One of the great aspects of travel is being exposed to unique and exciting experiences, and few things are as thrilling or memorable as a wildlife encounter. Often, these encounters become the basis for the best — and most-told — travel stories years after a trip.
In this issue’s cover story, “Animal Planet” (page 16), we feature hands-on wildlife experiences, with a selection of volunteer opportunities all over the world that will get travelers closer to exotic animals than they could have ever imagined. These experiences — with pandas in China or leopards in Oman, for instance — might be a bit too intensive for the average traveler but, for true animal lovers or those looking for a one-of-a-kind adventure, this form of voluntourism can provide unique experiences that they will remember for years to come.
Recently, the subject of wildlife encounters has been of personal interest to me as I’ve been planning a trip for myself and my nine-year-old son. We’re traveling on a Holland America Line cruise to Alaska and have been having fun discussing the various animals we hope to see on our excursions. I’m hoping for whales, while my son is going to be scouring the woods for bears and moose. Whether we see our favorite animals or not, just knowing that this is a possibility has added another level of excitement to our travel plans. I can attest that building an animal experience into an itinerary can definitely add to the thrill of a trip — and can make you the hero for arranging such a unique opportunity.
If you are interested in some of our TAW editors’ favorite wildlife experiences, check out the Editors’ Blog at TravelAgeWest.com/EditorsBlog. There, you’ll read about camel riding in Egypt; capturing endangered antelope in South Africa; swimming with sharks in Palau; and more.