Nothing feeds ideas for a bucket list than animal encounters that leave you wanting more. Whether you’re a solo, family, or baby boomer traveler; animal encounters provide a totally unique experience that fuels your sense of adventure and scratches your itch for travel at the same time. From swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean to sledding with Iditarod dogs of Alaska, here are the best animal encounters with world travelers in mind.
Swim with the Dolphins
You can’t beat the feeling of diving in exotic waters with a warm welcome by friendly wildlife. Bottlenose dolphins abound in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. Take a short scenic boat ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres to swim with the dolphins while enjoying views of the island for 6-hours of fun. Shorter excursions are also available in areas like in Riviera Maya for a royal swim dolphin encounter lasting 3 fun-filled hours.
Not only will you walk away with new memories and fierce new dolphin playing skills to last a lifetime; a professional photographer can also capture all the memories you could hope for. Just think about all the stories your friends and family will have about trying to hitch a ride with a dolphin while a professional is right there to capture it for you.
Get Wild on a Safari
If you’re craving adventure experiences to get your adrenaline pumping, nothing compares to seeing African safari animals out in the wild. Your native animal experiences range from seeing rhinos to lions to hippos (oh, my!) from the comfort of an off-roading Jeep. Skilled guides are in the know where your favorite wildlife likes to sleep and play.
Africa isn’t the only exotic locale for a safari vacation. You can also find wildlife adventures in areas like Singapore. Join a uniquely thrilling night safari complete with dinner in the world’s first open-concept nocturnal zoo. Guests take a tram from the zoo’s replica Himalayas into the heart of the Sahara to get a taste of Africa’s diverse geographic regions from the savannah and foothills. But travelers craving the Caribbean aren’t left out of the safari scene. Just hop on a jeep safari in Curacao and head to Christoffel National Park with a look at the Flamingo Sanctuary along the way. It’s tropical wildlife at its best.
Watch Eagles Soar in Alaska
If you’ve ever managed to see a bald eagle up close, you’ll know these majestic birds look otherworldly and larger than life. But there are more places to see them than local wildlife centers. Head to the deep wilderness of Alaska and embark on a totally unique Totems and Eagles Tour. A visit to Saxman Totem Village takes visitors to explore 29 authentic items carved by Tlingit and Haida natives. You’ll also stop by an oversized Sitka spruce tree topped with an awe-inspired eagle’s nest. During your tour, make sure to keep an eye out for native wildlife and eagles as you explore the area.
For something a little more adventurous than totem poles and eagles, combine a heart-pumping raft trip through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Haines, Alaska. While bald eagles might steal the show, there’s still a plethora of other sights to soak up including mountainside glaciers, moose, bear, and trumpeter swans.
Monkey Around in Costa Rica
Blend the comfort of a jungle river cruise with the adventure of a rainforest walk in Costa Rica. After walking a mile through Carara Adventure Park and Reserve, you’ll hop on a riverboat down the Tarcoles River. The region is known for its large population of oversized American Crocodiles with plenty of chances to see aquatic species, scarlet macaws, and of course, monkeys.
Beach lovers can blend their own desire to indulge in sandy beaches and see local monkeys on a monkey-inspired tour in Barbados. Take a scenic drive through the Eastern coastline and get a quick history lesson before heading to Welchman Hall Gully. Get your cameras ready to snap action shots of mischievous green tail monkeys up close and playing. Afterwards, a stop at the infamous Harrison’s Cave transports guests on a spectacular tram tour through lighted caverns and winding tunnels.
Go Whale Watching
Alaska’s diverse wildlife population can perhaps best be seen from a sleek 26-foot catamaran tour with a warm and cozy cabin to experience whale watching at its best. Travelers glide through narrow passages and bays with a chance to spot porpoises, sea otters, over 280 species of birds, and of course humpback and gray whales.
Fortunately, there are other fabulous and tropical whale watching tours for seasonal travelers. From mid-December to April, whale watchers keep diligent watch in Maui for playful 50 foot, 40-ton giants playing in the sea. While you watch for whales, the tour offers up island-style “pupus” appetizers, beer, wine, and lemonade for a satisfying day on the water.
Embark on a Sea Lion Adventure
Dolphins aren’t the only sea creatures that enjoy playing with visitors. Swimming with seal lions is a highly engaging and hilarious encounter where you can actually meet and interact with these playful new friends. Start your journey in Cozumel for a Sea Lion Discovery adventure. And for curious kids and kids at heart on your trip, you’ll also learn about all things sea lions from their diet to personality. Just don’t be surprised if these sea lions steal a kiss before you go. You can also reach out and touch the sea lions in St. Thomas with plenty of blubbery hugs, kisses, and photo ops. Next up, watch sea life in their natural setting from an undersea observatory. You can even feed nectar to rainbow lorikeets, colorful parrots, on this interactive tour.
Whether you want to go Canadian whale watching or see the sea lions (or both!), wildlife is waiting for you in Vancouver. A whale watching tour in Canada takes you out on Steveston Harbor for a chance to see playful sea lions, pods of orcas and humpbacks, bald eagles, and more. Depending on the season, you’ll see varied wildlife, so make a traveler’s promise to come back for more.
Get Enchanted by the Sea Turtles
Named after Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, Liliuokalani Gardens features a 30-acre park with rock gardens, Japanese stone lanterns, a teahouse, and stunning mountain views along the Hamakua Coast. A tour to a popular surfing spot reveals seasonal whales splashing, along with cascading waterfalls and a chance to see protected green sea turtles. If you can tear yourself away from all the glorious nature, take some shots of the oversized banyan tree with a backdrop of misty rainbows in the morning dew.
You can also combine the luxury of a tropical tour in Barbados with a decadent lunch on a 60-foot catamaran 5-hour excursion. Cocktails, a buffet lunch, and calm waters await on a snorkeling adventure on Barbados’ west coast. But it’s not just about the food. Stop by a lively turtle site and dive right in to swim with the turtles while the crew feeds them. You’ll also see a shallow shipwreck, tropical fish, and corals before making your way back to shore.
Race a Dog Sled
Alaska often ranks on travelers’ bucket lists for its unique diversity and wildlife adventure. Where else can you go whale watching before taking to the skies on a helicopter, and then finally embarking on a dogsled tour than in Alaska? That’s a tall order for any destination, but Alaska delivers. Get a glimpse of glacier-carved mountains on a helicopter ride to Herbert Glacier where some 80 huskies greet guests. After some instruction and a little practice from the mushing team, travelers can mush the sleds themselves on a loop as the dogs eagerly lead the way.
There’s really no need to tame your inner beast or insatiable love of travel and adventure when it comes to animal encounters. Put them all on your bucket list and enjoy checking them all off as you travel your way around the world. What animal encounter is first on your bucket list to see?