Five Places You Can See Wild Animals in the Wild

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Married woman with kids and hectic life seeks wild animal for meaningful relationship and connection with nature.

As a kid I used to think I could talk to animals. Not in a Dr. Doolittle way, where I could decipher moos and clucks, but in an innocent “of course I can talk to the animals” kid-way. I spent every weekend, school holiday, and summer on my grandparents’ farm, so I was as familiar with Daisy the cow’s ornery moods as I was with Penny the hen’s laying habits and my grandfather’s tea-drinking schedule.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing I could talk to animals. I stopped really seeing animals too, and it suddenly makes me sad; I’ve lost my connection with nature. My cat’s just not cutting it—I want to see animals. Wild animals.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park—Mountain Gorillas

Photo source: Wikipedia

I just recently re-watched Gorillas in the Mist and was thinking how incredible it would be to see these gentle giants in their natural environment. Then I heard that the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) will name 2009 the “Year of The Gorilla,” as part of the UN’s decade of education for sustainable development. Then I thought, how incredible would it be to see gorillas in the year of the gorilla? I long to pay my respects to the gorillas of the Congo, particularly since the 2007 massacre of five critically endangered mountain gorillas there. But because that area is so volatile, I might have to make do with reading the BBC’s diaries of two gorilla rangers. Or I could go gorilla trekking in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a dense rainforest, World Heritage Site, and home to half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas.

Wolf Haven International—Wolves
Tenino, WA

Photo source: Wikipedia

Once considered the “ultimate predator” of the northern hemisphere, the wolf is now classified as endangered in much of its former range in the U.S. I could take my chances and plan a week in Yellowstone National Park in Montana in the hopes that I would encounter one of the almost two hundred wild wolves living there, but two million acres of land allows too big a chance that our paths won’t cross. Instead, I’m thinking of visiting Wolf Haven International, a sanctuary for captive-born wolves, and one of only a handful of wolf recovery pre-release facilities in the U.S. and Mexico, where critically endangered wolves are placed for breeding and conditioning prior to release. I can channel my inner wolfman by attending a “howl-in,” camp overnight (and hope for a full moon!), take a photography class, attend lectures, or a three-day wildlife handling course where I can get up close and observe wolves in their natural habitat.

Churchill—Polar Bears
Manitoba, Canada

Photo source: Natural Habitat Adventures

Scientists predict that, if current warming trends continue in the Arctic, two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could disappear by 2050. Noooo! I’ve always wanted to see a polar bear, and not just on a Coca Cola Holiday can. I found an amazing polar bear expedition with Natural Habitat Adventures; it offers a total immersion into the world of the polar bear and the Canadian Far North. Self-contained tundra vehicles take groups of fifteen into the icy wild to view polar bears as they hunt, play, and interact, just feet away from the vehicles. The tour also includes a helicopter ride to the bears’ denning area and the unique experience of seeing the northern boreal wilderness by dog sled. Apparently, the swirling colors of the aurora borealis are quite vivid here at nightfall.

Galapagos Islands—Sea Lions, Blue-Footed Boobies, Iguanas, and More!

Photo source: Explorers Corner

I’m not sure if it’s healthy to fancy a dead guy, but I’ve got a bit of a crush on Charles Darwin. Visiting the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador would be as much to see Darwin’s favorite finches at the Charles Darwin Research Institute as to get eye-to-eye with a comical blue-footed Booby! Explorer’s Corner offers what sounds like a trip of a lifetime. It’s an eleven-day kayaking and hiking trip of the Galapagos Islands that includes swimming with sea lions, spotting fur seals and Galapagos hawks, and hiking to the headlands of Punta Suarez, one of the archipelago’s most prolific wildlife habitats—think marine iguanas, mockingbirds, blue-footed and masked boobies, frigate birds, and the waved albatross.

Cape Cod—Whales

Photo source: Cape Cod

I want to feel the wind in my face, smell the sea air, and test out my whale-communication skills, as learned from Dory in Finding Nemo. There are many different whale-spotting locations—from British Columbia to New Zealand—where I can view these magnificent creatures migrating to cold waters for food and to warmer waters to birth. I want to see them in Moby Dick land—Cape Cod. Finback and humpback whales are regularly seen here from April to October, and scientists have discovered that the waters of Cape Cod Bay are also an important breeding ground for the extremely rare North Atlantic right whale. Whale-watching crews leave regularly from Plymouth, Barnstable, and Provincetown Harbors, and most guarantee a sighting. According to Cape Cod Plus, I might even be lucky enough to see whales breaching (leaping straight out of the water into the air), spyhopping (holding their heads high out of the water as if having a look around), or sounding (executing a dive). I’ve been told that sometimes a whale will slap the water with its flippers as if greeting the inferior humans staring at them eating.

Forget visiting family next time I travel. Forget zoos. Forget seeing the most incredible wildlife encounters caught on tape! I want to make eye contact with some of the world’s most incredible creatures. I want to reconnect with nature—and then go home to my grandmother’s farm and tell my old friends about them.


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