21 Amazing Animal Encounters Around the World

We’ve had the privilege of having many animal encounters around the world, but we’re still holding out hope that we’ll make it to central Africa one day soon.

We are convinced it will happen.

Our Best Animal Encounters

So while we dream of seeing gorillas one day, we take a moment to cherish and remember all the amazing wildlife encounters we’ve had on all seven continents.

If you are planning on travelling and having your own animal encounter abroad, these are our suggestions of ones you cannot miss!

1. Polar Bears in Canada

animal experiences polar bears
Walking with Polar Bears in Churchill Manitoba

Seeing the polar bears in Churchill was our greatest wildlife watching dream.

It finally came true last summer with Churchill Wild. We boarded a small twin otter plane to a remote lodge on the Hudson Bay where we spent three days exploring the tundra in search of polar bears.

 Not only did we see polar bears, we had the honour of walking with polar bears.

Read more at our Polar Bear Photos: Be Transported to the Wild Edge of Manitoba

2. Big 5 in Kenya

animal experiences africa leopard
Seeing a leopard in Kenya was a dream come true

When we first visited Africa in 2007, we spent five months on the continent and never experienced a true Big 5 safari.

We always regret not doing a proper safari before our flight home from Cape Town. Lucky for us, we’ve had the chance to revisit Africa a couple of times and the first adventure on our list was a safari in Kenya.

See our African animal encounters at Kenya Photos, A Visual Journey

big cat experience male lion
The Lion King

We spent two weeks going on safari after safari having countless wildlife encounters. Lake Nakuru was all about seeing the rhinos, buffalos and flamingos.

Check out our Wildlife Photography Gallery for all our animal encounters from around the world. 

3. Orangutans in Borneo

animal sightings orangutans of borneo
The cutest animal sightings ever

One of the first animal encounters we ever had on our travels was visiting the Orangutan sanctuaries of Borneo.

We went to both the Semenggoh and Sepilok rehabilitation centres of Borneo where we watched orangutans come in for a feeding.

This was a magical experience as the Orangutans here are rescues that are slowly rehabilitated into the wild. They are free to come and go as they please and feedings are simply a way to ease them back into living on their own.

Once they learn to take care of themselves, they stop coming to the feeding platforms and live out their days back in the jungle.

See all the wildlife of Borneo at Malaysian Borneo, a Nature Lover’s Dream

4. Pandas in China

wildlife encounters pandas of china
The Giant Panda is adorable

I don’t think there is a cuter gentle giant than China’s giant panda. When visiting Chengdu, the top attraction for us was visiting the Giant Panda Research Centre.

Pandas are endangered and the panda research centre is doing its best to keep the species alive. Luckily, Pandas don’t move much or take up a lot of space, but they do eat a lot.

They have to eat up to 40 kilos (88 pounds) of bamboo a day! Walking through the centre lets you see pandas lazing in trees and munching on bamboo. There are baby pandas and red pandas too!

Read more about the pandas at The Pandas of Chengdu

5. Penguins of Antarctica

wildlife encounters antarctica penguins
Penguins of Antarctica – so sweet and beautiful

Antarctica is a spectacular wildlife destination for animal encounters unlike anywhere else on earth.

Wildlife in the Antarctic don’t see a lot of humans so when you land on the island or paddle around the peninsula, animals come out to take a look and see what’s up.

Penguins are the most curious creatures and if you are very still, they will waddle right up to you and peck at your clothes. They may smell awful, but the penguins of Antarctica are the cutest of all the animal encounters we’ve ever had.

Check out Quark Expeditions for all your Polar Adventures

Leopard and Weddell Seals of Antarctica

wildlife sightings wedell seal Atnarctica
Nothing could top kayaking by a Weddell Seal sleeping on an ice float

Other animals you’ll see in Antarctica are also pretty spectacular. Whales will surface right in front of your zodiac or kayak and seals will ignore you as they bask in the sun while you float by in silence.

When we camped on Antarctica, we had a huge leopard seal sleeping less than 20 metres from our camp. We heard it gurgling and burping all night long.

6. Tortoise in Galapagos

wildlife sightings galapagos Turtle
The giant Galapagos Tortoise are over 100 years old!

Next to Antarctic, the Galapagos is the next best place for up close and personal animal encounters.

The wildlife in the Galapagos is also the most unique on earth. It is here that you’ll see species that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

The marine iguana is a one of a kind iguana found only in the Galapagos.

wildlife encounters | marine iguanas

The galapagos shark is native only to these islands and the only place you’ll find the flightless cormorant is here.

There are penguins, blue footed boobies and more!

But for us, the best animal encounter was seeing the giant galapagos tortoise. It’s the largest tortoise in the world living up to 170 years old.

Read more at the Galapagos Tortoise A Gentle Giant

7. Whale Sharks in Mexico

animal encounters whale sharks in mexico
Swimming with the massive whale sharks will take your breath away

They are the largest fish in the sea. Swimming among these gentle giants is an experience you’ll never forget.

Whale sharks can grow to 12 metres (40 feet) in length. They migrate off the coast of Mexico from June to September and tours take people out to their feeding grounds where you can jump in the water for a closer look.

Whale sharks swim fast so it’s work to keep up with them, but it’s worth the effort.

Even if it is chaotic above the water, it’s serene and silent underneath as whale sharks silently swim through the sea.

See our entire experience as we Swim with Whale Sharks

8. Great White Sharks in South Africa

animal viewings great white sharks south africa
Would you dare to dive with Great White Sharks?

Staying in the water, another spectacular animal encounter we had was in South Africa when we went cage diving with great white sharks.

We dove with White Shark Projects who is very concerned about conservation and preservation. Sadly, sharks are the most misunderstood creatures in the world.

Almost 40 million sharks are killed each year for their fins alone to feed the Asian market’s desire for shark fin soup.

Diving with sharks helps yourealizee that humans are not the sharks’ first choice in food and you can see just how intelligent and beautiful they are.

9. Sharks in Belize

wildlife encounters belize sharks

Outside the cage, we’ve also had our share of shark encounters.

From scuba diving in Mexico to snorkelling with the galapagos shark. But it was our first experience in Belize that sticks with us.

Swimming with sharks and manta rays in Shark Ray Alley is an experience you’ll never forget.

10. Vultures in Spain

animal experiences with vultures
Vultures in Spain, Who Knew?

We didn’t expect to have an incredible animal encounter in Europe. It’s not the first place that comes to mind when thinking of wildlife.

But in the Pyrenees of Spain, we visited a vulture hide where we could watch these birds of prey feed in their natural habitat. There were hundreds of vultures feasting on goat meat.

Read all about our experience at Vultures in the Pyrenees

11. Moose in Canada

animal safaris moose in Canada
Algonquin Park is one of the best places to spot moose

My favourite Canadian animal is the moose. They are just so huge and dopy looking.

Don’t let their gangling awkwardness fool you though, moose can be vicious and when encountering them in the wild you must show respect and keep your distance.

The way to view moose in the wild is definitely by canoe. In Algonquin Park, Ontario, moose are plenty and if you go with the right guide you’ll see dozens hanging out on the water’s edge or even swimming in the water at sunrise and sunset.

See: In Search of the Algonquin Moose, A Canadian Wildlife Safari

12. Beluga Whales in Canada

marine encounters beluga whales
Kayaking or snorkelling with belugas is something you’ll never forget

Paddling with beluga whales playing under our boats in Manitoba was the most uplifting animal encounter we’ve ever had.

They were little darlings rubbing their noses on our boats, popping up whenever we sang and swimming all around us.

The more you sang the more curious they became. And once they spotted your boat, if you paddled hard, they would play in your wake and follow you everywhere.

Check out the entire experience at Kayaking with Beluga Whales

13. Swimming with Dolphins in Australia

scuba and snorkelling wildlife
Swimming with Dolphins in South Australia

We were a little nervous to swim with dolphins in South Australia considering we just went cage diving with great white sharks the day before.

We were particularly nervous when our dive master put on an electric transmitter that apparently keeps the sharks away and told us to not stray too far from him. Plus, the water was freezing. A mere 16 degrees Celsius (about 60 Fahrenheit).

But once we were in our dolphin experience in Baird’s Bay, it was the best we’d ever had. I couldn’t believe how playful these little guys were.

If they’re having fun, they’ll stick around. Our dolphins clearly loved us because they stuck around for a really long time and we got out of the water completely thrilled.

Check it out at A Dolphin Swim in Shark Country

14. Wolves in Canada

animal sightings wolves in canada
Seeing wolves in the wild is very rare

In our home province of Ontario, Canada there is a wolf sanctuary in Haliburton Forest.

It’s an amazing way to observe wolves in their natural environment. There is no interaction with the wolves. They are outside in a large sanctuary while you look on from inside a building behind a large glass window.

The wolves are free to roam the property and only come in for feedings.

Read all about it at the Grey Wolf Sanctuary of Haliburton Forest

15. Wolf Dog in Alberta

animal experiences wolfdogs
The Wolfdog is part wild part domesticated

They may not be wild, but the Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary in Alberta is an uplifting animal experience.

The sanctuary rescues wolf dogs and rehabilitates them and tries to find them new homes or sanctuaries to live out their days.

Visitors can go into their habitat and sit with the wolf dogs. Once they feel comfortable enough, they may come and let you pet or feed them for just a minute or two.

16. Grizzly Bears in the Yukon

animal views in the wild grizzly bears
A Grizzly bear approaches our camp

We finally saw a grizzly bear in the wild in the Yukon.

We were on a base camp adventure with Canada Parks and all week we had seen grizzlies in the distance.

Just as we were about to catch our bush plane out, a grizzly mama with two cubs walked right by our camp and spent a good 15 minutes swimming in the water, burrowing in the ground and frolicking with her cubs. It was magnificent.

17. Koalas and Kangaroos in South Australia

wildlife encounters australia
The Cute Koala of Australia

South Australia was a fantastic place for wildlife encounters.

We saw nearly every unique species of the continent including seals, sharks and dolphins. Kangaroo Island has a bird sancturary and an abundance of kangaroos.

But we couldn’t get enough of the cute koalas.

Check out more photos at Koala Cuteness in South Australia

18. Crocodiles in South Africa

Wildlife experiences kayaking with crocodiles
You have to be a bit nuts to kayak with crocodiles

You have to be crazy to get close to a crocodile.

That’s what we told ourselves when kayaking in a crocodile infested river in South Africa. It was an adrenaline rush to say the least, but wow, what a memorable experience.

Read all about it at Kayaking with Hippos and Crocs – Oh My

19. Sea Turtles in the Maldives

turtle world oceans

Who doesn’t love sea turtles?

They look like cute little old men. We’ve snorkelled with sea turtles a few times, but it was in the Maldives that we had the best sea turtle encounter ever.

 On a reef just off shore from Cinnamon Dhonveli we went snorkelling with sea turtles for a solid hour. We saw nearly a dozen sea turtles during our time on the reef. It was wonderful.

See: 10 of the Best Things to do in the Maldives

20. Toucans in Brazil

animal sightings toucans in Brazil
Birds in Brazil

We’re not much into birds. But the Bird Sanctuary at Iguazu Falls was actually quite awesome.

They rescue birds from traffickers and the black market and give them a sanctuary to live out their days.

While seeing all the amazing birds like parrots, macaws, and parakeets, it was the toucan that we were most excited about.

Seeing them up close was a beautiful experience, but seeing them in the wild all over Iguazu Falls was spectacular.

21. Tanzania Safari

animal encounters cheetah with cub
A mother cheetah cleans her cub

I don’t think there is a better place on earth for a wildlife safari than in Tanzania.

The Serengeti will give you every African animal sighting you’ve ever dreamed of.

From leopards leaping up trees, to lions sleeping in trees, and ostriches mating, we’ve never had so many unique animal sightings in one trip as we’ve had in Tanzania.

Read more at our Tanzania Safari – The Ultimate Wildlife Experience

So there you have it. Our best wildlife encounters since our first travels in 2003. We’ve been to a lot of places and seen a lot of wildlife and these are our favourites.

We still want to see the gorillas and we’d love to see the Komodo Dragon. But having dreams is what keeps life exciting. We can’t wait to add more to the list!

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

18 thoughts on “21 Amazing Animal Encounters Around the World”

  1. I think seeing the big migration in the Serengeti was the best thing this year when it comes to animal encounters. Feeding hyenas in Ethiopia was amazing as well. Great list guys!

    Reply
    • That’s a neat experience to feed hyenas in Ethiopia. I remember a lot of them around our camp at night when we were cycling through the country.

      Reply
  2. So nice to see you featuring so many ethical animal encounters where you go to the animals in their wild habitats! Also, I am so envious that you’ve seen all these wonderful creatures 🙂

    Jane M

    Reply
  3. Seriously where are the , Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and the lowland Gorillas in DRC , wher are the Chimps ad Golden monkeys
    The Orangutans in Borneo in Semenggoh and Sepilok are very tourist orientated for a more natural experience see the Orangutans and Tigers in Sumatra.

    Reply
  4. How you missed out on any of the primate experiences in eastern Africa? In Uganda and Rwanda there are Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Golden Monkeys.. These are some of the most amazing wildlife encounters not to miss out on, in addition to the famous Big Five!

    Reply
  5. Love the beautiful animal videos and images. Have you ever visited Northeast India ? Visit Northeast India for its beautiful forest, Flora & Fauna.

    Reply
  6. Being a biologist (although I don’t work as one anymore) the wildlife and the animals of this world naturally enchant me. I have been swimming with dolphins, in the Atlantic by the Azores, which was a magical experience. I’d love to meet the Beluga whales the way you did.

    A destination I plan to go to in the near future is Borneo. I have a dream about visiting a rainforest, with all its overflow of life in so many different forms. An encounter with orangutangs would be a memory for life, and hopefully it can in some way mean a contribution to the awareness of the threats against them.

    Personally, I have an issue concerning how to meet animals in their own habitat without contributing to the deterioration of that habitat. Do you reserach in any way before you go on a trip on this issue? Visiting animals in the wild is in some ways a double-edged sword, you may draw attention to the situation of the animals, but at the same time you may be part of the intrusion and the negative effects of wildlife tourism. What are your thoughts on this?

    Now I will explore your site further, so many exciting stories shared here 🙂

    Reply
  7. Great photos. You have seen most of the best of the world’s Yes. The mountain gorillas of Rwanda/Zaire/Uganda are a must see. You also need to get to Madagascar to see the lemurs. Not sure if you have been up, close and personal with the tigers of India but that is also a great experience.

    Reply
  8. We just returned from a dive trip in and around Komodo National Park and got to go ashore for a morning to see the Komodo Dragons. My bucket list looks a lot like yours, but included the Komodo Dragon, so it was great to get to see them.

    And Sara – if you Google “best time for whale sharks in Mexico,” you’ll get a ton of results. It looks like May-Sep is the season, with July and August being the best.

    Reply
  9. Literally EVER single one of these is going on my bucket list! #1 is to swim with whale sharks – we’re getting Married in Mexico in May… do you guys know what their season is and can you recommend a great tour operator?

    Reply