“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected.”
— Chief Seattle of the Suwamish Tribe,
letter to President Franklin Pierce
“The most important thing is to preserve the world we live in. Unless people understand and learn about our world, habitats, and animals, they won’t understand that if we don’t protect those habitats, we’ll eventually destroy ourselves.”
— Jack Hanna
Where do I begin with a discussion of the wild animal experiences available if you are willing to travel to see them? For those of us whose typical animal experience is dealing with the family cat or dog, it is amazing to think of all that awaits the curious adventurer. Whether it is sighting moose in New Hampshire and Maine, or stopping at the side of the road to view bison making their own particular way in Yellowstone National Park, a close encounter with wildlife can punch a hole through the fabric of your usual day and make it an extraordinary day!
What is your animal? Where would you be most likely – and most excited — to see it in its natural habitat?
Are you a birder? Just perking up your ears and eyes to hear and see the birds around your home is a fair education. But when you have a chance to see all new birds in an environment new to you, the world becomes even more exciting. Costa Rica and the upper Amazon have hundreds of bird species you could add to your life list.
Do you love marine life? Snorkelers and divers can begin exploring coral and fish at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park near Key Largo, Florida, then move on to greater thrills in Belize and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Some destinations offer so many varieties of wildlife it would be hard to decide which to seek out first. Alaska and the Pacific Northwest offer orca whales, bears, elk, big horn sheep, sea otters, and bald eagles (just for starters). Costa Rica and the upper reaches of the Amazon are crazy with birds but also offer monkeys, capybaras, sloths, and caimans. The little known Pantanal area of Brazil offers a huge range of swamp animals including the jaguar, its local rock star. The Galapagos Islands offer a wealth of creatures which cannot be seen in the wild anywhere else. (They deserve their own entire blog page.) The other great pièce de résistance, of course, is Africa. What could match the sight of the migratory herds of wildebeest, or a handful of elephants trekking to the water hole?
But just think of the thrill of seeing Giant Pandas in Chengdu, China. Or Bengal tigers prowling the preserves of India. Or standing close to a group of mountain gorillas in Uganda. Maybe all you want to do is ride an Icelandic horse. (Not exactly wildlife, I know, but they are unique to the place.)
There is a world of wild life/wildlife out there, and it makes a huge difference in a trip to include even a sampling of another region’s animals in your travels. I would never call myself a naturalist but I have experienced the difference it makes to have a trained guide to point out species for your observation. Who knew that the apparent clump of leaves was really a three-toed sloth?! And the apparent dry leaves on a branch sticking out of the river suddenly come to life and fly away in all directions.
All of these experiences are available and I daresay one or more of them might be just the ticket to make your year. I will never forget my amazement one night on a beach in Costa Rica, watching a leatherback turtle lay her clutch of eggs in the sand. She was as big as the top of my office desk, and had dragged herself well up onto dry land before digging the hole. I know how much heavier I feel pulling myself out of the water, so I empathized with all the effort she was putting forth to accomplish her mission.
I apologize if I have failed to mention your favorite animal. (Turtles are mine!) With all of Noah’s ark to choose from, I cannot remember or include all of them. Please consider including wildlife seeking in your next trip. I will be very happy to help you find it!
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
10 April 2014