Top 15 wild animal encounters

Balloon ride in Serengeti Tanzania by Sui Oinn

From sloths hanging out, to whales breathtakingly breeching and lions stalking their prey – when we asked you about your best experiences with animals when travelling, we were inundated with more than 2700 special moments.

Selecting just a small handful to share for you was one tough task, but here are 15 of the most fabulous animal encounters from travellers…

1. “I was lying on a deserted beach in the Galapagos Islands reading my book. Totally enjoying the time alone and serenity when a mother sea lion and her baby slid out of the water to sun bake right beside me. We enjoyed each others company for a significant time, all of us turning and basking. A magical experience!” – Debra.

2. “At the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand it was great seeing how the founder Lek works. She has introduced the local community to a sustainable way of working with elephants and is benefiting local farmers by buying their farm produce to feed the animals and giving local Thai’s employment. The visitor has the fabulous experience of getting close to these wonderful animals, all of whom have suffered at the hands of people in the logging, trekking and tourist industries.” – Sharley

3. “Neither considered a particular beauty, nor cute and cuddly, the Tasmanian Devils under our chalet in Tasmania enchanted with their almost demonic howling. When the little beasties came out to play their grumpy antics had everyone in delighted rapture.  Devilishly divine!” – Julie

Mother orangutan with baby in Borneo by Dale Neill

Motherly love in Borneo by Dale Neill

4. “My best animal experience was four days in the jungle in Borneo, travelling up rivers viewing the wildlife in its natural habitat – orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, pygmy elephants, civet cats and a huge array of the most beautiful birds on this wonderful planet!” – Ros

5. “Whilst in the Masai Mara on an early morning balloon safari watching the wildebeest in the process of their migration, you could hear their pounding hooves and the pounding of my heart in unison. Then landing in the middle of nowhere for a breakfast surrounded by nature was truly a most magical and privileged experience!” – Andrea

6. “At Tambopata Research Centre hidden far away from civilisation in the Peru Amazon, my friend and I were longing for the rare chance to spot majestic jaguars. On our final day while boating down river, stepping out of the shadows of the trees was a jaguar! I’m still in awe!” – Bryony

7. “During an Intrepid Best of Botswana trip we pulled up next to a waterhole in Etosha National Park and in one eye view saw elephants, a variety of antelope, zebra, giraffe and then a lion approaching the waterhole. It was an unbelievable sight. ” – Janet

Mountain gorilla of Uganda photo by Stephen Woodward

Face to face in Uganda by Stephen Woodward

8. “Visiting the mountain gorillas was not only my favourite animal experience but also life changing. These gentle giants gazed curiously at me while I stared back in awe, pinching myself in disbelief. The company of gorilla is like an alien encounter; surreally familiar and yet totally, amazingly unique.” – Natasha

9. “A few years ago I walked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. After about 6 days trekking through the steamy magnificent jungle, learning everything I could about the local flora and fauna, my porter stopped me in my path and gestured to me in excitement. He told me to listen and I then heard the most wonderful sound. It was a Bird of Paradise. I never saw it but the sound in the beautiful jungle was much more romantic and I will never forget it.” – Sandra

10. “Whilst in Africa, I was watching zebra and giraffes drinking at a waterhole, and an impala came to drink unaware that it was being stalked by a lioness. As the lioness was about to strike, an elephant broke through the scrub and fended off the lion saving the impala – truly awesome.” – Josephine

11. “Watching the snow monkeys in Japan enjoying the natural hot springs was enchanting. Their expressions and interaction with each other appears so like ours!” – Jon

12. “After creeping through the jungles of Madagascar to a special location and waiting for 2 hours, I was awestruck to witness the beautiful and eerie incantations of a group of wild Indri Lemurs singing to each other. Lilting and drawn out, their exquisite song still echoes through my soul.” – Christine

Whale of a time in Antarctica by Ed Parker

Whale of a time in Antarctica by Ed Parker

13. “We were in a small zodiac boat in the ‘Iceberg Graveyard’, Antarctic Peninsula, when a humpback whale and her calf dove around us for half an hour. She went under us, near us (close enough to almost touch), showing off her flukes, her grace and huge body’s power and ease in the water. We were so entranced we didn’t care if she upended us into the minus 1 degree seawater.” – Kerrie

14. “My best experience was in Costa Rica when I went white water rafting. After some intense rapids we’re floating slowly down a calm part of the river. We look up and there’s a sloth, just hanging in the air off a tree. It was beautiful to see one in their natural surroundings.” – Fiona

15. “In Yosemite National Park in California, it was great to see animals such as black bears, peregrine falcons, squirrels and black-tailed deer in a protected natural environment, where they were free to live as nature intended. We heard the howls of coyotes in the distance, and luckily didn’t see any rattle-snakes! It was a magical experience, one that my husband and I will cherish forever.” – Kerrie

These traveller experiences were gathered in a joint survey together with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). You can find out more about how to be an animal friendly traveller by reading our tips for responsible animal travel.

Feature photo: Tanzania balloon ride by Su Oinn

About the author'
Jane Crouch - Jane is a responsible business guru who writes about all aspects of how travel can bring positive environmental, social and economic benefits. Informed through travel on seven continents, leading Intrepid trips through SE Asia, work in outdoor education, energy conservation, international development, philanthropy and climate change action, plus a big love of walking, mountains and world music.

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Have done your madagascar tour which was awesome but wished you had a tour up the tsiribina river and north east areas.'

Hi Jane,

I am interested and learning about going on some of these trips. I love animals and the protection of them, and want to know how I can see more and do more with them.



Hi Jen,
Do have an explore of our web-site for some of the suggested trips and regions where wildlife is featured. If you have any specific Qs, our friendly Intrepid Travel Specialists will do their best to help! Their contact details are here.
Happy wild adventuring!

Hi Jane, You may not remember me but you were the leader on my first Intrepid trip to Vietnam. You probably remember one of our group falling on bamboo spikes on the Mekong river and subsequent emergency.
I am still travelling – at 83 – and this year will be off to Madagascar with my daughter. I think it is our sixteenth Intrepid trip!
I still think my first one with you was the best although I have enjoyed everyone.
Warmest regards,

Hi Meryl,
Lovely to hear from you and I certainly do remember you and that trip. What a fabulous traveller you are! At 10 trips you become an ‘official’ Intrepid Legend…so I hope with your bookings you are taking advantage of the Loyalty Discount. There’s more info here on our web-site.
Our Madagascar trip sounds fantastic and its on my ‘list’. Hearing about the wild Indri Lemurs singing in the forest hooked me in! Have an amazing trip and keep in touch!
Best wishes, Jane

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