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Top 10 Best Wildlife Encounters

wildlife encounters
wildlife encounters

Step into the enchanting realm of Animals Around The Globe’s Top 10 Best Wildlife Encounters! Even in the face of a pandemic, the new year heralds opportunities to witness wildlife that challenge the norm. For the intrepid adventurers and fervent animal lovers, we’ve curated a list of extraordinary experiences with nature and wildlife.

Are you intrigued?

Explore our top ideas for encountering wildlife around the world! Dive into the one that excites or inspires you the most, or perhaps find the perfect match for the animal you’ve always dreamt of seeing in its untamed habitat!

Key Points

EncounterKey Points
Swimming with Orcas– Orcas are intelligent toothed dolphins found in northern Norway.
– Best time to go: October/November to see them during herring gatherings.
– Observation can be challenging due to cold conditions.
Walking with Lions– Lions can be seen in Africa; Zimbabwe, Mauritius are great places.
– Respect their space and consider ethical operators.
Diving with Tiger Sharks– Tiger sharks are large but non-threatening if approached carefully.
– Diving spots include Tiger Beach (Bahamas) and Fuvah Mulah (Maldives).
Safari Drive with Brown Bears– Brown bears found in Europe, Asia, North America; best seen in Northern Finland and Greece.
– Consider operators like Nordic Experience and Callisto for ethical tours.
Canoe Safari with Hippos– Hippos found in Africa, mainly in protected shallow bays.
– Top spots: Raymond Island, Cape Otway (Australia), Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve (NSW).
Snorkel with Manatees and Dugongs– Manatees and dugongs are marine herbivores found in warm coastal waters.
– Locations: Australia, Philippines, Mauritius.
Boating with Whales and Dolphins– Dolphins and whales offer unique encounters; found worldwide.
– Top places for dolphins: Bahamas, Galapagos Islands, Maritius.
Cuddle with Koala Bears– Koalas are native to Australia, can be seen in various locations.
– Support NGOs and sanctuaries for protection and rehabilitation.
Bush Safari Tour/Hot Balloon above Wildebeest Migration– Witness the wildebeest migration in Serengeti (Tanzania) and Maasai Mara (Kenya).
– Hot air balloon tours offer unique perspectives.
Watch Wolves and Other Animals in Germany– Wolves are making a comeback in Germany; observation and treehouse stays available.

1. Swimming with Orcas

orcas
@Christopher Michel

Orcas, among the most intelligent and prominent toothed oceanic dolphins within the whale family, offer a captivating spectacle for those seeking extraordinary encounters.

To swim with orcas, one of the optimal locations is the wintry expanse of northern Norway, where significant numbers of herring attract these majestic creatures. This area becomes a gathering ground for hundreds, if not thousands, of whales on the hunt—a remarkable natural display. However, it comes with challenges such as cold air and water temperatures, snow, ice, limited daylight, and swell.

The cold, crystal-clear waters of the fjords provide an ideal setting for observing orca pods, with sightings of numerous mammals, sometimes congregating in pods of 200 or more.

Best Time to Go 

Top 10 ideas to see wildlife for tiger shark diving

Norway stands out as a prime destination for nature enthusiasts throughout the year.

For those eager to witness the orcas up close during their breathtaking hunts, the optimal time to visit is between October/November and February. During this period, temperatures can fluctuate, spanning from above freezing to cold conditions.

Embracing the Norwegian winter, with the return of longer nights, offers an excellent opportunity to witness the mesmerizing northern lights. The best window to catch this natural spectacle is from late September to late March.

2. Walking with Lions

walking safari
@Brian Harries

Coming in strong with number two of the Top 10 ideas to see wildlife! The distribution area of the African lion extends from the southern edge of the Sahara to South Africa except for the Congolese rainforest belt. Of the Asian lions, only a remaining population of 411 individuals lives in Gir National Park in India today.

There are many beautiful places where you can see lions in the wild. Most people only think of the African continent when deciding where to go for a lion safari.

Best places to walk with African Lions

  1. Mauritius: What makes Mauritius one of the best places to walk with Lions is the environment. Our walk takes us along narrow sandy paths through a forest of thorn bushes, buffalo berries, and acacia trees.
  2. Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe is one of the best places to walk with Lions as it is one of Africa’s central Safari and Game Drive countries. Out on Zimbabwe’s open savannah, home to many feelings of pride of lions.

Best Operators:

  1. Victoria Falls Guide (Victoria Falls)
  2. Volunteer Encounter (Antelope Park or Victoria Falls)
  3. Lion Encounter (Victoria Falls)
  4. Wildlife Encounter (Victoria Falls)
  5. Mauritius Attractions (Mauritius)
  6. Safari Adventures (Mauritius)

3. Diving with Tiger Sharks

tiger shark
@Albert kok

We highly recommend the thrilling experience of encountering tiger sharks! Tiger sharks are generally considered non-threatening during encounters, but it’s crucial to exercise caution and respect when interacting with wildlife.

The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) ranks as the fourth-largest shark globally, following the whale, basking, and great white sharks. With the capability to reach lengths of up to five meters and weigh over 1,000 kilograms, tiger sharks are formidable yet fascinating creatures.

For those seeking to dive with tiger sharks, the top three locations worldwide are predominantly found in tropical waters. These destinations offer unique opportunities for unforgettable encounters with these impressive sharks.

Operators that offer unique experiences:

  1. Tiger Beach, Bahamas

2. Fuvah Mulah, Maldives

3. Beqa Island, Fiji

We hope that you have been inspired to interact with these beautiful creatures. Some more fun facts:

  • 1. As one of the largest shark species, tiger sharks can grow up to 18 feet (5.5 m) long and 2,000 pounds (900 kg).
  • 2. Tiger sharks are named for their gray vertical stripes or spots covering the sides of their bodies.
  • 3. Tiger sharks are known for eating almost anything, including other sharks, fish, seabirds, dolphins, sea turtles, rays, and crustaceans.
  • 4. Female tiger sharks have anywhere from 10 to 82 embryos and give birth to an average of 30 to 35 pups per litter.
  • 5. Tiger sharks live in shallow, coastal waters.

Do you agree that tiger shark diving had to be on the Top 10 ideas to see wildlife list!?

4. Safari drive with Brown Bears

@Yathin S Krishnappa

They are mostly known as Brown Bears in European areas, unlike in North America, where they are instead called Grizzly Bears- named after their gray fur coat.

Where to see Brown Bears?

They are found in Forests and Mountains across Europe, Asia, and North America. The World’s most giant Brown Bears are found in the coastal regions of Alaska and British Colombia – on islands such as Kodiak.

However, we recommend Northern Finland and a partnering operator’s tours, Nordic Experience. As well as Greece, which offers a unique experience of connecting with Brown bears through an NGO:

NGO, Callisto, is working to preserve and grow the remaining bear population in Greece.

For the past five years, Callisto has offered intrepid travelers the chance to track brown bears in the Pindos Mountains and use tourism as a conservation tool. Each hike explores truly remote trails in the Pindos Mountains and, led by a bear expert, includes a donation to Callisto.

What does a bear tour entail?

First and foremost, respecting a bear’s space is so important. Binoculars and spotting scopes will allow you to see them up close without getting physically too close and invading the bear’s space. Secondly, one must never approach, crowd, pursues, or displaces bears. 

Feeling enticed? Here are a few more Fun facts:

  1. Bears are commonly silent but can communicate with grunts, roars, or squeals. 
  2. Nearly 50 percent of all brown bear cubs die before one year old. 
  3. The brown bear is the largest predator still living on Europe.

5. Canoe Safari with Hippos

hippos
@Paul Maritz

The Hippopotamidae family includes two genera, each with a single species: the common hippopotamus and the pygmy hippopotamus.

Hippos are imposing semi-aquatic mammals characterized by a large barrel-shaped body, short legs, a compact tail, and an immense head. Their skin ranges from greyish to muddy-brown, transitioning to a pale pink hue underneath. As the second-largest land animals globally, hippos claim this title just after elephants.

For those eager to witness hippos in their natural habitat, exploring the best locations for Hippo safaris and adventures is essential. These massive herbivores boast formidable fighting teeth and proudly display the size of their dung heaps. Notably, hippos produce their own sunscreen, and the force of their jaws is comparable to a sledgehammer.

hippo tooth

But what are the best places to see Hippos in Africa or worldwide?

Hippos often prefer walking underwater rather than swimming and can remain submerged for five to eight minutes. Remarkably, even the birthing process takes place underwater, and newborns showcase their swimming abilities right from the start, making for captivating scenes of hippos underwater.

As for their habitat, hippos are primarily found in Africa south of the Sahara. While they are scarce in western Africa, the overall population is fragmented into smaller groups, totaling approximately 130,000 individuals across 19 countries.

The distribution of hippos presents a unique challenge for wildlife enthusiasts seeking the best places to observe them, considering that only around 130,000 specimens roam freely. In southern Africa, the majority of the population, roughly 80,000 hippos, is concentrated in Zambia, which boasts the highest number among all countries, hosting around 40,000 individuals.

6. Snorkel with manatees and Dugongs

manatee
@U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Manatees, often referred to as sea cows, and dugongs, a medium-sized marine mammal, belong to the order Sirenia, which includes three manatee species.

Dugongs share a resemblance with manatees in appearance and behavior, with the distinct feature of a fluked tail similar to that of a whale. Both species are connected to elephants, although the giant land animal differs significantly in appearance and behavior.

Dugongs are typically found in warm coastal waters stretching from the western Pacific Ocean to the Eastern coast of Africa, favoring protected shallow bays. The largest population of dugongs resides between Shark Bay and Moreton Bay on the east coast of Australia.

On the other hand, manatees inhabit the shallow waters of marine coastal areas and freshwater habitats. They are restricted to warm tropical regions for their habitat, with notable concentrations in these specific environments.

Where to see Manatees and Dugongs?

  1. Citrus Country/ manatee capital of the world
  2. Palawan Philippines
  3. Coral Coast and Ningaloo, Australia

Operators:

  1. Explorida,USA
  2. Manatee Adventures,USA
  3. Family Adventure Charters, USA
  4. Dugong Dive Center, Busuanga Island, Palawan
  5. Busuanga Bay Divers, Busuanga Island, Palawan
  6. Shark Bay Dive and Marine Safaris , AUS
  7. Exmouth Dive and Whalesharks, Ningaloo Reef, AUS

7. Boating with whales and dolphins

diving with dolphins
@Israel_photo_gallery

Marine mammals belonging to the order Cetacea are commonly referred to as dolphins, porpoises, and whales. Within the whale category, there are two distinct groups: baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti). The primary distinguishing factor lies in the presence of baleen and two blowholes in baleen whales, while toothed whales possess teeth and a single blowhole.

Dolphins fall under the category of toothed whales, and one of the largest members is the Orca, often mistakenly identified as a whale despite its name, “killer whale.” Another group related to dolphins is porpoises.

Though often confused, there are notable differences between dolphins and porpoises that can be observed in their facial features, teeth, fins, and overall physique. Dolphins typically exhibit prominent, elongated snouts with cone-shaped teeth, while porpoises have smaller mouths and spade-shaped teeth. Additionally, the dorsal fin of dolphins is hooked or curved, contrasting with the triangular dorsal fin of porpoises.

For information on where to watch and encounter whales around the globe, look at our all-inclusive feature Whale sightings blog for everything you need to know!

Best Places to see Dolphins

As Dolphins are at home almost everywhere on the planet, are curious, and love to play, swimming or diving with dolphins in the wild is possible in many places. We have listed a few of our favorite places to swim with dolphins! A highlight for Top 10 Wildlife Encounters.

  1. The Bahamas

Travel time: All year round

Dolphin species: spotted dolphin, spinner dolphin, blue-white dolphin, and porpoise

Operators:

  1. Wild Quest 
  2. Balmoral Island 
  3. Island Routes Caribbean Adventures – Bahamas  

2. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Travel time: All year round

Dolphin species: Bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, spinner dolphin and spotted dolphin

Operators:

  1. Galapagos Ninfa Tour 
  2. Voyager’s Travel 
  3. Galapagos Island Trips 

3. Flip-en-flack, Maritius

The bottlenose dolphins can often be seen in and around Mauritius and you will probably meet them on your trip. 

Operators:

  1. Taxi a Maurice 
  2. La Pirogue – Swim with Dolphins 
  3. Ushuaia Boat Services

Dolphins are brilliant and fun beings. Under the right circumstances diving or swimming with dolphins can be an excellent adventure for humans and animals.

Dolphins need our protection. Have fun exploring dolphins responsibly and make unforgettable memories when going to the best places to swim with dolphins.

8. Cuddle with Koala Bears

koala
@Till Niermann

Koala cuddles come in at number 8 on the Top 10 ideas to see wildlife list; they can only live in one place in the world, Australia, due to their staple diet of Eucalyptus leaves, which they can eat 2,5 pounds of food in a day! The koala hops from tree to tree and climbs to get the leaves.

Where to see Koala Bears?

The koalas are naturally only native to Australia. Their habitats are on the mainland and some islands on the east and southeast coasts. Areas of these are dependent on the availability of trees and the fertility of the soil in the area—another great animal from the Top 10 Best Wildlife Encounters.

The top 10 places you are guaranteed to see Koalas in the wild:

  1. Raymond Island, VIC
  2. Kennett River, VIC
  3. Cape Otway, VIC
  4. Port Stephens, NSW
  5. Kangaroo Island, SA
  6. Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve, New South Wales (NSW)
  7. Tidbinbilla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
  8. Port MacQuarie, New South Wales (NSW)
  9. Flinders Chase National Park, South Australia (SA)
  10. The You Yangs, Victoria (VIC)

However, we do recommend supporting NGOs and sanctuaries that support Koala Bear protection and rehabilitation:

WWF Australia

After the bushfires in Australia, the WWF is determined to turn this sad story around. For this reason, it is launching a worldwide campaign, “On the way to two billion trees”. 

Koalahospital.org – Adopt a Koala

Their adoption helps to rescue and treat sick and injured koalas and to release them back to their homes where possible.

9. Bush Safari Tour aside/ hot balloon above wildebeest migration

wildebeest
@Naturaltracksafaris

The wildebeest migration is one of the largest migrations on earth. The wildebeest are joined by around 400,000 antelopes and 200,000 zebras in a spectacular 3000km journey that is a privilege to witness.

Where to witness the migration taking place in the African wilderness:

  • Serengeti, Tanzania
  • Maasai Mara, Kenya

Duration: In February and partly in March, the wildebeest find rest and give birth to their calves the in the grassy plains of the highlands of Tanzania. Around half a million calves are born within a few weeks.

Tour Operators:

Kenya-Based Safaris

  1. Kenya Bush Safaris
  2. Perfect Wilderness Tours
  3. Bencia Africa Safari
  4. Dala Safari
  5. Simba Paka Safaris

Tanzania

  1. Serengeti Safari 
  2. Wildebeest Safaris
  3. Adventure Backpackers
  4. Africa Sky

Did you like our number 9 on the Top 10 ideas to see wildlife list?

10. Watch wolves and other animals in Germany

wolves in europe
@zoofanatic

There is no doubt that Germany is a great place to visit, but have you ever considered the wildlife that resides in the countryside and cities of Germany? It is often overlooked by many!

Take a look at our feature blog about Germany’s vast wildlife. For this insert in a taste of Germany’s wildlife, we focus on the population of wolves! Seeing wolves is number 10 of the Top 10 ideas to see wildlife! The fantastic idea on Top 10 Wildlife Encounters.

For more than a century, wolves were extinct in Germany. In recent years, however, especially since the country’s reunification in 1990, the animals have been reintroduced and are slowly making a comeback. They are especially prevalent in the former East German states, since many have crossed the border with Poland.

During a guided tour, you will not only learn some cool facts about the fascinating four-legged friends but also have the opportunity to watch the wolves at close range!

For even more adventure-tingling, you can stay in one of the Tree Inn’s tree houses in the middle of the enclosure. Here you have enough space to watch the wolves all night long with three other adventurers

Operators:

Summary of Top 10 Best Wildlife Encounters

YouTube video

Did you enjoy reading our top 10 ideas to see wildlife in 2023?

Let us know which of these encounters excited you the most. Also, have a look at Visit Africa for a trip of a lifetime or Take a look at wildlife encounters in Europe!

Thank you for reading the Top 10 Best Wildlife Encounters.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do you do when you encounter a wild animal?

When encountering a wild animal, it’s important to stay calm and avoid sudden movements. Back away slowly while keeping your eye on the animal. Do not approach or corner the animal, and give it an escape route. Maintain a respectful distance and avoid direct eye contact.

What should or shouldn’t people do if they encounter a wild animal?

People should stay calm, stand their ground, and avoid running. Do not approach the animal, especially if it’s a predator, and give it space to move away. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that might startle the animal. Do not feed or provoke the animal in any way.

What animal should you not look in the eye?

Direct eye contact is often seen as a challenge or threat among animals. Predatory animals like big cats and wolves may interpret direct eye contact as a challenge to their dominance. It’s generally safer to avoid staring directly into the eyes of wild animals.

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