Amazing Animal Encounters You Need to Experience!

I don’t know about you, but when I’m travelling I’m always on the search for some amazing animal encounters … outside of a traditional zoo or aquarium (which I also love by the way!).

This post is all about the absolute best animal experiences I’ve had the great fortune to find.  My hope is that you get inspired to go visit these amazing places on your travels.

Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue tops my list for amazing animal encounters I have had the great fortune of experiencing.  In fact, I can’t wait to return and take part in even more of their offerings or even volunteer.

Located in Tampa, Florida, USA, Big Cat Rescue (BCR) is one of the world’s largest animal sanctuaries dedicated to abused and abandoned big cats.  It’s home to over 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars, etc.  Most of these beautiful creatures were abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts.

A big part of BCR’s mandate is working to end abuse, private possession and trade in exotic cats through legislation and education.  Check out their website for many free or paid ways you can help!

There’s something for everyone at BCR as they offer a wide range of tours including day, night, feeding, and photography tours.  It’s sure to keep you coming back for more!

Seal Bay

Seal Bay is located on the southern shore of Kangaroo Island in Australia.  If you and unfamiliar with Kangaroo Island, check out this blog post about the awesome tour I did there.

At Seal Bay, visitors are able to get up close and personal with a colony of about 1,000 Australian sea lions, about 5% of the world’s total for these rare creatures.  There are no cages or enclosures, you simply follow your tour-guide down onto the beach where you’ll have an amazing vantage point to watch the pups playing, bulls fighting, and mothers caring for their young.

Stay close to the group, and heed your guide’s warnings.  Sea lions are much faster than they appear, and would have no trouble catching you if they thought you were posing a threat.

Koala Park Sanctuary

Koala Park Sanctuary is located in West Pennant Hills, Sydney, Australia.  It’s known for it’s collection of native wildlife and intimate visitor experiences.  You’ll have the opportunity to pose with koalas, feed kangaroos, and watch demonstrations of traditional sheep-sheering and boomerang throwing.

Koala Park Sanctuary is a great place to learn about koalas, little penguins, dingos, emus, kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, and much more.

When we visited Koala Park Sanctuary a few years back it was a truly magical place!  I’ve heard some unfortunate news recently that they’re having some problems, but I’m hopeful they can right the ship and get back to providing the amazing animal encounters they were known for!

Mixon Fruit Farms

Mixon Fruit Farms is a 350 acre citrus fruit farm located in Bradenton, Florida, USA (just outside of Tampa).

Wait!

What’s a fruit farm doing in an article about amazing animal encounters??

Well, it turns out that when an employee found his passion in helping orphaned and injured birds, mammals and reptiles, a wildlife reserve was born.  After touring the fruit farm, visitors are invited to continue on to experience their Wildlife Care and Education Center.  Here you’ll have the opportunity to see their rehabilitation activities up close, and even meet some of the residents!  The goal of the center is to release back into the wild wherever possible, or find a permanent rescue home.

Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre

Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre is located in Kingscote on Kangaroo Island in Australia.  It’s home to a colony of little penguins, the smallest of the world’s penguin species.  These birds are also sometimes referred to as fairy penguins or blue penguins.

In Kingscote, the little penguins do not come ashore in large groups as they do in other locations.  Instead they appear in smaller groups over a longer period of time due to the protection provides by having a long, shallow, rocky shore.

the Penguin Centre offers night tours allowing visitors to view little penguins in their habitats.  It’s important to note that penguin eyes are very sensitive to light.  As a result, there are no standard flashlights and no flash photography allowed.  Guides will lead their tour group with special red torches, which provides a softer light that doesn’t harm the penguins.  The lights are bright enough to allow you to get up close to the birds and provide some great pictures and video opportunities.

It’s my understanding that the little penguin colony at this location has suffered recently due to an increase in New Zealand fur seals in the area.  Unfortunately tours have been put on hold while efforts are made to restore the size of the penguin colony.

La Jolla Children’s Pool

The Children’s Pool in La Jolla, just north of San Diego, California, USA was an area designated for children to swim, complete with a seawall to protect the shore from oncoming waves.  It turns out that this also created the ideal location for local harbor seals and sea lions to bathe, bask in the sunlight, and even give birth to pups.  There is now an ongoing debate whether the area is best suited for preserving the marine wildlife or for swimming.

Currently, swimmers are allowed on the beach, but encouraged not to enter the water for heath and safety concerns.  Though the seals have become accustomed to the presence of people, it’s best to remain on-guard as they can be aggressive and unpredictable.

There’s a great vantage point to enjoy the seal colony from above the beach and the stairs leading down.  In my opinion, the best place is to venture out along the seawall.  From here you have a unique view and can get quite close to the seals, while being perfectly safe.  The seawall also provides some pretty amazing coastal and ocean views!

Kennett River

Kennett River is located between Lorne and Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.  Keep your eyes open for signs to turn off the main road, then wind your way along Grey River Rd into the dense Otway Rainforest.

Koalas spend most of their time sleeping so evenings are the best time to see them.  It’s also a great idea to bring binoculars along with you to aid in spotting the koalas.

Finding the koalas is simple, though it seems quite difficult at first.  Drive about 1-2 kilometres up Grey River Rd, then park your car and start walking.  You’ll begin to see the koalas (and possibly even hear them!) popping up among the trees.  Once you begin to see them, you’ll start seeing them everywhere!

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef stretches over 3000km (1800 miles) along the east shore of Australia.  It’s comprised of over 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of tropical islands, as well as being home to hundreds of species of coral, sponges, mollusks, rays, dolphins, over 1500 species of tropical fish, more than 200 types of birds, around 20 types of reptiles including sea turtles and giant clams over 120 years old.

Most diving or snorkeling tours will include a marine biologist to guide your group.  I highly recommend you follow them around and learn from them.  They’ll point out some of the great underwater wights that you might otherwise miss.  You are not allowed to touch any of the coral, but occasionally your guide will bring over something that is safe to touch like a sea cucumber!

There are many types of tours offered by a host of tour operators, just make sure you select a reputable one.  We used Poseidon Outer Reef Cruises out of Port Douglas, and it was an incredible experience!  They have access to 30 exclusive reef sites at the Agincourt ribbon reefs and Escape Reef.  Each day they select 3 dive sites for your to enjoy.  There’s not baiting the water with fish food on these tours.  Partly for your safety (it’s the open ocean so who knows what will show up), and partly because they don’t need to.  The natural beauty of the reef and sea-life that lives there makes this a must on any list of amazing animal encounters.

Have you been to any of these amazing animal encounters?

Are there others you have had the pleasure of experiencing that I should check out?

I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

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Be sure to comment below and let me know what amazing animal encounters you love that i should add to my list!

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Resources

Here is a list of the resources mentioned in this post:

Big Cat Rescue – Located in Tampa, Florida, USA, Big Cat Rescue (BCR) is one of the world’s largest animal sanctuaries dedicated to abused and abandoned big cats.

Seal Bay – Located on the southern shore of Kangaroo Island in Australia, visitors are able to get up close and personal with a colony of about 1,000 Australian sea lions.

Koala Park Sanctuary – Located in West Pennant Hills, Sydney, Australia, it’s known for it’s collection of native wildlife and intimate visitor experiences.

Mixon Fruit Farms – A 350 acre citrus fruit farm located in Bradenton, Florida, USA (just outside of Tampa), and home to wildlife reserve.

Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre – Located in Kingscote on Kangaroo Island in Australia, it’s home to a colony of little penguins.

La Jolla Children’s Pool – Located in La Jolla, just north of San Diego, California, USA has become an ideal location for local harbor seals and sea lions to bathe, bask in the sunlight, and even give birth to pups.

Kennett River – Located between Lorne and Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, it’s an amazing place to spot koalas in the wild.

Great Barrier Reef – Stretches over 3000km (1800 miles) along the east shore of Australia.  It’s comprised of over 3000 individual reef systems and hundreds of tropical islands, as well as being home to hundreds of species of coral, sponges, mollusks, rays, dolphins,

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