Best Animal Experiences: 20 Most Epic Wildlife Encounters in the World 1
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Best Animal Experiences: 20 Most Epic Wildlife Encounters in the World

Wondering where some of the best wildlife experiences in the world are?

I’ve been obsessed with wildlife for as long as I can remember; as a life-long fan of Sir David Attenborough and anything to do with natural history, it’s no surprise that a lot of my destination choices have been based on wildlife encounters.

I’ve been really fortunate in my travels to have had some of the best animal experiences at some of the most amazing wildlife destinations in the world.

I’ve gradually been ticking stuff off my wildlife bucket list, although I’m sure this is getting longer rather than shorter at times!

So are you ready? Let’s check out some of the best animal experiences in the world. 

Sumatran Orangutan sits atop at tree in Indonesia
Sumatran Orangutan, Indonesia

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Top 10 Best Animal Experiences in the World

  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Amazon Rainforest, South America
  • Gorilla Trekking, East Africa
  • Maasai Mara Game Reserve for the Big 5, Kenya
  • Humpback Whale Watching, Greenland
  • Komodo Dragons, Komodo Island, Indonesia
  • Great White Sharks, Gansbaai, South Africa
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Orangutan Trek, Bukit Lawang, Indonesia
  • Turtles Laying Eggs, Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Benefits of Experiencing Wildlife in Their Natural Habitat

Experiencing wildlife in their natural habitat should be something that’s on everyone’s bucket list. It’s not just about seeing animals, but more about understanding their behaviour and place in the ecosystem. 

And the best part? By choosing authentic wildlife experiences with a reputable company, you’re contributing to local communities.

This in turn leads to improved conservation efforts as they see the value that wildlife tourism brings to the area. This has a positive impact on the future of these habitats and the preservation of the wildlife that lives there for future generations to enjoy. 

This article covers the best ethical bucket list animal experiences around the world. How many do you want to do?

What you can expect in this article…

20 Best Wildlife Experiences in the World

Of course, the best way to experience wildlife is in its natural environment, however, it can take some planning to know where and when to see certain animals. You can download this handy infographic and checklist here and start to tick off your animal bucket list.


Best Animal Experiences #1 – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Located about 620 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, The Galapagos Islands are an absolute haven for wildlife and undoubtedly provide some of the best wildlife experiences in the world.

Over 100 islands make up the Galapagos archipelago and of these 13 of them are classed as main islands. One of the best ways to get the most out of your Galapagos experience is on a liveaboard like this.

Made famous by Charles Darwin’s book ‘The Origin of Species’, Darwin made observations about how each species across the different islands had adapted slightly to its environment to survive. These observations went on to become the ‘Theory of Evolution’.

Me posing same with the Galapagos Seals at the shoreline in Ecuador
Posing with the Galapagos seals

What Can I See on the Galapagos Islands?

This is a long and extensive list. However, the iconic creatures are the giant Galapagos tortoise and the Darwin finches. In addition to this, you’ll come across hundreds of fur seals, marine iguanas and super cute blue-footed boobies.

Look out for the large colony of albatross and flamingoes as well as a ton of sea life. Green turtles can frequently be seen feeding on the seagrass, if you go snorkelling you’ll probably be joined by the nosy seals too.

 If you’re lucky you might spot a Galapagos shark and blue-spotted eagle rays. Seriously, The Galapagos Islands are phenomenal for wildlife encounters. 

The Galapagos Tortoise eating a guava fruit
The Galapagos Tortoise love guava fruit

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands essentially have only two seasons; the dry, or garua, season (July – December) and the wet season (January – June) with March and April generally being the wettest months. It’s warm all year round with excellent wildlife spotting opportunities in whichever season you go.

Two Blue Footed Boobies features a black feather and white neck with long black peak
Blue Footed Boobies

Getting to The Galapagos Islands

The easiest way to get to The Galapagos Islands from mainland Ecuador is by plane. 

There are two airports; one on Baltra Island and one on San Cristobal Island. If you book on an inclusive tour, they will arrange the transfers from mainland Ecuador, getting between the different islands, a guide, equipment and more.

If you are travelling there independently, then you could book daily tours to visit the different islands. True, you will save a little bit of money, but it’s also not the most efficient way to see the islands. 

To get the most out of your time in The Galapagos Islands, I highly recommend booking an all-inclusive liveaboard tour for several days sailing around the archipelago.

I can highly recommend G Adventures, which offers a wide range of top-quality Galapagos tour options – they also do regular flash sales, so you can grab an absolute bargain!

You can check out their current trips here. I did one of their 10-day tours which covered the Central, South and East Islands of the Galapagos. 

For the ultimate experience, it’s worth checking out this 10 Days Sailing North Central and West Islands of the Galapagos (this is the tour I did)

If you’re pushed for time, then this is a great alternative option; 8 Days Sailing Galapagos to the Central and East Islands with G Adventures.

If neither of these is suitable, then check out some of these other Galapagos Islands Tours

Love wildlife? Check out some of the World's best animal experiences. You won't be able to resist adding these destinations to your wildlife bucket list. 10 of the best wildlife experiences in the world, all the what's and how's. Amazing animal experiences from all over the world. How many of these wildlife destinations do you want to go to? #wildlife #nature #naturelovers
Iguanas relaxing on the beach
Close up look of the Galapagos Seal in Ecuador
Galapagos seal close-up

If you’re looking for other destinations in Central and South America to spot wildlife, then I recommend the Great Blue Hole scuba dive in Belize.

As part of the day trip, you’ll not only see the iconic Great Blue Hole but also stop off at two other dive sites and the Half Moon Caye Nature Reserve where you’ll find the cousins to the blue-footed boobies; the red-footed boobies

Best Animal Experiences #2 – Amazon Rainforest, South America

If you are in South America and want one of THE BEST animal experiences, then make sure you visit The Amazon Rainforest. 

The Amazon Rainforest is immense, it’s a staggering 5.5million kmsq² and spreads over a ton of countries in South America; Brazil (approx. 60%) Peru (about 13%) Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Bolivia, Suriname and French Guiana.

Hint: If you’re visiting Quito in Ecuador, check out this homestay excursion to the Amazon Rainforest from the nation’s capital.

The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s biggest tropical rainforest and according to figures from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it’s also home to 427 different mammals, 1,294 birds, as well as 30 million people, including more than 220 indigenous groups.

Amazon Rainforest Blue Macaw with its black peak and colorful feather - combination of teal, yellow and black
Amazon Rainforest Blue Macaw

What Can I See in the Amazon Rainforest?

What won’t you see is a better question to ask! I ended up doing a 6 day stay in the Amazon Rainforest, so I was able to do a variety of hikes and treks both day and night to see different species.

My guide showed me various trees and plants, explaining what they were used for in terms of medicine. During the daytime hikes, some of the highlights were seeing the parrots, monkeys, giant otters and piranhas. We also did nighttime hikes to see bugs like the cicada and firefly as well as the snakes and frogs which were more active then.

I kept a logbook of everything that I saw, and I noted down over 250 wildlife species!

Snakes crawl at night at the amazon rainforest
Amazon Rainforest nighttime walks bring out the snakes and creepy stuff

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Amazon Rainforest?

Any time of year is good to visit The Amazon Rainforest, it’s always warm and humid. The clue in the name RAINforest means it’s no secret that it rains a lot.

The seasons are better divided into the “low water” and “high water” times of the year. Low water season (June to November) boasts fewer daily showers. 

Less rain means less water in the rivers which can impact getting to places on a boat, therefore some places won’t be accessible. On the other hand, having less rainfall does mean that more of the foot tracks and trails are available.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, during the high water season (December to May), there are more options to take a boat to get to certain areas of interest but the offset is that some of the trails are submerged.

If you’re in Peru, then check out this Peruvian Amazon Rainforest 4 Days Jungle Stay or this Amazon Riverboat Adventure

If you’re visiting from Ecuador, then opt for this Amazon Rainforest Homestay

Getting to the Amazon Rainforest

This will depend on which country you start in. I visited the Amazon Rainforest from Peru where there are two main points of entry; Iquitos in the northeast and Puerto Maldonado in the southeast.

The specific part of the Amazon Rainforest I visited was Tambopata Reserve which is near the Bolivian border. I took a flight from Cusco directly to Puerto Maldonado and then a combination of minibuses and boats to get to my destination in the jungle.

If you’re looking for an authentic jungle hut experience, I can highly recommend staying at the G Lodge. The comfortable lodge is located close to the river, surrounded by thick rainforest which fills the air with the sounds of birds and monkeys.

For two bucket list-worthy adventures at once, check out this ultimate combination tour! The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu & The Amazon Rainforest Adventure

Me taking a picture with the Giant Trees in the Amazon
Giant Trees in the Amazon
A wine glass fungus -shape like a bowl scattered at the amazon rainforest
Wine Glass Fungus

Best Animal Experiences #3 – Gorilla Trekking in East Africa

This once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience probably ranks high on most people’s bucket lists. After all, we share 98.3% of our DNA with these primates which makes them one of our closest relatives!

There are a few pockets of forest in East Africa; both Uganda and Rwanda offer the opportunity to encounter this endangered species. You can also opt to visit Gorillas in the Congo, however, there have been several reports in recent years of kidnappings of tourists.

The only way to visit the gorillas is part of an official tour with a qualified guide, you will also need a permit. Before you book, make sure you check what is included in the price. For example, in Uganda, a gorilla permit will cost in excess of $600 per person.

A black mountain gorilla surrounded by lush green plants
Mountain Gorilla | Canva

What Can I See in Uganda and Rwanda?

There are two species of gorillas that you can see in Africa. Either, the eastern gorilla or the western gorilla.

If you’re visiting Uganda and Rwanda, you will encounter the Eastern Gorilla.

Both the western and eastern gorilla are divided into further two sub-species; the lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla. Both species of gorillas are on the endangered species list.

You can tick off two amazing wildlife experiences at the same time by combining Gorilla Trekking with a Masai Mara Safari!

When Is the Best Time to Visit Uganda and Rwanda?

Gorilla trekking is an all-year-round activity in Uganda, although the best time to visit is during the dry season. The perfect months to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking are either January to February or from June through September.

Nearby Rwanda has a similar season. So if you choose to visit Rwanda for a gorilla trek aim for the dry season which starts in mid-December through to early February and then again between June and September.

Getting to Uganda or Rwanda

The easiest way to visit the gorillas is to fly directly to either Rwanda or Uganda. The distance between the two countries is about 510km, so it is possible to arrive in one country and spend some time there before driving to the other. 

The drive takes about 7 hours. You can arrange gorilla trekking independently or as part of an organised tour like this.

If you want to see Gorillas in two different countries, then check out this Rwanda and Uganda Gorilla Discovery

Or you might prefer this Uganda Overland Tour to see Gorillas and Chimps

A black gorilla holding a green leaves on his hand at the forest
Gorilla Trekking | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #4 – Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya for the Big 5

If you want to see some of the biggest creatures on Earth, then one of the best animal experiences for this is on an African safari. The infamous Maasai Mara is located in southwest Kenya in Narok County, it merges with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

It covers a staggering 1,510 km2 and is home to over 90 species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles and over 400 species of birds, including some of the world’s most endangered and biggest land animals. The area is made up of mostly open grassland dotted with shrubs and small forested areas with rivers traversing through.

Although the Massai Mara always steals the limelight, while you’re in Kenya, it’s also worth visiting Lake Nakuru.

Me taking a photo of the zebras in Safari at early morning
Early morning safari

What can I see on The Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya?

‘The Big 5’ are the mane (haha bad joke) attraction here; lion, leopard, African elephant, cape buffalo, and black rhinoceros. 

Other iconic residents to look out for are hippopotamus, crocodiles, wildebeest, topi, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, impalas, Maasai giraffe, antelope, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs, bat ear fox, baboons, ostrich, secretary bird, hornbills and vultures. Basically, you’re going to meet the cast of The Lion King!

If you’re really lucky you’ll get to see one of the best animal experiences here. A hunt! I’m a veggie, and I’ve been a veggie for years, but this is nature in all its essence. It was outstanding. If you’re even luckier, you might even spot the elusive jaguar, cheetah and leopard.

You can tick off two amazing wildlife experiences at the same time by combining Gorilla Trekking with a Masai Mara Safari!

Check out this ultimate combination tour! Gorilla Trekking and Masai Mara Safari Adventure

Family of elephants walking at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya
Family of Elephants

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya?

There are going to be plenty of animals all year round to see in The Maasai Mara Game Reserve. However, the most popular time is during migration season. Thousands of wildebeest herd together in search of better feeding grounds. 

This happens around July through to October, with July and August tipped as the best times to go. as well as November however this will vary slightly from year to year.

Getting to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya

You have two options to get to The Maasai Mara; by land or air. To generalise air is quicker but more expensive and land is cheaper but takes a lot longer. Your timescale and budget will govern which one you choose. I went by land via a 4×4 I and loved it!

Once outside of Nairobi, the nation’s capital, the landscape is sublime. You also get a slightly better insight into village life as you will pass through lots of them. The bone-shaking journey takes approximately 5 hours so if you suffer from motion sickness I’d recommend taking tablets to alleviate the symptoms.

Any of these tours by National Geographic are going to be mind-blowing.

14 Day Safari Adventure in Kenya and Tanzania

8 Day Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru Safari Adventure

Love wildlife? Check out some of the World's best animal experiences. You won't be able to resist adding these destinations to your wildlife bucket list. 10 of the best wildlife experiences in the world, all the what's and how's. Amazing animal experiences from all over the world. How many of these wildlife destinations do you want to go to? #wildlife #nature #naturelovers
Baby elephants play fighting
Me having fun with the monkeys at Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya
Babooning about

Best Animal Experiences #5 – Humpback Whale Watching in Greenland

We’ve all seen the stunning iconic shots of the humpback whale tail vertically out of the water just before it takes a deep dive. One of the best ways to see this is in the waters surrounding Greenland on a multi-day Arctic cruise.

As whales go, humpback whales are a lot less jittery when it comes to boats in the vicinity, which makes spotting them much easier than other whale species.

If you’re really fortunate, then you might even glimpse flippers lifting out of the water and slamming into the surface to create a splash to scare fish during a feeding session. And if you’re even luckier, then look out for displays of whales jumping out of the water as they hunt as a pod.

Watching the humpback whale on a sea with mountains on the background
Humpback whale | Canva

What Can I See in Greenland?

Greenland is a great destination to see these giant marine mammals. They are actually protected throughout the whole of Greenland and at the peak season, about 3000 whales reside in the waters around Greenland.

It’s not just the humpback whales that you want to keep a lookout for. Other species of whale also inhabit the waters, with common sightings of both fin whales and minke whales.

If you’re incredibly lucky, then beluga and narwhales have also been spotted as well as blue whales and orcas or perhaps even a polar bear!

When Is the Best Time to See Humpback Whales in Greenland?

Unless you’re wanting to specifically do husky dog sledging, avoid Greenland in the winters, this is when waters can freeze over.

In terms of weather, the best months to visit Greenland are between June and August, at this time of year, you’ll get to experience the midnight sun!

Whales can be spotted at most points of the year, however, the optimum time to see humpback whales in Greenland is during the migratory summer months, so if humpback whales are your goal, then plan your visit at any point between May and October.

Getting to Greenland

The largest airport in Greenland is Kangerlussuaq Airport. If you can not find a direct flight from your country of origin, look into arriving in Reykjavik (Iceland), Copenhagen and Norway instead and getting a transfer. 

To spot humpback whales and the northern lights, check out this 15 day Arctic Highlights trip.

Alternatively, visit the waters of Greenland and Svalbard Cruise on this 14 day trip.

Seen a humpback whale tail in a combi of black and white
Humpback Whale Tail | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #6 – Komodo Islands, Indonesia for Komodo Dragons and Manta Rays

The Komodo Islands has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990 and then was listed as one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of Nature in 2011.

Situated in Indonesia to the west of Flores Island, the Komodo National Park is an archipelago, with the 3 main islands; Komodo, Padar and Rinca. It’s home to the world’s largest lizard, the infamous Komodo Dragon. The waters surrounding these islands also offer some top dive spots, in particular, Manta Rays.

Me taking a picture with the Komodo Dragons at Komodo Islands, Indonesia
This is about as close as I’d ever want to get to the Dragons

What Can I See on the Komodo Islands?

Above land, Komodo Dragons are the obvious draw to the island. They can be sighted on both Komodo and Rinca Islands. These giant poisonous lizards share the island with about 2000 residents, who go about their everyday life without too much bother from the dragons.

When you visit the islands, you have to go with an official guide bearing his weapon of choice, a wooden stick! For a creature weighing more than a person and with a venomous bite, I think I’d rather hedge my bets on running away, rather than poking it away with said stick. Let’s just hope the dragons are well-fed and sleeping it off. 

For the dinosaur geek in me, I rank this up as one of the best animal experiences I’ve ever had. 

Under the water of Komodo National Park, you’ll find loads of pristine scuba dive sites. Sightings of the gigantic manta ray are common here. If you’re lucky you will spot them at one of the cleaning stations and you can lie on the bottom of the seabed next to them. 

Two large manta rays swims under the sea along wth the small fishes
Manta Ray | Canva

When is the best time to visit The Komodo Islands?

Like in lots of southeast Asia, the Komodo Islands have a wet (January – April) and a dry season (May – December). The islands are open all year round though.

From a diving perspective, June and July are the better months to visit due to clearer waters and therefore better visibility.

Getting to The Komodo Islands

The only way to get to The Komodo Islands is by boat. Saying that though, there are a lot of options to choose from. Rickety and noisy wooden day boats with hard wooden seats right up to executive-standard yachts, as well as everything in between.

Entry to the Komodo Islands is through the small town of Labuan Bajo. It’s located on the west of Flores in south-east Indonesia. This is also the town where you’ll find a ton of dive shops offering various dive trips and excursions to the islands. 

It’s a good idea to book one of the multi-day trips. I did a 4-day/ 3-night trip which included 10 dives and lots of island hopping including the famous Komodo Island for the unnerving animal encounter of meeting the dragons.

Visit Komodo Dragons on this One Day Trip to Komodo Island

A close-up look of the Komodo Dragons at Komodo Islands

Alternative Suggestion: Manta Point, Nusa Penida

If you’re spending time travelling around Indonesia, and you’re adding Bali to your list of islands, then make sure you head to Manta Point Nusa Penida just off the southeast coast of Bali to see Manta Rays up close.

Best Animal Experiences #7 – Gansbaai, South Africa for Great White Sharks

For some, jumping into a cage to get up close and personal with a potential killer would be the stuff of nightmares; granted it’s not for everyone.

I’ve got a bit of a thing for sharks, I honestly think they are one of the most misunderstood creatures in the sea. Sure, I don’t want to go and give them a cuddle, but equally, they aren’t the savage monsters that the media makes out. To put it into perspective, humans have killed a million times more sharks than sharks have killed humans.

The opportunity to see the Great Whites up close had been on my animal experiences bucket list for a long time. I was finally going to tick it off.

A close up look of the Great White Sharks under the sea from the safety of the cage
From the safety of the cage

Note on Ethics

There’s been A LOT of controversy and debate about the ethics behind White Shark Cage diving with valid arguments from both sides. Some say that it’s just a money-making gimmick. True.

However, from my personal experience, there was a ton of information given about the sharks before we even set foot on the boat. It was an educational experience more than anything and with how misunderstood these creatures are, I believe this is a good thing.

Once on the boat, our marine biologist guide explained the behaviour of the sharks and what to look out for. For example, the bite marks on the tails most likely meant it was a female shark and these were war wounds from mating. Talk about rough sex!  

At no point were the sharks fed. Nor were they touched in any manner – by hands or objects.

What Can I See in Gansbaai, South Africa?

Hopefully, Great White Sharks are going to be on top of your list as well as a horde of seabirds following the boats.

You might also see Cape Fur Seals. A 40,000-strong colony these Seals reside on nearby Geyser Island. It’s the seals which make up the main diet of the Great Whites, and partly why they congregate here.

If for whatever reason there are no Great Whites, it might be because Killer Whales have swum through the area. Keep your eyes peeled for these too.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Gansbaai, South Africa?

There is potential to view the sharks all year round and even though you’re likely to see a Great White Shark it’s never going to be 100% guaranteed.

Sometimes, Killer Whales swim through the channel, however, the Killer Whales actually kill Great White Sharks, they are one of their few natural predators. When Killer Whales have been in the area, sightings of Great Whites diminish.

Getting to Gansbaai, South Africa

Gansbaai is a small town located on the southern coast of South Africa. To get to Gansbaai from Cape Town it’s about a 2 ½ – 3 hours car ride. If you’re based in Cape Town then a transfer can be arranged as part of your excursion. Unless you have a car of your own, this is the easiest way to do it.

If you’re up for jumping in the water with this apex predator, check out this Great White Shark Full Day Dive from Cape Town

A small great white shark swimming under the sea in the Gansbaai, South africa
Great White Shark and this was a small one!

Best Animal Experiences #8 – Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is huge; covers 344,400 km2 to be exact making it the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem meaning it’s going to be a wildlife experience in epic proportions.

In fact, it’s so big that it can be seen from Space and is home to a whopping 600 types of soft and hard corals, more than 100 species of jellyfish, 3000 varieties of molluscs, 500 species of worms, 1625 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins. Yeah, epic!

What Can I See at the Great Barrier Reef?

So to break it down a little, you are guaranteed to have some pretty amazing wildlife encounters. Although you could snorkel here, to get the most out of visiting The Great Barrier Reef, naturally, you’d want to go scuba dive here.

Look out for the hundreds of Anemone Fish (think Nemo!), Damsel Fish, Trigger Fish, Parrot Fish and Angel Fish all flitting about the colourful coral and sponges.

You’re probably going to see green turtles too and if you’re super lucky, the giant Mauri wrasse. Also keep your eyes peeled for sightings of black-tipped and white-tipped reef sharks skulking about the rocks as well as eels, rays and barracuda.

If you get the chance I highly recommend doing a night dive here too, this is when you’ll get to see the slightly creepier fish and crustaceans being more active.

Anemone Fish or nemo with its orange and white color swims under the large coral reefs
Coral Reef | Canva

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef offers top animal experiences at whichever time of the year you choose to visit. However, bear in mind that it’s better to visit outside of the wet season (Dec – Feb) due to storms and monsoons; no one wants to be on a boat in that, plus the underwater visibility isn’t as good.

For the best visibility, June and November are the better months. I visited in January and had about 25m visibility.


Be aware of ‘Stinger Season’. There are two bad boys you really want to be aware of; the Box jellyfish and Irukandji, as their stings can be fatal. 

Stinger season varies slightly each year so make sure you check with the local information centre, dive shop or lifeguard to find out when it is. As a general rule, it’s during the Australian summer or wet season. 

If you are planning on doing water activities during stinger season make sure you are wearing a stinger suit to protect yourself and follow any advice given.

Getting to the Great Barrier Reef

The main gateways to The Great Barrier Reef are Airlie Beach and Cairns and at various smaller points between both towns. If you just want to view the reefs from above, you can get a flight, but to really enjoy it you’re going to need a boat.

There is a whole myriad of options to experience The Great Barrier Reef; snorkelling, and glass-bottom boats, along with options for day trips, island hopping and liveaboards. For the best wildlife encounters though, I highly recommend going scuba diving here.

Moray Eel with its black and yellow color skin
Moray Eel | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #9 – Orangutan Trekking in Asia

Several places in southeast Asia boast opportunities to see wild Orangutans. I chose Sumatra Island in Indonesia. The Gunung Leuser National Park has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004.

Located along the Bohorok River, Bukit Lawang was home to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. In 1973 two Swiss zoologists set up the centre to care for Orangutans that had been caught up in Indonesia’s logging industry. 

Orangutan in Bukit Lawang with its red fur and black face
Orangutans in Bukit Lawang

What Can I See in Bukit Lawang?

Hopefully, you will see Orangutans, lots of them. You’ll also see lots of Macaques, if you’re unfortunate, you might also get mugged by them. They are overconfident and opportunistic. 

You’ll probably also see the cute Thomas Leaf Monkey along with plenty of birdlife, insects and plants. Near the rivers keep your eyes peeled for the large Monitor Lizards, which essentially are the Komodo Dragons’ little cousins. 

If you’re really after an up-close-and-personal (and no-so-best animal experience) then look out for small leeches at the rivers. I’ve done loads of jungle treks before but this was the first time I’ve managed to get a few of them attached to me!

You can read all about my animal encounters along with my full account of the Orangutan Jungle Trekking experience.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Bukit Lawang?

Rain falls all year round in Bukit Lawang (up to 4000mm of rain a year!) although October through to December is the wettest months. March to August are generally a bit drier but with rains typically falling in the late afternoons and evenings.

Getting to Bukit Lawang

I caught a flight into Medan, the capital of Sumatra in the northeast of the island. From there you have two options; if time is on your side take the public bus. Going via bus will take you the best part of the day, with several transfers needed.

Alternatively, get a taxi, even if this option is a 4-hour journey at best! Once in Bukit Lawang, there are plenty of places that will organise the Orang-utan Trek. Some of them just 1 day others up to a full 7 days in the jungle. If this sounds like too much hassle to get here, then the equally awesome yet easier option is to head to Borneo to see Orangutans.

Find out more about this 2 Days 1 Night Jungle Trekking Tour in Bukit Lawang to see the Orangutans

Thomas Leaf Monkey sits at the tree with its black and white fur
Thomas Leaf Monkey in the rain
A narrow bridge with rope over the river in Bukit Lawang
Bridge Over the River in Bukit Lawang

Best Animal Experiences #10 – Tortuguero, Costa Rica for Turtles Laying Eggs

Costa Rica is the perfect destination if you’re looking for some truly memorable animal experiences. For starters, there are so many national parks, 27 to be exact, scattered across the country.

The National Park of Tortuguero is in the top east corner of Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast with a tiny population of just 500. The only way to get about on this little island is on foot by bike or as part of an organised excursion to Tortuguero.

Tortuguero essentially translates to ‘Land of the Turtles’. This little spit of land is separated from mainland Costa Rica by canals and rivers on one side. The other side is the sea. The area surrounding Tortuguero is surrounded by beaches, mangrove forests, rivers and lagoons which makes it a haven for wildlife.

If you love wildlife, then check out these animals that were thought to be extinct but aren’t.

A green tree frog sleeps at the leaves in Costa Rica
Sleeping Tree Frog, Costa Rica

What Can I See on Tortuguero?

So given the island’s name, there’s no surprise that Turtles are high on the list of stuff to see here. If you’re lucky you can witness turtles laying their eggs or hatchlings dashing toward the sea. Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead turtles have all been known to nest on the beaches here with Green Turtles being the most common.

Birds, reptiles and insects are all in abundance here, including the adorable sloths. Your guide will talk you through the individual species. There are also monkeys. LOTS of monkeys. 

In particular, the Capuchins cause absolute havoc around some of the nearby resorts and frequently come uninvited into the guest areas to steal food or whatever else they can get their little hands on.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Tortuguero?

Tortuguero is in the tropics, so it’s warm and humid, also expect frequent downpours. You can see tons of wildlife all year round, however, if it’s the turtles you are after then be there from July to October to watch them nest along the beaches of Tortuguero.

Getting to Tortuguero

There are only two ways to get to Tortuguero; boat or plane. The majority of the tours start from the capital, San Jose via minibus stopping off at various points of interest before arriving at one of the ports.

If you’re planning on travelling to Tortuguero independently there are a few options where you can catch the boat from; Moín (close to Limón), La Pavona (north of Cariari) and Caño Blanco (accessible through Siquirres).

If you’re visiting the country, take a look at this article if you’re wondering where to see sloths in Costa Rica.

Book one of the multi-day trips to Tortuguero that depart from the capital, San Jose. Then spend a few days exploring the National Park.

Brown sloth sleeps in the forest of Costa Rica
Sleeping Sloth, Costa Rica

Best Animal Experiences #11 – Alaska or Northern Canada for Polar Bears

Picture this: getting up close and personal with polar bears in their natural habitat—it’s truly mind-blowing!

These magnificent creatures are the stars of the show, but that’s not all! Keep your eyes peeled for other Arctic wildlife like seals, walruses, and birdlife.

To experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, it’s best to join a guided tour with wildlife experts. They will ensure your safety as you explore these remote and sometimes challenging environments.

With their expert guidance, you’ll embark on unforgettable wildlife excursions and observe polar bears from a safe distance—for both you and the animals. This is an experience you won’t want to miss!

Family of white Polar Bears walking around in Northern Canada
Polar Bears in Northern Canada | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #12 – Chengdu, China for Giant Pandas

In Chengdu, China, you’ll have the chance to get up close with the adorable and iconic Giant Pandas. You’ll be able to see these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

Chengdu’s diverse ecosystem offers a whole range of wildlife sightings. Keep your eyes peeled for red pandas, golden-snub-nosed monkeys, and a variety of bird species.

To make the most of your animal adventure, I recommend joining a guided tour. Not only will you gain expert knowledge about the pandas and their conservation efforts, but you’ll also have ethical interactions – observing from a distance – to ensure the well-being of these amazing creatures.

Two giant pandas in Chengdu, China eating a bamboo stick
Giant Pandas in Chengdu, China | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #13 – Antarctica for Penguins 

Antarctica is home to some of the most incredible animal encounters, especially with its adorable penguins!

These charming creatures will truly capture your heart as you observe them in their icy habitat. And it’s not just penguins – you’ll also have the chance to spot other fascinating wildlife like seals, whales, seabirds, and gigantic albatross.

Visiting Antarctica can be challenging due to the extreme weather. Join a reputable tour company who are fully equipped to deal with the conditions here.

The extreme conditions and environmental sensitivities of the region require expert guidance and safety measures. Tour companies provide all the necessary permits and ensure a journey that’s safe and responsible.

By exploring Antarctica with a guided tour, you’ll not only experience this unique ecosystem but also gain insightful knowledge about the ongoing conservation efforts. It’s an opportunity to experience nature at its finest while contributing to its preservation.

Group of Penguins with its color black and white  walking along the snow in Antarctica
Penguins in Antarctica | Canva

Best Animals Experiences #14 – Caribbean Coast, Mexico for Whale Sharks

As an avid scuba diver, this one is high on my bucket list.

Amongst other places, this is one of the most popular places where you can swim alongside the gentle whale sharks – just off the Caribbean Coast of Mexico.

This region also attracts other fascinating marine life like dolphins, manta rays, and a variety of colourful fish species.

To make the most of this extraordinary opportunity, it’s highly recommended to join a guided tour. The tour operators are experts on whale sharks and ensure responsible interactions and their protection.

It’s important not to harass, chase or touch the whale sharks – you should just sit in the water with them and observe from a distance.

A woman swims with whale shark in the Caribbean Coast, Mexico
Swimming with whale Shark in the Caribbean Coast, Mexico | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #15 – Western Australia for Quokkas

Not only is Australia home to some deadly creatures, like spiders and snakes, but Australia is also home to one of the cutest and happiest creatures—quokkas! These adorable marsupials will melt your heart with their charming smiles.

But there’s more! Western Australia boasts a diverse wildlife scene. You might come across kangaroos, wallabies, and plenty of colourful birds. If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins and whales along the coast!

The best places to see quokkas are in the coastal towns of Rottnest Island and Baldivis. Quokkas love to hang around areas with plenty of grass, low shrubs, and bushes so keep an eye out when exploring these places.

The best time to catch a glimpse of quokkas is during sunset or early morning since they are most active during those times. Be sure to stay quiet and respectful as you observe these amazing creatures!

A small Quokka roaming around in Western Australia during daytime
Quokka in Western Australia | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #16 – Canada for Bears and Moose

Canada offers an incredible animal experience, two of their most iconic animals are bears and moose.

But that’s not all! Canada’s vast wilderness is home to a variety of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles soaring overhead, beavers busy building their dams, and deer gracefully roaming through the forests.

While exploring Canada on your own is possible, I recommend taking a guided tour. They’ll have the expertise and park permits required to make sure your encounter is responsible. If you do decide to venture out on your own, understand what to do if you come across either of these potentially dangerous animals.

Moose walking in the snow at Canada
Moose in Canada | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #17 – Colca Canyon, Peru for Giant Condors

Have you ever imagined how a bird so big can look so gracefully gliding through the air? You can see exactly that in Peru!

The Andean giant condor is the largest flying land bird in the world, with wingspans of up to 3.3 m (11 ft) and a wingspan-to-body weight ratio allowing it to soar on thermals without flapping its wings for extended periods. It can be found throughout the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in South America.

But here’s the exciting part – Colca Canyon is not just about the birds. It’s a wildlife paradise! Picture yourself spotting Andean foxes, vicuñas, and a vibrant array of colourful birds amidst the stunning Andean scenery.

To fully immerse yourself in this adventure, I highly recommend going on a guided tour. – You can take 2 or 3-day hikes in the canyon. The local guides are experts who know every nook and cranny of the area. They’ll take you to the best spots to catch a glimpse of the majestic giant condors and other fascinating wildlife.

Giant Condor with its black and white color flies at Colca Canyon, Peru
Giant Condor in Colca Canyon, Peru | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #18 – Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and Romania for Wild Wolves

Europe doesn’t have many large animals, but it does have some incredible wildlife in specific areas. If you’re looking for a true wild wolf experience, then you need to check out the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and Romania. This mountain range is home to the last remaining populations of European grey wolves in all of Europe.

The Carpathians are an ideal habitat for these majestic creatures as they are isolated and contain plenty of prey for them to feed on. The area is filled with picturesque forests, lush valleys, and alpine meadows where these amazing animals roam freely.

Visitors can experience the wild wolves up close by taking a guided wildlife tour. These tours will take you deep into wolf territory, providing incredible opportunities to observe their behaviour in their natural environment.

And that’s not all, these mountains are home to a bunch of other wildlife wonders. You might spot brown bears, lynxes, and a whole variety of beautiful bird species.

Two brown-black wild wolves in the forest of the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and Romania
Wild Wolves in Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia and Romania | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #19 – Papua New Guinea for Birds of Paradise

One of the best animal experiences in Papua New Guinea is encountering the magnificent Birds of Paradise. This tropical paradise is a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, offering a glimpse into the dazzling world of these colourful and elusive birds.

The birds of paradise are found in the wet and dry tropics of Papua New Guinea, living mostly in the lowland rainforest. There are about 40 species of them, and they can vary greatly depending on their habitat.

These birds have a range of sizes and colours, from reds to blues to greens. They also exhibit a wide variety of behaviours, from spectacular song and dance displays to a complex courtship ritual.

The most popular places to observe them are the National Parks in the region which is not only home to the Birds of Paradise but also hosts a rich variety of unique and exotic wildlife. You might spot tree kangaroos, cassowaries, and a wide array of vibrant bird species.

To make the most of your birdwatching adventure, go with a guide who will have extensive knowledge of the region and know the best spots to observe the Birds of Paradise in their natural habitats. They’ll also provide fascinating insights into these stunning creatures and their significance in the local culture.

A colorful Bird of Paradise in Papua New Guinea - red feather, with yellow-green head and black neck
Bird of Paradise in Papua New Guinea | Canva

Best Animal Experiences #20 – Bandhavgarh National Park, India for Bengal Tigers

This renowned park is a tiger lover’s paradise, offering a unique opportunity to spot these iconic creatures in their natural habitat.

Tigers are still in danger of extinction and the Bandhavgarh National Park offers a rare chance to observe them up close. It is also home to numerous other species, such as sloth bears, leopards, antelopes, and some exotic birds.

The climate here is tropical monsoon with hot summers and mild winters. Temperatures can range from 0 Celsius to 40 Celsius in the summer and from 5 Celsius to 25 Celsius in the winter. The park is usually open between October and June, with March being the best month for spotting tigers.

The area around the park offers some great opportunities for exploration too. There are several ancient ruins of Hindu temples dating back centuries that you can explore as well as some stunning landscapes.

Tigers are apex predators, so it’s best to go on a tiger safari trip with an experienced guide. They have extensive knowledge of the park increasing your chances of tiger sightings while ensuring responsible wildlife encounters.

Bengal Tiger with its brown, black and white combination of color sits in Bandhavgarh National Park, India
Bengal Tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park, India | Canva

Best Wildlife Experiences in the World – FAQs

We’ve covered 20 great destinations to see wildlife. This section has answers to common questions that you might have during the planning stages of your trip. 

What Are the Best Animal Experiences in the World?

Our planet offers so many incredible animal experiences. Some of the best are in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, where you’ll encounter unique wildlife. South America’s Amazon Rainforest is teeming with biodiversity. East Africa offers gorilla trekking adventures, while Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve is perfect for spotting the Big 5. In Greenland, humpback whale watching promises unforgettable encounters with these gentle giants.

Which Country Has the Most Bucket List Animal Experiences?

When it comes to bucket list animal experiences, it’s hard to single out just one country since many countries around the world offer incredible wildlife encounters. However, countries in Africa are famous for their large animals, and South America for the Amazon and Galapagos. 

What Are the Benefits of Experiencing Animals in Their Natural Habitat?

Experiencing animals in their natural habitat gives you a deeper understanding of their national behaviour and role in the ecosystem. It’s a great way to educate yourself and a fantastic way to connect with nature. Plus, it’s more ethical and authentic compared to seeing them in captivity. 

How Else Can I Make the Most Out of Wildlife Experiences?

Remember to show respect to the animals and their environment. Follow guidelines set by guides or park authorities, and use binoculars and cameras to observe from a safe distance. You can also take the opportunity to learn about the species you encounter and support eco-friendly and responsible tourism practices.

Are There Any Safety Concerns to Consider When Traveling for Wildlife Experiences?

Yes, when travelling for wildlife experiences, safety is an important consideration. Always follow the instructions of experienced guides and park authorities. Be aware of the animal’s behaviour and maintain a safe distance. Adhere to any guidelines or restrictions to ensure a safe and enjoyable wildlife encounter for both you and the animal.

Which Animal Experiences are Best Suited For Families with Young Children?

Safaris can be a great way to introduce little ones to wildlife. Also, guided nature walks are a great option for family-friendly wildlife encounters.

Which Animal Experiences Offer a High Chance of Seeing Different Species?

Safari experiences in Africa, the Galapagos Islands, and the Amazon Rainforest all offer a high chance of seeing different species. These regions are known for their rich biodiversity and abundant wildlife, providing excellent opportunities to encounter a diverse range of animals in their natural habitats.

How Many of These Bucket List Animal Experiences Do You Want to Tick Off?

So, which of these best wildlife experiences in the world are at the top of your bucket list?

The world is teeming with awe-inspiring wildlife experiences waiting to be discovered. From swimming with whale sharks in the Caribbean to encountering gorillas in East Africa, each opportunity provides a chance to connect with nature’s most incredible creatures.

The only problem now is choosing which wildlife encounter are you going to do first.

Looking for more ideas to add to your animal bucket list? Read more inspirational articles…

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