If you’re looking for a reason to travel, wildlife is about as good as it gets.
Seeing animals in their natural habitat is an experience that will feel humbling, fascinating, and exhilarating all at once; it’s the reality check that us humans need every once in awhile to remember that we are only a sliver of the living beings on this planet.
April 7 to 13 is National Wildlife Week, so what better time to get acquainted with some of the world’s most intriguing wildlife species?
There are incredibly diverse wild animals all over the world, and this list could be seemingly never ending. To start you off on your worldwide safari, here are eight epic wild animals you can see in the wild.
Rare black leopard spotted in Kenya. (@willbl/Instagram)
The elusive black leopard, also referred to as black panther (which is an umbrella term for any big cat with a black coat), is a mysterious, gorgeous creature. The extremely rare cat gets its colour from a condition called melanism, which causes the body to produce an excess of pigment.
Black leopards can be found in forests in India such as Kabini Forest, but a recent photographic feat has documented the cat in Kenya — the first time the beast has been documented in Africa in 100 years.
Orangutan in Borneo. (Shutterstock)
These hilariously lanky, playful, orange apes are only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra in Southeast Asia. They are only found in the rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia, or Borneo, which is made up of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Visit them in protected sites such as Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Malaysia or Gunung Leuser National Park in Indonesia, or search for them swinging through the trees in various wild rainforests. Just keep your eyes out for rustling branches and a flash of orange.
Watching them munch on their fruit, swing from branch to branch, or tend to their little babies can provide endless entertainment. Major #spiritanimal goals.
Komodo dragons fighting. (Shutterstock)
Bet you didn’t think you could come face-to-face with a real live dragon, did ya?
The world’s largest lizards, Komodo dragons, live on Komodo Island or Rinca Island in Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Hop on the hour-long flight from Bali to the town of Labuan Bajo, Flores, and from there take one of the many island tours out to see the dragons and surrounding marine life.
These dragons’ venom can kill but only if the antidote is not used before three to four days after the bite. And don’t worry, anyone stepping foot on the islands that are inhabited by the dragons will be accompanied by a guide and his trusty stick, to protect against any funny business.
You may want to plan your trip accordingly with recent news of Komodo Island shutting down in 2020 due to people smuggling the dragons!
Manta ray silhouettes in the Maldives. (Shutterstock)
With a wingspan of up to six or seven metres, these graceful ocean-dwellers can be found in tropical or subtropical waters, or even temperate waters. Seeing them in the deep blue is a mesmerizing experience. They look like giant floating graceful bats. Though not harmful like their stingray cousins, manta rays are quite inquisitive and will come right up to snorkelers or divers. It’s important to let the animal control the interaction – don’t approach one or touch it as you will likely scare it off.
Some of our favourite spots to snorkel or dive with them are Manta Point in Komodo National Park or Nusa Penida in Indonesia or Addu Atoll in the Maldives.
For a truly unique experience, go on a night snorkel or dive off of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, where you and your plankton-attracting light will see dozens of manta rays putting on a show with barrel rolls and close-up interactions.
Penguins on Boulders Beach, Cape Town. (Shutterstock)
These little tuxedo-wearing waddlers can be found in colonies off the southern coast of Africa, in Namibia or South Africa (because when you think Africa, the first thing that comes to mind is penguins, right?!)
Check them out in Cape Town, South Africa — specifically at Boulders Beach, just outside of Simon’s Town.
While it is always advised to keep a respectful distance from any wildlife, you can get close enough to the little guys to make a killer Insta photo.
Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Islands. (Shutterstock)
The muse for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, the Galapagos Islands are an absolute haven for wildlife. The UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site is home to an extensive abundance of species including giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, fur seals, marine iguanas, and of course, the infamous birds known as Darwin’s finches.
Touted as the world’s fastest-evolving vertebrates, seeing how these 13+ species of birds have adapted to fit different environments of the islands is like peering into evolution itself.
Gorilla in Bwindi National Park, Uganda. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)
These gentle giants reside in the mountain ranges of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda; Bwindi National Park in Uganda; and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorilla tracking permits vary on the season but start at $1,500 USD in Rwanda, $400 in Uganda, and $200 in the Congo.
Being in the natural habitat of these majestic, human-like creatures is a truly remarkable experience that you won’t ever forget. Keeping a respectful distance, you will be able to observe the way they move through the forest, swing through the branches, eat leaves, and tend to their young. Their humanlike features and mannerisms will give you a whole new appreciation for our distant ancestors.
Check out our gorilla trekking guide for everything you need to know about how to make this bucket list experience happen. You won’t regret it.
While Australia is primarily known for animals like kangaroos and koala bears, it would be downright depressing not to add the World’s Happiest Animal to your Aussie wildlife tour: the quokka.
Part of the kangaroo and wallaby family, and around the size of a small cat, the marsupial can only be found on Western Australia’s Rottnest Island, and a handful of smaller islands around the coast of Western Australia.
If that’s not a prime selfie partner, we don’t know what is. Read all about these cheerful creatures here.
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