For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife which can’t be found at home. The following are some of the most memorable experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe.
Which appeals to you the most?
Indri in Madagascar
A trip to the island of Madagascar, off the coast of southeast Africa, can only mean one thing: lemurs. And the largest of these is the indri.
Tree-dwelling primates, the indri live in large family groups in the tree-tops, jumping sideways from tree to tree on their hind legs. They are territorial and one family will rule a specific area of the forest, with their haunting cries being heard for miles around. A good tracker will know the local families and be able to help you find the nearest group, although it will still mean a scramble across the hillsides which is all part of the fun! Standing on the forest floor looking up at these creatures in the trees above you is an unforgettable experience.
Top tip: use your phone to record a short snatch of the indri’s cries. Play it back and listen to them answer you!
Spinner dolphins in the Maldives
One of the many fascinating encounters in the Maldives are the spinner dolphins, which launch themselves out of the water and pirouette gracefully before belly-flopping back in. Look out for them as you cruise between islands, and then sit out on deck and admire their athleticism!
Top tip: Between bobbing boats and energetic dolphins, it’s almost impossible to get a decent photo of a spinner dolphin, so don’t try. Consider a video clip, but otherwise just sit back and enjoy the spectacle!
Komodo dragons in Indonesia
Now, I’ll be honest: komodo dragons aren’t the most dynamic of creatures. At least, not unless they are attacking, which is not a situation you want to find yourself in. But their sheer size, toxicity and ferocity makes them fascinating to see.
A trip to Komodo Island or its neighbour, Rinca, gives you the opportunity to view these creatures up close. A variety of trails of various lengths give you the chance see them in their natural habitat, however many factors such as the time of day or year can make them hard to spot. But one place they can always be relied upon to visit is the ranger station, where the wild komodos wait around for scraps of food. It may not been the sighting you were hoping for, but you are unlikely to leave without seeing them!
Top tip: Take a camera with a long lens. You can’t approach the komodos too closely: it’s incredibly dangerous, and your ranger guide won’t allow it anyway. To get a decent shot you will need to zoom!
Coatí at Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil
A trip to Iguazu Falls, on the Brazil/Argentina border, summons up visions of thundering waterfalls and mists rising into the sub-tropical air. But the flora and fauna are also lush and mysterious here. Butterflies are everywhere, and toucans can be spotted in the trees; guinea pigs are also a common sighting. But you can’t miss the coatís. Long-snouted local rodents, these cute creatures have overtaken the area around the falls, foraging through rubbish bins for food. Always check before you throw your trash in the can – there might be a sleeping coatí inside!
Top tip: Don’t feed them. Just don’t. And watch your bag. But they are still incredibly cute!
Monkeys in India
If you’re a fan of monkeys, you really can’t miss them in India. Big small, a mixture of species, monkeys are everywhere.
Indian monkeys seem to be divided into the cute and the not-so-cute. Encounter a monkey in the countryside, and chances are he will be swinging from the trees, curious of you but content to just show off for your camera. Encounter a monkey in the city, and you’d better not put that camera down anywhere or the monkey will walk off with it! But either way, their antics are incredibly photogenic.
Top tip: Don’t get too close. Once the monkey starts to feel threatened, teeth will be bared and claws will be out. A monkey scratch will land you at the nearest clinic for a rabies jab, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. But monkeys will normally leave you alone if you give them a bit of space. Normally.
Horses in Iceland
Iceland is not particularly known for its animals, but Icelandic horses are special. Squatter and sturdier than their southern counterparts, they have two unique gaits which experienced riders will enjoy trying out!
Horses can be found all over Iceland. If you are lucky enough to see them close to the road, stop and feed the horses grass from the palm of your hand. Or better still, book a horse ride to explore this beautiful country the way it has been done for centuries.
Top tip: Keep foreign germs away from Icelandic horses. The breed is hardy, but the horses have very little exposure to disease; as a result, it is not possible to import any other breed of horse into Iceland, and nor is it permitted to bring an Icelandic horse back once it has left the country.
Tree-climbing lions in Kenya
Have you ever seen a lion in a tree? Unless you’ve been to specific areas around the Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania borders, chances are you haven’t. But in this part of Africa, lions have adapted to climbing trees – and seem remarkably comfortable.
If you are in Kenya, head to Lake Nakuru National Park, which is the only park in the country where these lions can be found. But keep your fingers crossed: actually seeing the lions in a tree is still a relatively rare event. I got incredibly lucky when I visited, and sat for a good half-hour watching a lion climb a tree and settle down amongst its branches for a snooze. It was one of the most special wildlife experiences I have ever had.
Top tip: If a lion is spotted, chances are yours won’t be the only vehicle to make a beeline for it. If you can, try to hang around until after most of the vehicles have left. The lions will feel much less threatened, and much more inclined to pose for the cameras. And you will get better shots as well as a magical experience!
What has been your favourite wildlife experience on your travels? Let me know in the comments!