If you have a budding Gerald Durrell or David Attenborough in your family, seeking out encounters with animals is probably something you do on a regular basis. If you are looking to extend your wildlife encounter repertoire, holidays provide a great opportunity. Below are some of our family adventures where animals add to the excitement.
Camels - bad-tempered, smelly and not particularly friendly – yet somehow appealing – how do they do it? Maybe we are just impressed by how long these ‘ships of the desert’ can go without water or perhaps it is their unique shape or ‘girly’ long eyelashes. Whatever it is, one thing’s for sure: riding camels in the desert is lots of fun – and definitely something you don’t get to do at home. Wrap yourself in a Berber or Bedouin head scarf, hold on tight as your camel lurches to its feet and enjoy the ride.
African big game
The sheer variety and volume of animals in southern Africa’s famous national parks has long made them a magnet for those in search of guaranteed wildlife excitement. With everything from herbivorous mammal giants like elephants and rhinos, water dwellers like hippo and crocodile, to the carnivorous big cats and the antelope species they feed on, African safaris never disappoint. Aside from the star attractions, there is also added interest from smaller creatures such as dung beetles, a multitude of colourful bird species, leopard tortoise and antlions (one of Africa’s ‘little five’).
The biggest of the big cats, tigers have been feared and revered in equal measure through the ages. To see this formidable predator in the wild from an open-topped vehicle is an experience you will remember forever. Free to roam in India’s largest national parks, these beautiful animals display natural behaviour that you won’t see in any zoo. The parks are also home to a wide array of other species such as langur monkey, sloth bear, spotted deer, jungle cat and gaur (Indian bison), so even if the tigers are taking full advantage of their excellent camouflage, there’s plenty more to look out for.
Track tigers in:
India – Taj, Tigers and Palaces
Large, lumbering and mostly domesticated, the Asian elephant has long been an important source of muscle power and a focus for religious belief. Smaller than their African cousins, they are used for everything from logging, harvesting of crops, transport and ceremonial duties. On any trip to Asia you will see them and have the chance to ride them. Enjoy elephant-back safaris in Sri Lanka, Nepal or in Thailand where you can also see them bathing at a sanctuary.
Encounter elephants in:
Sri Lanka – Elephant Odyssey
Sri Lanka – Discover Sri Lanka
Nepal – Himalayan Discovery
Cambodia, Laos and Thailand – Magic of the Mekong
Thailand – River Kwai and Jungle Adventure
Who didn’t have a panda bear teddy as a child? The real thing is much bigger and just as cute and cuddly looking. Eating only bamboo, this large black and white mammal spends up to 16 hours feeding each day. So when you go to visit them at the famous Chengdu research centre, don’t be surprised if they are munching. And if they aren’t eating, they will probably be sleeping!
Rainforest, jungle – however you describe it, the great tropical forests of the world contain a wealth of wildlife treasures. The sound of the forest alone is enough to excite wildlife enthusiasts; calls from birds, monkeys, frogs and insects create an exotic soundtrack day and night. Birds, flowers and butterflies are jewels of extreme beauty, seemingly trying to out-do each other with bright colours in every possible shade. Explore jungle waterways by boat, trek along forest trails or view the rainforest canopy from the top on elevated hanging walkways.