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!

Men of the Forest: the primates of Borneo

Men of the Forest: the primates of Borneo

I’m staring out the window of a 737 as we clear the coast of Borneo. Down below me is a sea of palm trees, one of the many palm oil plantations which have taken over the island in recent years, causing untold damage to the ecosystem. But from up here they are a beautiful sight, extending in pleasingly uniform rows across the landscape.

To be honest, I’m still a bit shellshocked to be here at all. It wasn’t part of the plan; having just come to the end of a fortnight’s tour around Indonesia, I had intended to make a three-day stopever in Kuala Lumpur on the way home. I love adding these city breaks to long haul trips. There is something incredibly frustrating about passing through a city without actually experiencing it, about being geographically in the same spot on the planet but seeing nothing more than an international airport. So I had a few days of exploring planned out.

But a few days earlier, on a boat around the Komodo Islands, my left calf muscle decided it had other plans, and tore for no reason whatsoever. Have you ever had the feeling that someone has kicked you in the leg, but there’s no-one there? Apparently it is a classic sign of a torn muscle; either way, through no fault of my own I suddenly couldn’t walk without extreme pain, and a city break was clearly out of the question, certainly if I wanted to do it properly.

In Bali, sitting poolside on my birthday with a strapped leg and feeling sorry for myself, I decided I needed to rethink. And so I ended up revisiting an earlier daydream: to go and see the orangutans of Borneo.

And so it was that, two days later, I had jumped (ok, hopped) onto a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan.

I don’t know what I was expecting – I hadn’t really had long enough to think about it. I knew I was still in Malaysia – the magical word “Sabah” was stamped next to the Malaysian entry stamp I’d received arriving in KL the night before – but I think I was expecting a village of mud huts instead of the modern town I found. Still, the airport was tiny and my taxi quickly headed out of the city, taking me and a 20-something volunteer called Flo (who had cadged a lift at the taxi rank) to our final destination: Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

If you are visiting the centre, there are really only a couple of options for accommodation, and since everything was cheap by European standards I treated myself to three nights the Sepilok Nature Resort, the nicest hotel in the area. Well, I mean, I had a sore leg and I booked it on my birthday. But for £45 a night it was spectacular: individual bungalows around a huge lagoon, with a great restaurant and bar prices that, whilst they were much higher than Indonesia where I had just come from, were certainly low enough to justify the odd cocktail of an evening.

orangutans of borneo

My bungalow in paradise, complete with hammock on the deck. You try getting in and out of a hammock with a dodgy leg.

orangutans of borneo

My bungalow, Sepilok Nature Resort

Arriving in early afternoon, I set straight out into the sticky tropical heat. Apart from the orangutans, there are two main draws in the Sepilok area. One is sun bears, based in a sanctuary close by, and the other is proboscis monkeys. So it was that I set off in a minibus for the half-hour drive to the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.

Well, I might have fallen in love a bit. Proboscis monkeys are only found on Borneo, and are the oddest looking creatures. They look something like alcoholic old men, with their huge red noses, but the ones at the sanctuary, habituated to humans and aware that the “no touching” rule keeps them safe, are curious and happy to come close and stare at you for as long as you stare at them. They are free to come and go from the sanctuary – there is no fence – but, with a source of free food twice a day, they’re not that stupid. I spent a wonderful hour gazing at them and taking photos from every conceivable angle.

(Disclaimer: I know I have moaned about monkeys in a previous post. This does not extend to the proboscis variety. It’s my rule and I can change it if I want to).

I mean, seriously… (By the way, I think the one on the right is staring at my bandaged leg. Either that or he really hates purple).

The next morning, however, was the big one: ORANGUTAN TIME. The sanctuary at Sepilok is large and, like Labuk Bay, open to the surrounding jungle. If you’ve watched documentaries about the centre (Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans being the most recent), you’ll know they take care of anything from very small babies, raising them to adulthood and independence. The smallest babies are kept behind closed doors, but the public are able to view the older children and teenagers as they play on their jungle gym, learning to climb and feed themselves whilst showing off for the tourists behind the glass windows of the viewing gallery.

orangutans of borneo

Teenage poser

But the big draw is the main feeding platform. Approached along a metal walkway (a somewhat longer walk than my limp was designed for), we encountered an orangutan before we even got to the platform, relaxing in a tree far above our heads. But the real viewing took place at a purpose-built area, with cables strung from the trees to guide the orangutans in if the smell of the bananas doesn’t do the trick. The feedings take place twice a day: a keeper places a heap of fruit on the platform and leaves the animals to help themselves. At first nothing happens, then an excited murmur moves through the watching humans as the first leaves rustle and the orangutans start to emerge, swinging their way along the cables to reach their free meal. They are oblivious to their audience and the clicking cameras as they munch their way through the food, occasionally taking a break to swing along the cables for the sheer enjoyment of it. Needless to say, I went to both the viewings permitted on my day ticket, and on both occasions saw three or four orangutans, before the macaques turned up to spoil the party and cash in on the free food. My recently restored love of monkeys took a serious nosedive again…

On my final day at Sepilok I was up early for a leisurely breakfast by the lagoon, before setting off to see the sun bears. Another severely endangered animal indigenous to Borneo, they are being beautifully rehabilitated in a purpose-built enclosure where they have plenty of room to explore. From a disappointing start when the bears didn’t seem inclined to come out of their overnight accommodation, my patience was rewarded with some superb sightings, and plenty of chance to get the photos I had hoped for.

All in all, my last-minute trip to Borneo was the ultimate adventure, seeing animals I never thought I’d see on an island I had dreamed of visiting for many years. Kuala Lumpur and I have some unfinished business to attend to, but you know what: if I am ever in Malaysia again, you can bet there will be a return visit to Borneo involved.


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!