There is perhaps no greater experience than seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. Animals have a way of filling us with wonder; they are strong, beautiful, and agile. They are capable of flying as high as our airplanes, running as fast as our cars, and swimming with the grace and speed our ships can only dream of. When venturing out in search of wild animals on your next vacation, it is important to remember that many of the species on the list below are dangerous and should not be approached on foot or without a knowledgeable guide. It is also important to keep in mind that we are in charge of their fate. Every choice we make, every product we buy, every item we throw away, can have negative consequences on their lives. We must promote responsible stewardship to ensure the animals listed below are here for generations to come.
Seeing a whale surface is beyond words. One thing that may be even more incredible is that many whale species reach their massive size by eating only plankton, some of the smallest living organisms in the world. For a whale watching tour that is both exciting and educational, check out the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Center in California which is run by marine biologists. Depending on the time of the year you have the opportunity to see Humpback Whales, Orcas, or even the majestic Blue Whale, the largest mammal in the world. Keep on the look-out on the way out to sea as well; you will be rewarded with views of dolphins and sea lions along the way.
9) Black and White Rhinoceros
If you want a chance to see both the black and white species of rhinoceros, head to Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Sadly, rhino species across the world are poached for their horns, often being used in traditional Asian medicines. Despite the promise of their horns to cure ailments from cancer to headaches, the horn itself is made of keratin – the same protein that makes your own hair and finger nails. White rhinos are often seen lazing around in the shade of the acacia trees, while black rhinos will be a real treat if you are able to see one. They live in the dense underbrush and are critically endangered, with only a few hundred remaining in the wild.
Cheetahs are the fastest terrestrial animals on the planet – approaching top speeds of 75 mph (120 kph) while in pursuit of their favorite prey item, the Thompson’s Gazelle. They literally fly over the ground as they sprint across the plains. Like many of the other large cats, their populations are slowly diminishing due to habitat fragmentation and destruction. When in Namibia, take a trip to Etosha National Park for a chance to get a glimpse of this elusive cat. Even if you don’t see a cheetah you are guaranteed to see copious amounts of other wildlife that will make the trip worthwhile. If you were not rewarded with a cheetah sighting on your trip, head to the Cheetah Conservation Fund site in North Central, Namibia to see these magnificent cats up close and personal.
7) Coral Reef
Coral reefs are filled with wildlife. The coral structure takes tens of thousands of years to create and is made up of millions of tiny polyps. It is important to remember when snorkeling or diving around a reef not to touch or disturb the reef. It is a very fragile ecosystem, and you can easily damaging hundreds of years of work in just a few seconds. While many think of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, you can also see coral reefs in the U.S. and off the coast of Central America. Belize, for example, is home to the second longest coral reef in the world and offers opportunities for amazing reef diving and snorkeling experiences.
6) Mountain Gorillas
You will never see a mountain gorilla in a zoo. The only way to see this species is in person with a hired guide in Uganda or Rwanda. You will have to book your trip well in advance as a permit is needed to go gorilla trekking. Mountain gorillas are larger than the other gorilla species and live in troops which consist of a lead silverback, his harem of females and respective young. When you come across a troop you only have one hour to view them so make sure you enjoy every minute of this life changing encounter.