5 Amazing Wildlife Experiences
I’m as passionate about wildlife as I am about travel and cake!
On all of our travelling adventures we’ve seen and searched out some incredible wildlife experiences and I thought I’d share five of them here with you today.
These wildlife spectacles have made my heart soar: nature is truly amazing!
1. Wild Tigers in India
How can a bright orange big cat be so stealthy?
When I saw them emerge from the dry grass of Bandhavghar National Park, Madhya Pradesh it was like a dream: they really are perfectly hidden with their black stripes and orange fur.
My first sighting of a tiger was in Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan. We were on the back of a canter (like a limo jeep!) with a bunch of other tourists.
It was amazing to see the wild cat but when we saw them a month or so later in Bandhavghar NP the sightings were so much better, these are the tiger moments that will stay with me forever.
There are few greater feelings than seeing a wild tiger, it really takes your breath away!
The thought that these magnificent creatures are so endangered is devastating.
How we did it.
We visited India as independent travellers in 2008.
To reach Bandhavghar NP we took an overnight train from Kolkata to Katni then bartered for a taxi to take us the two and a half hour drive to Tala, where the accommodation for the park is.
I can’t remember where we stayed, it would have been one of the cheaper resorts (booking it in advance on the web) and we arranged our safaris into the park through it.
We did three tours in all (blowing our backpacking budget!) in an open jeep with a guide and a driver, and saw tigers on all three.
Wrap up warm, those early morning safaris can be chilly!
2. Grizzly Bears in Canada
Mr Vagabond Baker – Chris – is a little bit obsessed with grizzly bears and to celebrate his 30th birthday we took a two-week holiday to British Columbia, Canada to see these awesome animals in the wild.
We loved it so much we went back two years later!
Our first visit was in springtime, and we saw the bears freshly out from hibernation: females with teenage cubs in the lush long grass, it was very beautiful. (alas those pictures were on film and I don’t have scans of them.)
To reach the bears we had done a bear watching tour from Telegraph Cove on the north-east side of Vancouver Island with Tiderip Grizzly Bear Tours. The trip had taken us by boat back to the mainland and up the quiet Knight Inlet with excellent guides.
A couple of autumns later we flew back to BC and booked on their fall trip to see the bears making the most of the salmon run.
The cubs are unbelievably cute and they watch their mothers with rapt attention, learning how to be a bear.
When we were able to get closer to the river we could see the salmon swarming under the surface, there was more fish than there was water, it was quite something.
It’s just one of the most incredible things I’ve seen and I’d totally love to do it all over again!
How we did it.
We flew to Vancouver and hired a car. At Telegraph Cove we’d booked accommodation in one of the gorgeous vintage houses.
Telegraph Cove is a picture-perfect preserved harbour village that is now a cute resort.
The grizzly bear watching trips had been booked in advance on-line.
3. Sea Eagles in Scotland
These huge eagles are awesome to see, with their two and a half metre wingspan and hefty bill.
We took a boat trip one spring from Portree on the Isle of Skye to see the White Tailed Sea Eagles and it has to be the most incredible wildlife experience I’ve had in the UK.
It was a still warm April morning, and the skipper of the Brigadoon boat warned that eagles may not fly with so little wind, it would require too much effort.
However, we spotted two on the cliff edge not far out from the town and he flung a dead fish high into the air catching the attention of the birds.
One spread its vast wings and swooped off the ledge, this big bird tumbled down nearer and nearer to the boat before finally plunging down and plucking the limp fish out of the water right in front of our eyes.
With a couple of heavy wing beats the eagle lifted up and flew off with its prize.
I realised I’d been holding my breath the whole time, it was astounding!
How we did it.
Skye had a great weather forecast so we drove our camper van across the Skye bridge and camped for a week. We simply turned up and the harbour in Portree and booked on the next wildlife spotting boat trip on the Brigadoon! They run four trips a day.
4. Gibbons in Thailand and Vietnam
I had the absolute pleasure of hearing this both in Thailand and Vietnam.
In Vietnam it was in the Cat Tien National Park. A little group of four of us had risen super early and met our guide who’d walked us by torchlight to a clearing in the jungle.
From his pack he began to unwind hammocks which he then strung up from the trees. We lay in the darkness and waited.
Gibbons are usually only vocal for a few minutes every day as they wake up. Just after 6am they began: hoooooooooeeeeeeooooo.
It was absolutely incredible. All around us the jungle sang with this magical sound, described by Chris as a bit like tuning in an old wireless radio!
The gibbons fell silent after about ten minutes and we headed into the jungle to see if we could spot them. We got a fleeing glimpse as they swung through the canopy.
We had a second opportunity in Thailand, in the Khao Yai National Park.
Here we did a tour with a guide into the jungle and saw the gibbons acrobatics much clearer, it was joy to see. Not only that, we also spotted a Sun Bear, it was far away but through our guide Mr Nine’s scope we could see it picking some kind of foodstuff off a tree! A rare sighting by all accounts!
Both experiences were really magical.
How we did it.
For Cat Tien NP in Vietnam we caught a bus from the Mien Dong Bus Station in HCMC direct to the park having booked our accommodation at Green Hope Lodge online in advance. The dawn gibbon listening tour was booked directly at the Visitor Office within the park.
You can read more about it here Is That A Crocodile? Cat Tien National Park (opens in a new window/tab).
For Khao Yai NP in Thailand we took the train from Bangkok to Pak Chong (it takes a couple of hours) and got a pick up from our booked accommodation at Greenleaf Guest House. We booked the guided tour when we arrived, although we did experience a little aggravation.
You can read more about it here We Saw A Bear! Khao Yai National Park (opens in a new window/tab).
5. Whales in Australia
The first whales I saw were in Canada: grey whales off Vancouver Island. That first whale breached right in front of the boat!
When I think of whales though, I think of Australia: we saw many whales on our road trip around Australia in 2008.
From Exmouth in Western Australia we saw three humpback whales on a sunset whale watching cruise, which was a dreamily special moment.
The sun was setting over the water and the whales were splashing and tail slapping in the foreground while we sipped beer. This was definitely the more glamorous side of wildlife watching!
Further around the coast (near Albany) we experienced southern right whales: mothers with their young in the shallows of secluded bays. One whale woke us in the night, ‘breathing’ just metres from our tent!
Along the Nullarbor we saw more southern right whales in the crystal clear waters below the limestone cliffs of the plateau, again mothers and calves using the ‘safe’ waters as a nursing area.
Every view a memorable experience!
How we did it.
We drove around the southern half of Australia hugging the coast! We stopped at most National Parks we came to and many of them are visited by whales in the spring (June to November).
Pin it for later:
Try these posts:
Cape Range National Park: Snorkelicious Australia and I haven’t even mentioned swimming with turtles and snorkelling the Ningaloo reef! Now that magical!
Shark Bay Stromatolites and Dolphins or that time Chris fed a wild dolphin in Western Australia!
The Kinabatangan River Orang-utans and Proboscis Monkeys in Borneo (I really need to write another list!)
Midsummer in Shetland, diary for week 2 The extraordinary wildlife of Unst, Shetland!
We Saw A Bear! Khao Yai National Park Gibbons, bears and a beautiful moth in Thailand.
Looking for the Irrawaddy Dolphin Cruising along the Mekong River in Cambodia searching for one of the world’s rarest dolphins.
What is your most memorable wildlife experience?
By Rachel A Davis. The majority of images in the post were taken by CT Hodgson