Another Travel Blog
By far the most memorable animal encounter we’ve had was the day that we got to hang out with giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands. Our trip to the Galapagos was exceptional from start to finish, but getting to spend time with these beautiful creatures in the wild was just amazing. They’re incredible animals – with some of the largest over 1.5m in length and weighing up to 150kg.
Giant tortoises can now only be found living naturally in the Galapagos and the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, despite the fact that they used to be found on most continents. Centuries of being hunted for food and sport by humans has left them seriously endangered but the team in the Galapagos work so hard to ensure the remaining tortoises are well cared for. Watching them interact with one another and move – surprisingly gracefully – around the island, was an unforgettable experience. It’s believed that giant tortoises reached the islands 2-3 million years ago so it really is like seeing natural history in action, and is a definite bucket list experience.
Chitra from Masala Box
It was the beginning of March and the temperature was already at a high of 40 degrees. I was at the Tadoba Andheri National Park eager to sight a tiger, so far I had not been successful in tiger sighting. I had high hopes on Tadoba as a lot of people have talked about the sure sighting and Tadoba was flourishing with tigers and cubs. Our safari was through buffer zone! We were in the territory of Tigress Maya and Sharmili and they had a litter recently. The buffer zone was amazing. Thick bamboo trees leaning on the way, bushes and trees and branches bending down to say hello to your face; it gives the actual forest feel. And if at all we spot the tiger here, it has to come directly on our way, out of the thick jungle. Otherwise, it is pretty difficult to spot. “Sharmili is named so because she is very shy”, the guide added as we stopped near a lake. Pink-legged stork spread out its wings to get it sun dried. We stood in silence among the tall dried grass waiting for her. She was spotted at the same place yesterday and she might visit today as well to quench her thirst. I pulled my binoculars and looked at the opposite bank of the lake wondering if she will come down for a drink. “Sshhh.. silently look there!” said the jeep driver. I was still straining to find her at the other end of the lake through the binoculars when the driver exclaimed, “here, right here!”
I looked at closer vicinity and there she was right there, just a few meters away, walking cautiously, looked up just for a moment and then walked into the bushes. True to her name she shied away from the onlookers. It was the moment! Theee moment! The tiger so close for just a minute that only we could see her and other jeeps were not even able to spot her. And that, that made my entire trip! Pic of beautiful Sharmili above.
Kathryn Burrington from Travel With Kat
When I started travel blogging I never imagined that one day it would take me to Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, a magical place, only accessible by boat or by plane. As our seaplane came into land on the water by the floating lodge where I’d be staying for the next few days I completely fell in love with the mist clad temperate rainforest. That evening we set out in small boats in two groups of six, in search of grizzly bears. The rainforest is so beautiful with an intricate network of rivers and streams reaching out into this remote land. Trees dripping with moss lean over the waterways and steep tree covered cliffs rise up above us. We’d be looking for an hour or so when two of us in unison said in hushed voices “Bear!” as I pointed at two fluffy ears peeping out from behind the grass-like sedge that covered the banks. And then they were gone. We waited.
And the waiting paid off. A female grizzly bear came to the shore and happily munched away on the sedge growing on the bank in clear view of our boat. Such a privilege – my first but not my last grizzly bear sighting. The next bear (pictured above) was much, much bigger and a little too close for comfort!
Karen from Wanderlustingk
One of the unique experiences that I’ve ever had has been seeing the wild proboscis monkeys of Borneo! I traveled to Sandakan, Malaysia to spend a few days cruising up and down the Kinabatangan River. The Borneo rainforest has one of the most biodiverse environments and it’s an amazing place to see monkeys and rare hornbill in the wild. I saw hundreds of endangered proboscis monkeys in the wild, including numerous babies.
One of my favorites was the baby silver leaf monkey, which is a different color than its distinctive parents. You can also see wild pygmy elephants if you get lucky. I was lucky enough to see wild orangutans (including a baby one!) swinging up in the trees. I missed seeing a family of wild civets outside the next cabin, so it’s a must to stay overnight if you want to spot nocturnal wildlife. For animal lovers, Borneo is paradise and every additional visitor that visits this area further incentives the Malaysian government to preserve more of this unique environment!
And the Absolute Moment of Sheer Bliss! Remain etched on our Souls Forever.
Sally Lucas from Our3KidsvtheWorld
Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre for Orangutans is located in Sandakan, Borneo. We decided to do a day trip to Sepilok with the kids when we were in Kota Kinabalu. I felt that if we didn’t do it then, we would never do it and with orangutans decreasing in the wild at the rate that they are, it was possibly the only time the kids would have the opportunity. Sepilok is a rehabilitation center for orangutans that have lost their homes due to deforestation or young orangutans that have lost their families due to poaching. They do amazing work there and the ultimate result is that these orangutans are returned to the wild to hopefully rebuild orangutan populations in Borneo.
There are 2 feeding times where people can go and watch the orangutans on a feeding platform. It’s wonderful to watch them come in and feed and interact with each other. We were lucky to have a mum and bub on the day that we visited, total cuteness overload. The kids loved it and I highly recommend the experience especially as all the proceeds go to saving the orangutans in the wild.
Matilda from The Travel Sisters
Trekking mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda is an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience for any wildlife enthusiast. Visitors to Volcanoes National Park hike through the forest for an up close view of a gorilla family, including the Susa group made famous by Dian Fossey. Encounters with the gorillas are tightly controlled, with only 8 visitors a day allowed to see each gorilla group and each visit limited to only one hour.
It is one unforgettable hour observing an enormous silverback gorilla and family playing, fighting, eating, and just hanging out. With fewer than 1000 endangered mountain gorillas left in the world, the entire experience is a humbling and amazing privilege.
Sandy & Vyjay from Voyager
It was dark, the sunlight blocked by the thick vegetation as we wearily trudged across the slippery terrain. It had been a tough trek and we were all out of breath as we followed our guide who expertly cut a path with a machete that he wielded. He gestured to us with his hands to be silent, indicating that we had almost reached our destination. And then suddenly the silence of the jungle was smitten by angry noises of some animals obviously fighting with each other. We all froze, it was indeed scary, to say the least. In a few minutes, the guide cut another huge creeper to reveal a huge male Gorilla, just a few feet away from us. The Gorilla sat majestically, giving us a quizzical look of disdain. He was huge! As I trained my camera on him to get a good shot of him, I froze as something silently and eerily brushed past me.
From the corner of my right eye, I saw the black shape of another Gorilla walking away from me and disappearing into the thickets. It took some minutes for it to sink in. A full grown Gorilla had just touched me. That moment in the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda remains etched in my mind for posterity.
Shara Johnson from SKJ Travel
I’m lucky to live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, to which many people travel for their vacations. I live beside a forested area, and a lot of wildlife passes through my yard; I keep my camera right beside the door. I was feeling very envious last winter that a number of locals were having good sightings of bobcats in their yard. I said to my husband, “My goal this winter is to get a photo of a bobcat!” Which was a fairly unreasonable goal considering I’d had only a single brief sighting here, ever. One day I noticed my kitty sitting in the windowsill clearly watching something of great interest in the yard. I looked out and saw a bobcat! I grabbed my camera and tip-toed out on the balcony in my stocking feet. As I lifted the camera to my eye, the bobcat stopped mid-stride and looked directly at me.
I was paralyzed with awe for a second before I recovered my wits to press the shutter. I didn’t have time to consult my camera settings, so I was talking to my camera in my head, “Please don’t screw this up, please don’t screw this up …!” After a few seconds, the cat carried on walking into the woods. I was so delighted to see the pictures turned out and to have met my unlikely goal of landing a photo of a bobcat.
We hope these stories have inspired you to hop onto a dream safari and weave fabulous stories of Wildlife Encounters. Do you have a story to share too? We are all ears 🙂