9 Amazing animal experiences from around the world!

9 Amazing animal experiences from around the world!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. In this post I share some of the most memorable – and unusual – animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe. What has been your most exciting wildlife experience on your travels?

All the encounters in these posts were with wild animals, apart from the horses which were domesticated and well cared-for.

Indri in Madagascar

A trip to the island of Madagascar, lying off the coast of southeast Africa, can only mean one thing: lemurs. And the largest of these is the indri (see cover photo above).

Tree-dwelling primates, the indri live in large family groups in the treetops, jumping sideways from tree to tree on their hind legs. They are territorial, and one family will rule a specific area of the forest, where their haunting cries can be heard for miles around. A good tracker will know the local families and be able to help you find the nearest group, although it will still mean a scramble across the hillsides which is all part of the fun! Dense forest is prime indri habitat, and standing on the forest floor looking up at these creatures in the trees above you is an unforgettable experience.

Top tip: use your phone to record a short snatch of the indri’s cries. Play it back and hear them answer you!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Spinner dolphins in the Maldives

One of the highlights of cruising the Maldives is the sight of spinner dolphins, which launch themselves out of the water and pirouette gracefully before belly-flopping back in. Look out for them as you sail between islands, and then sit out on deck and admire their athleticism!

Top tip: Between bobbing boats and energetic dolphins, it’s almost impossible to get a decent photo of a spinner dolphin, so don’t try. You might manage a short video, but otherwise just sit back and enjoy the spectacle!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Monkeys in India

If you’re a fan of monkeys, you really can’t miss them in the subcontinent. Big or small, there is a huge mixture of monkey species in India, and they are everywhere. And sometimes that can present a challenge!

Indian monkeys seem to be divided into the cute and the not-so-cute. Encounter a monkey in the countryside, and chances are he will be swinging from the trees, curious of you but content to just show off for the camera. Encounter a monkey in the city, and you’d better not put that camera down anywhere or the monkey will walk off with it! But either way, their antics are incredibly photogenic.

Top tip: Don’t get too close. Once the monkey starts to feel threatened, teeth will be bared and claws will be out. A monkey scratch will land you at the nearest clinic for a rabies jab, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. But monkeys will normally leave you alone if you give them a bit of space. And don’t wave food around…

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Komodo dragons in Indonesia

Now, I’ll be honest: komodo dragons aren’t the most dynamic of creatures. At least, not unless they are attacking, which is not a situation you want to find yourself in (and yes, the komodo dragon diet has been known to include humans). But their sheer size, toxicity and ferocity make them fascinating to see.

A trip to Komodo Island or its neighbour, Rinca, gives you the opportunity to view these creatures up close. A variety of trails of various lengths give you the chance to see them in their natural habitat, however many factors such as the time of day or year can make them hard to spot. But one place they can always be relied on to visit is the ranger station, where the wild komodos wait around for scraps of food. It may not be the wild sighting you were hoping for, but you are unlikely to leave without seeing them!

Top tip: Take a camera with a long lens. You can’t approach the komodos too closely: it’s incredibly dangerous, and your ranger guide won’t allow it anyway. To get a decent shot you will need to zoom!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Wild asses in Gujarat, India

The western Indian state of Gujarat is renowned for its wildlife, which includes the rare Asiatic lion. But one of its most striking inhabitants is much more peace-loving: the wild ass.

Living on the arid Little Rann of Kutch in the centre of the state, the asses – which look somewhere between a horse and a donkey – are under threat due to illegal salt-panning in this desert region. Protected by the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary (which is not just the largest wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat, but the whole of India), the asses live in herds on the plains, and make a striking silhouette against the blue desert sky.

Top tip: To visit the wild asses, you will need to take a jeep safari into the sanctuary. Crossing the plains by open-top vehicle is part of the fun! You won’t be able to get too close to the animals, so this is another one where a zoom lens is an advantage.

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Coatí at Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

A trip to Iguazu Falls, on the Brazil/Argentina border, summons up visions of thundering waterfalls and mists rising into the sub-tropical air. But the flora and fauna are also lush and mysterious here. Butterflies are everywhere, and toucans can be spotted in the trees; guinea pigs are also a common sighting. But you can’t miss the coatís.

The coati (or coatimundi) is a type of raccoon, and these cute creatures have overtaken the area around the falls, foraging through rubbish bins for food. Always check before you throw your trash in the can – there might be a sleeping coatí inside!

Top tip: Don’t feed them. Just don’t. And watch your bag, especially if there is food inside. But they are still incredibly cute!

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Icelandic horses in Iceland

Iceland is not particularly known for its animals, but its horses are special. Squatter and sturdier than their southern counterparts, there are two unique Icelandic horse gaits which experienced riders will enjoy trying out!

Horses can be found all over the island, and Icelandic horse treks are a popular activity for visitors. But you don’t have to be a rider to get up close; if you are lucky enough to see a horse close to the road, stop and feed it grass from the palm of your hand. Or better still, book a horse ride to explore this beautiful country the way it has been travelled for centuries.

Top tip: Keep foreign germs away from Icelandic horses. The breed is hardy, but the horses have had very little exposure to disease; as a result, it is not possible to import any other breed of horse into Iceland, and nor is it permitted to bring an Icelandic horse back once it has left the country.

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Proboscis monkeys in Borneo

OK, so I’ve already mentioned monkeys, but the proboscis monkeys of Borneo are something special. Found nowhere else but on this vast island, the proboscis monkeys tend to get overshadowed by their more famous cousin, the orangutan, but they shouldn’t be missed if you are visiting the area.

Proboscis monkeys are comical-looking creatures. The name comes from their abnormally large nose, which makes them look slightly like old men as they lounge about, whiling away the hours until it’s time to eat again. Red-faced and curious, one of the best places to see them is at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary near Sandakan in the far north of the island. The monkeys are subject to the same threats from deforestation as the orangutans, and the sanctuary helps support the local primate community by providing food, although the monkeys live wild. They are incredible sociable and will come to with a few feet of visitors – don’t touch them though!

Top tip: Combine a visit to the Labuk Bay sanctuary with your trip to see the orangutans at Sepilok Nature Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia. Another great place to see proboscis monkeys is Bandar Seri Bagawan in tiny Brunei, where you can take a morning or afternoon boat trip to check out the local population.

For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Tree climbing lions in Kenya

Have you ever seen a lion up a tree? Unless you’ve been to specific areas around the Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania borders, chances are you haven’t. But in this part of Africa, lions have adapted to climbing trees – and seem remarkably comfortable.

If you are in Kenya, head to Lake Nakuru National Park, which is the only park in the country where these lions can be found. But keep your fingers crossed: actually seeing the lions in a tree is still a relatively rare event. I got incredibly lucky when I visited, and sat for a good half-hour watching a lion climb a tree and settle down amongst its branches for a snooze. It was one of the most special wildlife experiences I have ever had.

Top tip: If a lion is spotted, chances are yours won’t be the only vehicle to make a beeline for it. If you can, try to hang around until after most of the vehicles have left. The lions will feel much less threatened, and much more inclined to pose for the cameras. And you will get better shots as well as a magical experience!

Have you had amazing wildlife experiences on your travels? Let me know in the comments!


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For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |For me, one of the most rewarding things about travel is the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife I could never see at home. Check out some of the most memorable - and unusual - animal experiences I have had on my journeys around the globe! | Amazing wildlife experiences | Amazing wildlife experience | Best wildlife experiences | Indri | Spinner dolphin | Proboscis monkey | Icelandic horse | Komodo dragon | Coati | Wild ass |

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Traditional dance around the world

Traditional dance around the world

One of the joys of travel is to experience the best of cultures the world over. Music and dancing is a huge part of my life at home, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience it in many styles across the globe, sometimes as a display for tourists, sometimes in its most authentic form. Here are my 12 favourite traditional dance experiences – what are yours?


 1. Kathakali dancers, Kerala, India

India’s Kathakali dancers hail from the southern state of Kerala, and I was lucky enough to see them perform in Kochi. In heavy makeup and elaborate costumes, the dancers perform complicated steps, hand gestures and eye movements to tell a story. All Kathakali dancers are male, with men dressing up in feminine costumes to portray the male characters.

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The all-male Kathakali dancers of Kerala, southern India

 


 2. Local dancers, Damaraland, Namibia

Sometimes traditional dance is a spectacle, sometimes it is interactive. On a night in the Damara region of Namibia, we were treated to a dance display by local teenagers, where old met new as dances were performed with a cheeky grin by young people in jeans and sweatshirts! I love to see modern life as well as traditional, and we had a fun evening as the kids dragged us all up to join the circle. And like teenagers the world over, phones were out and text messages were sent as they danced…

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Modern teenagers perform their traditional dances, Damaraland, Namibia


3. San Bushmen, Kalahari Desert, Botswana

The San Bushmen of the Kalahari have a proud tradition that goes back into the mists of time. The San culture is kept alive today by the tribespeople in the form of traditional displays, and if you head to this corner of Botswana you might be lucky enough to see them dance. Sitting around a fire, the women clap and sing while the men shuffle and stamp their way in a pattern that has been passed down for generations. Beneath a starry African sky, it’s an unforgettable experience.

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 4. Fire dancers, Bali, Indonesia

One of the most incredible traditional dance displays I have seen on my travels has to be the fire dancers of Bali. Leaping through the flames, the dancers kick up the embers in a spectacular feat of bravery. They rely on religious blessings to keep themselves safe from the flames – all I can say is it seems to work!

 


5. Khmer classical dance, Cambodia

The traditional dance of Cambodia has many similarities with that of its neighbour, Thailand. Colourful costumes, elaborate headdresses, and complex hand and foot movements make this intricate dance style a joy to watch. With every tilt of the head and jingle of the dancers’ bells, you are transported to another time and place.

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The intricate style of Cambodian dance is matched only by the beautiful costumes


6. Folk dancing, Almaty, Kazakhstan

In the heart of Kazakhstan’s biggest city, Almaty, lies Panfilov Park, and on a summer’s afternoon we came across an outdoor concert. Local women in brightly-coloured costumes danced and sang folk songs over a loudspeaker system, while children proudly showed off their heritage for friends and family with a series of traditional dances. With a large Russian population and a strong sense of national pride, it was a captivating way to spend time in this Central Asian city!

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Local children perform for the crowd in Almaty, Kazakhstan


7. Capoeira, Brazil

Capoeira is where dance meets martial arts. Whirling their legs and performing death-defying backflips, capoeira experts will take your breath away! I was lucky enough to catch a demonstration of this dramatic art form on a visit to Rio de Janeiro. It’s definitely one to just sit back and watch, unless you’re super-fit and very brave…


8. Tango, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina is synonymous with the tango. Argentine tango is a discipline all its own, and is easy to find on the streets of Buenos Aires: just head to the La Boca district to see couples dancing in doorways to the sound of live musicians. At night, head to a tango bar where you can have a lesson yourself before dinner and drinks as you watch the professionals at work. Just breathtaking.

 


9. Traditional dance, Flores, Indonesia

On the island of Flores, in eastern Indonesia, we visited a village one evening for a fantastic display of dancing. Everyone got involved, from the children to any adult who could still manage the odd step or two. In national dress, they acted out stories in the darkness of their village courtyard, before an athletic display as they jumped over crossed bamboo poles in an extreme version of the games we used to play as kids. Before the night was out, we were all up on our feet dancing along to the beat of the music.

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Local village dancing, Moni, Flores, Indonesia


10. Salsa dancing, Cuba

Salsa music is everywhere in Cuba; in fact, the country seems to operate to a permanent salsa beat. In the dance halls of Trinidad on the south coast, you can dance into the night to local bands. It’s not so hard; give it a go, perhaps with a mojito or two to loosen the inhibitions, then sit back and watch the serious dancers spin and gyrate on the dance floor. If you’re lucky, as I was, you will find a local to spin you around so you really get into the Cuban spirit…

 


11. Traditional dance, central highlands of Madagascar

On a dark evening in a remote corner of Madagascar, we were treated to a music and dance performance by local people. The drumming rang out around the enclosed room as we watched the performers, especially the man who had been forced into one of the female roles and looked extremely embarrassed about it! Afterwards, our group danced up a storm alongside the experts. The remoteness of the location and basic huts we were staying in added to the atmosphere on that memorable evening.

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Local dancers perform, Ambositra, central Madagascar


12. Morris dancers, England

The morris dancers of England are steeped in tradition, and can still be found at village fetes across the country in the summer months. By tradition, the dancers wear white shirts with colourful sashes or waistcoats and vibrantly decorated hats. Bells adorn the ankles, and handkerchiefs and sticks are waved and clapped as part of the dance. Performed in groups to traditional country music, this is a quintessentially English tradition!

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England’s traditional morris dancers. Photo: Pixabay creative commons

 


What are your favourite traditional dance moments from your own travels? What dance is your country famous for? Let me know in the comments!


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traditional dance pin

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Anakao, Madagascar: Zebu carts, speedboats, and paradise

Anakao, Madagascar: Zebu carts, speedboats, and paradise

Down in the southwest corner of Madagascar is a village by the name of Anakao. It’s not somewhere I had ever heard of, to be honest; but then again, not many towns in Madagascar hit the headlines outside the capital, Antananarivo. Anyway, Anakao is pretty hard to spot on a map even if you’re looking for it. Nestled away on a spit of land to the south of the city of Toliara (Tuléar), it is a world apart.

We set off for Anakao towards the end of an intense two weeks travelling overland from Tana towards the south. Our travels had involved magical days of exploration, and many wonderful but exhausting hours scrambling up and down hills in search of lemurs. We’d travelled in rickshaws in the town of Antsirabe and hiked the mountains and canyons of Isalo National Park. The lemur count was up to 15 species. Tired, happy, and kind of lemured-out (only kind of – it’s impossible to overdose on lemurs), we were ready for some R&R.

The journey to Anakao started early in the morning in Toliara, as we made our way to the jetty to catch the hotel speedboat which had been sent to collect us. Anakao is about an hour or so to the south of the city, but the adventure started well before we cast off. The tide was a little way out from the shore, and waiting to ferry us out from the jetty to the speedboat were… ox carts. Yes, ox carts; well, technically zebu carts, referring to the type of animals found in this part of the world. Four carts to be exact, waiting patiently on the mudflats, ready for us to board directly from the dock.

anakao madagascar

I’ve never been in an zebu cart before, difficult as that may be to believe. Clutching the backpack I was taking to Anakao, which contained several days’ worth of clothes and all my valuables, I scrambled down and into the cart with 3 other travellers. We set off across the mud, rocking and swaying as we went. The flaw in the plan, however, became apparent halfway to the boat when it became clear that one of our two zebu was really not that keen on completing the journey, and his colleague wasn’t much more enthusiastic. The remainder of our transfer took place in fits and starts, with much whipping of the animals which made me extremely uncomfortable. Not that the zebu seemed to be taking that much notice.

Eventually we did arrive at the speedboat, and made the even more perilous transfer from rocking cart to bobbing boat. And then we set off. Well, it was idyllic. Speeding down the coast, sitting cross-legged on the side of the boat with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, I remember speculating what I would be doing if I weren’t in Madagascar at that exact moment. It was a weekday morning, and I would be sitting at my desk in a busy office in the UK. I had to pinch myself. It’s not uncommon for me to step outside of myself occasionally when I travel and register just how incredibly lucky I am, and flying across the waves on that speedboat, watching the coast of Madagascar pass by, is one of those moments which will stick in my memory for a very long time to come.

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Speeding down the Madagascar coastline. Photo: Jo Chexal

Arriving in Anakao, we moored up in the shallows and jumped into the water to walk the last few metres to the shore. Our hotel consisted of a succession of small bungalows spread out along the beach, together with a bar and restaurant at one end before you reached the local village beyond. But this was not a 5 star resort by any means. The bungalows were, to my mind, perfect: each with their own verandah, they were simple wooden buildings, with double beds and mosquito nets and electricity which only worked for a few hours each evening when the generator was going. The bathroom had a sink, toilet and shower area, but there was no hot water. A large and small bucket served for bathing; in the subtropical climate (Anakao is just south of the Tropic of Capricorn) the cold water was still bearable for washing, so I didn’t need to make the trek to the main building for the small buckets of hot water on offer. After bathing in the sea, a cold rinse off was just fine.

And so we spend a couple of idyllic days on the beach. We were visited by a local youth drumming band one night, who put on an incredible performance around our open fire. We ate wonderful French food, heavy on the seafood and overseen by the French lady who owned the hotel. Madagascar was once a French colony and the French influences are everywhere, especially in the food; the menu changed every day and was delicious. In late afternoon, my friends and I quickly adopted a cocktail hour where we tried out the many cocktails on offer for such a small, remote hotel. There were even massages if you wanted them.

On one of the mornings we went whale-watching: humpback whales swim in the channel between Madagascar and Mozambique, and we watched them from our bobbing speedboat as they breached and dived. We visited the island of Nosy Ve, just off the Anakao coast, where we snorkelled on the coral reef and watched the rare red-tailed tropicbirds wheel overhead. And back in Anakao, we swam in the waters off the beach. One enduring memory I have is of swimming alone as a dugout boat came by, sails flying as it crossed between me and the shoreline. The occupants offered me a ride; quite how they thought I was going to get out of the water and over the side of the boat I’m really not sure. But it was a surreal African moment.

We made our way back up the coast two days later, heading back to Toliara to fly north back to the capital. Our zebu were waiting to transport us back to the city, and the spell was broken. But those two days really were spent in paradise.

anakao madagascar


In Anakao we stayed at the Hotel Safari Vezo, which I thoroughly recommend. My trip to Madagascar was organised with Explore! This is not a sponsored post.

 

 

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!