Today is World Wildlife Day, so we’ve decided to share with you some of our best wildlife encounters from our travels around the world.
Tracking gorillas in Uganda
I’ll never forget the time I sat just a few metres away from a sleeping silverback gorilla, snoring loudly, or the two baby gorillas playing on a log beside him – they’re tufts of furry hair sticking out the tops of their heads. It was an eight-hour drive to get there, plus a tough two-hour trek (I was lucky, some people have to hike for six and still don’t find them) up a steep mountain and into the Impenetrable Forest, but that time spent watching these wild cousins of ours was totally worth it.
The Big Five Safari in Uganda
Of course Uganda’s wildlife encounters don’t only stop at gorillas, it’s also home to 10 National Parks filled with herds of shy zebra, magnificent elephants, lazy lions basking in the sun and cheeky warthogs running through the savannah with their tails stuck straight up in the air. I have been held captive in a tent surrounded by munching hippos, watched as a family of elephants held each others tails as they crossed the road, been chased by a troop of baboons and got up close and personal with an impala. The only one of the Big Five I unfortunately didn’t get to see while there was the elusive spotted leopard.
Swimming with dolphins in Florida
It had been my dream to swim with dolphins ever since I was little and so for my 27th birthday my family offered to buy me a dolphin swimming experience. As an adult though, I was completely aware of the issues with wildlife water parks and aquariums, so I spent a long time searching for the right place. Since I was already in Florida (prime dolphin country), I settled on a place in the Florida Keys where the dolphins lived in part of a natural lagoon, were free to come and go as they pleased and had the choice of whether they wanted to interact with a particular human or not. Luckily the two dolphins I was swimming with – Leo and Alfonso were happy to let me swim with them and for me to ‘be their toy for the day’ as one of the trainers put it.
Snorkelling in the Philippines
I have to say that snorkelling in the Philippines was definitely one of the major highlights of any trip I’ve had. I’ve since snorkelled in the Caribbean, Thailand and even Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but nowhere matched the Philippines for its colourful coral gardens, iridescent parrot fish, menacing looking barracudas and elegant black and white angel fish. Down there you truly feel as if you’ve entered another world and I remember floating for hours mesmerised by it, only to look up above the waves and realise the beach or the boat was a long way off.
Exploring Peninsula Valdes in Argentina
Located way down south in the wilds of Patagonia, I visited Peninsula Valdes oon assignment for Time Out, researching and writing part of their guide to Argentina. Upon first inspection it was a barren piece of land with no trees or greenery, but after exploring long enough I saw a whole host of creatures from shy guanaco (like alpacas) blinking into the sun, to elephant seals lying like fat sausages sizzling on the beach and sly orcas surfing the waves in search for a lost sea lion pup or two.