Travel and wildlife go hand in hand...
Best Wildlife Experiences
19 June 2013
Are you a cat or dog person? How about an elephant or lion person? Or maybe you have a soft-spot for giraffes?
Whether you have a penchant for primates or a love of lions, a gap year abroad often involves encounters with a range of wildlife. Here are our favourites...
With approximately 700 mountain gorillas left on the planet, getting close to one of these incredible creatures in the wild and experiencing eye contact is quite unlike any other animal encounter.
Found in the lush mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo, tourists can trek in organised groups and spend time with these fascinating animals. There’s a hefty fee involved ($500-750 per person) but hey, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and your money goes towards a worthy conservation cause.
They say an elephant never forgets. And while this may be up for debate, it's almost certain that a traveller never forgets the time they spend with these intelligent mammals. One of the most cherished creatures in the world; it’s ironic that the elephant remains in danger of extinction due to ivory poaching and habitat loss.
Due to this threat, many gap year students are keen to take part in elephant volunteer projects abroad. Thailand and Nepal are favourite destinations and tourists can happily mix with Asian elephants, even opting to partake in bath time!
Known as ‘kings of the jungle’ and proudly listed at the forefront of the ‘Big 5’, lions are a must-see on any African adventure. Renowned for their courage, power and strength, they live and hunt in packs appropriately called prides.
Sadly, with a rising threat against the species, lion volunteer projects and breeding centres are becoming crucial in the battle against extinction.
A cheeky feature in many Asian and African towns, the wild monkey is a key component when it comes to wild animals abroad. For travellers in Thailand, Lopburi (2.5 hours north of Bangkok) is a top destination for monkey activity and the town is brimming with these little characters.
In Africa, travellers who wish to mingle with monkeys can visit a range of unenclosed, conservation parks such as Monkeyland in South Africa. Word of warning: monkeys have no inhibitions and are called 'cheeky' for good reason!
Matching elephants with their nice natures, giraffes are quirky, friendly and inquisitive. In fact, (much to the delight of passengers) an African safari often includes a gentle giraffe poking its head into the jeep.
As the tallest mammals on Earth, these beautiful animals roam the African savannah searching for food amongst the tree tops. Their fantastic height gives them an advantage against predators and they are able to scan the flat African landscape for miles.
As a traveller, nothing beats an African sunset accompanied by the distant outline of a giraffe.
By Hannah Walton