Natural history experiences abound, whether you’re counting butterflies in your backyard or tracking snow leopards in the Himalayas, watching wildlife can stir all kinds of emotions. Two juvenile gorillas playfully chasing each other and rolling in the undergrowth is bound to amuse; watching a lion or leopard stalk and hunt its prey will get the adrenaline pumping; snorkelling through a shoal of tropical fish can leave you serene; whilst watching a polar bear cub will make you go ‘Awww!’.
I like lists so here’s a list of my personal top five wildlife encounters and my top five wish-list encounters.
My top five wildlife experiences:
1. Mountain Gorillas: Spending an hour with a family of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Central Africa is without a doubt my greatest wildlife encounter. Later that day, when I’d left the gorillas I actually got blurry-eyed at the memory of the encounter.
2. Galapagos Islands: It really is like no other place I’ve been, the sheer abundance of wildlife both on land and underwater is astounding. Playful sea lion cubs, graceful rays, ancient tortoises and comical boobies all make for an amazing experience.
3. Antarctica Penguins: There is no greater backdrop than that of glaciers and icebergs to a multitude of penguins porpoising, sledging on their bellies and stealing stones from each other’s nests.
4. Cheetah hunting in the Masai Mara: I love going on Safari in Africa, it’s always a new experience and I’ve seen some great wildlife on the plains of East and Southern Africa but the top safari experience was watching 3 cheetahs stalk and hunt a waterbuck in the Masai Mara.
5. Costa Rica: With Costa Rica it’s not a single experience but a multitude of wildlife encounters with sloths, monkeys, frogs, toucans, and all kinds of other creatures. Watching wildlife in the jungle is often quite hard but this is where Costa Rica comes into its own.
My top five wish-list experiences:
1. Polar Bears: This large carnivore can be found across the Arctic from Spitsbergen to Canada.
2. Orangutans: “The man of the forest” is found in Borneo and Sumatra with its Einstein hair and Cro-Magnon arms.
3. Komodo Dragons: Another Indonesian creature that looks as though it belongs in a remake of Jurassic Park
4. Tigers: The largest member of the cat family best seen in Central India
5. Jaguars: I have been to many places where jaguars roam. I’ve seen pug marks and other traces but the great cat has, so far, eluded me.