20 of my favourite Animal encounters during a year of travel…

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Travelling has totally given me a different perspective of mother nature and the amazing animals in our world. The different ways i’ve come across or interacted with these animals has provided me with some of my favourite experiences over the last 365 days! Thats right…It’s been a whole year and these are just a few of the memories I have that will last forever…

Feeding Hippos in Bangkok, Thailand

On my second visit to Bangkok, I found myself at Bangkok Zoo. I’m not sure if this Zoo is promoted much or if it gets many tourists visiting but i’m so glad I went in.
I wandered around and spotted a man pushing a big cart of purple and green cabbages and all sorts of other veg up to an enclosure. When I poked my head over I wasn’t expecting two massive Hippos to be RIGHT there…about 1 metre away from my face. I watched as the man called them over. Both Hippos waddled over and placed their chins on the edge. Then their gigantic mouths opened up and the man began to hurl lots of cabbages inside! They looked so funny chewing and gathering lots of pink foam at the edges of their mouths. The man noticed me and beckoned me over. I stayed there and fed the hippos tons of veg for about half an hour and not another sole stopped by.
It was amazing! I know it was in a zoo and not the wild but I doubt id ever get that close to such ginormous creatures again. Just wonderful.

A Shark & Dingos on Fraser Island, Australia

I never went to Fraser Island thinking I would see wildlife and in the end that turned out to be the highlight of my trip there!
We were high up, looking out over Fraser Island and the ocean and our guide was telling us about all the different types of marine life that frequent the area….when suddenly we spotted a fin…”Shark!” someone yelled! I couldn’t beleive it! It was a 3 ft reef shark and it was fast but wow! We also spotted severeal Sting Rays after this as well.
We were loosing hope of seeing a Dingo by day two but when we jumped off our truck ready to board a boat, two pups were just sniffing around! Dingos are so cute, you think ” just a normal dog” but these guys have attacked with serious consequences before now so you have to keep your distance. They must have smelled food on board as they even tried to get on the boat! We were so happy & very lucky to have seen them in the wild!

Spotting Flying Lemurs in Langkawi, Malaysia

I went into the rainforest at dusk as its the best time to spot the elusive Flying Lemurs. It was extremely hot and as we hiked up and up and the sweat poured off me, I was beginning to wonder if it was all worth it….then I saw one! And Wow…they are a sight like nothing else! Before they fly you might be mistaken for thinking they were large squirrels who like to park themselves on the side of a tree but when they fly, skin comes out similar to bats, except they fly side ways and look square! It is the most bizarre sight. After the first one we knew what to look for and spotted a few, yelling out to each other. It was such a privilege to see them in the wild.

Pandas in Macau, China

I knew on my visit to mainland China that I wasn’t going to get chance to see the Pandas, so after some investigation I found out there was a place in Macau where two of them lived. So on a trip over from Hong Kong, I went in search of Pandas. On arrival at Asia’s version of ‘Vegas’ everyone tried to get me on the buses and shuttles to the casinos but eventually I found my bus out of town and was on my way to Coloane. I was extemly lucky when I arrived as it was feeding time and both Pandas were wide awake and cheeky! Once again, I found myself somewhere with amazing animals were I was almost the only person there!
They live inside the botanic gardens and had a massive enclosure each but also mixed sometimes. I think it only cost me about a $2 and it was lovely. They looked well cared for – Perfect Pandas!

The first time I met a Koala, Tasmania, Australia

What is it about Koalas that make you go all gushy and talk with a silly voice? I dont know the answer but that was me too…the first time I met a Koala up close. We went to Bonorong wildlife park and one of the keepers let me go into an enclosure – here I met Burt. Burt was on his Eucalyptus tree and wide awake. He looked almost regal, as he never slouched over like the others and looked immaculate. He let me stoke his back – his fur was so thick and soft. The keeper also took a picture for me…for FREE (un heard of in most places in OZ!) It was a lovely experience. And no…he didnt smell : )

The Holy Cows, In…Everywhere, India

You hear about how cows are ‘Holy’ and sacred creatures in India but its still a shock when youre lying on a beach and one comes over to try and steal your pineapple…just like that!
Apart from the centre of Delhi, I believe cows are able to rome India where ever they wish…and they do. I’ve seen them sunbathing, sleeping in the middle of streets and motorways, dressed for parades and ordorning painted horns. But dont get too close as they will use them! An unusual yet brilliant sight.

Swimming with a Blue Spotted Sting Ray on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

I went out to the outer reef on a catamaran to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. A fantastic experience that was except for the all in one stinger suit I had to wear! Oooo it did not look good!
Our first snorkel stop saw us moored by a beautiful tropical island in the middle of the ocean where we could snorkel in the shallow waters by the island in the hope of getting up close to some of the amazing marine life. I could not believe all the beautiful, colourful fish I saw and I kept jumping when I would turn my head and a big shoal of fish would just glide smoothly past me. However, I almost spat my snorkel out when right beneath me I saw a Blue Spotted Sting Ray! I came straight up to look and see if there was anyone else around to see it too but no, so although my heart was racing (as we were told on the boat that sting rays can fire out their sting on you – especially if you stand on one which I almost did!) So I took some photos of it and swan around it a little before it left. Just Wow!!!

100′s of Eagles soaring in the Skys of Kathmandu, Nepal

You cant visit Kathmandu without going to visit the Bodnath Stupa. The ‘All seeing Eyes’ of Kathmandu and it is so beautiful. It is set high up with a fantastic 360 degrees view over the city. I was standing by the edge taking photographs when something flew across my view. An Eagle. Then another and another…looking down there were literally 100′s of Eagles in the trees! An incredible sight.

Looking after Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I did a lot of research into which Elephant sanctuary I wanted to visit. By this point in my travels I’d come across a lot of Elephants working with tourists. Some were performing, some were painting, some were giving out blessings and a lot were being ridden with large baskets on their backs ( something I have done myself ) And I now know there weren’t exactly the nicest or kindest ways for ex logging elephants to live out their lives. I found two places that looked amazing. Both offering an experience to learn and look after elephants. One of then though was also home to 100′s of rescued dogs from the Bangkok floods. An amazing place i’m sure, however the experience of being bitten by a dog was still too raw then, so I chose the other place – Baan Chang Elephant Park.
I got to assist the Mahout with cleaning, feeding and bathing the elephants and rode them bare back – a kinder way, through the jungle. We had campfire meals and watched the sunset over the heard of 21 elephants. Going to sleep at night when the only sounds were crickets and elephants was an experience I will never forget. They are truly fascinating, intelligent creatures.

Seeing the elusive Irrawaddy river Dolphins, Cambodia & Laos

I was actually staying in the 4000 islands in Laos but as this is so close to the boarder of Cambodia we knew we may be in with a chance to spot the Irrawaddy River Dolphins. We crossed over to the shores of Cambodia and sat patiently hoping to see them. When they popped up we were so happy and snapped away hoping to get a shot. We think we saw two of them and as there is only about 80 left in the wild we were very grateful!

Meeting a Tasmanian Devil ( And realising they are real animals! ) Tasmania

I’d heard about Tasmanian Devils before but for some reason I thought they weren’t real and just existed in cartoon magazines! Turns out they are very real and some (although not enough) still live in the wild in Tasmania off the coast of Australia. Unfortunately, the only one i saw in the wild was road kill. Tasmanian Devils are carnivores and can smell road kill victims from far away. However this means whilst they are eating the road kill they tend to become victims themselves! I did however, get to meet them in a wildlife park and they are certainly characters! They run around a lot and also hide out in the dark and the reason they are called ‘Devils’ is the sound they make when they can smell food or are ready to attack. It sounds like a creepy ghostly like, growling noise – something like the Devil…apparently…

Swimming close to Turtles, El Nido & Coron, Philippines

Snorkelling in the crystal clear waters off stunning, untouched, tropical islands in the Philippines is one of the best experiences in my life.
Sailing the seas and living simply in beach huts, eating freshly caught food, watching the sun set and the stars come out and most of all witnessing the marine life…My favourite being the Turtles. I saw two and they were swimming just beneath us. It was hard to see them until they were pointed out by the crew as their shells tend to blend in with the rocks below. They glided along and can quickly change direction, moving up and down and swimming around in large circles.
To get so close to them was fantastic and in a natural setting surrounded by colourful fish and coral, I felt like I was inside one of those gigantic aquariums I had visited many times before…it didn’t seem real.

Cheeky Monkey’s! Ubud – Bali, Jaipur – India, Kyoto- Japan and many other places

Its official…Monkeys are cheeky! I’ve come across many wild monkeys on my travels. In India they are all over the place. I saw them hanging out in a college, strolling down the road, jumping on peoples bags if they had food hidden and begging for money! I’n Ubud, Bali they have a dedicated forest where you can feed them ‘special’ bananas. In Kyoto they are free to rome on Monkey island and if you want to feed them YOU go into the cage – an very different experience and a place where we saw so many cute little baby monkeys too!
I don’t know what it is about monkeys but where ever I was we could just stop and watch them playing and always loose track of time…

The Giant Fruit Bats & Rainbow Parrots – Queensland, Australia

If you’ve been to Cairns its not possible to miss these creatures unless you don’t go out after dusk. At this time every night in the town centre, the trees start to come alive. They are first heard, then you look up…I’m not entirely sure if its just the beautiful Rainbow Parrots (named so because of the variety of coloured feathers) that make all the noise or if the bats do to. But you see the Parrots fluttering and the bats start to awaken…next thing the sky seems filled with thousands of bats taking off to feed. I used to just stand and stare up when I witnessed this. .
One night when I was returning to my room, I heard a bats wings swooping before I saw it. It felt like it just missed my head as it flew off from a tree with something in its mouth. They were just sooo big

Snakes – Jaipur – India, Ho Chi Minh Trail – Vietnam, Pai – Thailand

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In a lot of countries I visited you would get warned about snakes and a lot of people I met along the way were scared of snakes. For some reason I am not afraid of snakes. I would usually scream loud when I saw a cockroach and go ‘Ahhhh’ if I saw a snake. I met a few, most of them in captivity.
The first one was in my first week when I was inside the Amber Palace in Jaipur, India. There were two snake charmers and a large group of people watching when they asked for a volunteer…my hand went up and next thing I know i’m sitting opposite two cobras, both staring at me as I squeaked out an awful tune on my pipe! An experience.
Another memorable time was when I was motorbiking along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam when we pulled over at a place that makes that weird coffee from Weasel shit (another story) when I noticed a giant snake in a cage. The lady got it out and started kissing it…on the mouth! Next thing I know it was around my neck. Good job I don’t mind snakes as I had no choice in it. He was very heavy and didn’t like to keep still!
The closest I came to a snake in the wild was when I was hiking the Pai Canyon with my friend Rann and a green snake moved over a log right in front of us but apparently they aren’t even harmful so I was told that didn’t count! I would keep on looking but I’m currently in New Zealand and they have nothing dangerous or nasty here…

The New Zealand Lamb… Mostly in the South Island, New Zealand.

There are 4 million people living in New Zealand. There are 40 million sheep living in New Zealand. I’m told thats a significant drop in recent numbers. Still, thats a lotta sheep!

Up close with Tigers – Chaing Mai, Thailand

This was something I wasn’t going to do in Thailand – visit ‘Tiger Kingdom.’ However after I left Thailand for the second time, I met quite a few other travellers who had visited and they reckoned the Tigers were not drugged. I decided I had to check it out myself on my third visit. I first went in with the little, four month old tigers. One of them was asleep in the corner and the other was lying under a table. The keeper said to kneel down and stroke him, just on his back. I ended up lying on the floor under the table stroking this gorgeous tiger and without me knowing the other one woke up and decided it would be fun to jump on my back! I was startled but the keeper sad to just move slow and it would be fine. These guys were just playing and didn’t behave like they were drugged to me. Then there was the big Cats and they made me extremly nervous. They get you to sit behind him and ask you not to go near its head. In a photgraph of me the Tiger is certainly not asleep and is licking his lips! Quite an experience! After I came out of the enclosure I walked around to the front and leaned up to get a photo – the Tiger looked right at me and lunged onto the fence – It made me jump right back and I just thought ‘Thank god I’m not that fence!’ That big guy didn’t look on drugs to me either.
The place seemed like any other Zoo except this is just for Tigers. They took turns to be with the public so they weren’t doing it all the time. I’m still not sure if its a good thing as its obviously not natural but I didn’t see any signs that they were being mistreated and it was a once in a lifetime experience to get so close to these animals.

Water Buffalos – All over Asia…

I dont know why but I just like these guys. They are in feilds everywhere in Asia and to me they are just so cute. They made me feel happy as I cycled pass them on my way to work in Cambodia every day. They stared at me in Vietnam and they worked hard in India. They have really big snotty noses and although I never got too close to them…they just seem happy lolling around…that is all…

Spotting Kangaroos in the wild in Australia – it only took two months!

One of the things I wanted to and had to do when in Australia was see a Kangaroo in the wild and on my first few weeks in Victoria – I saw four…and all of them were dead. It made me so sad. They were absolutely massive (Some bigger than a man over 6ft!) I learnt very quickly that Kangaroo road kill in Australia is not unusual. I’ve heard of a few reasons why this happens but basically at dawn & dusk, they seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In some places the Kangaroos are a real pest too.
None of this info put me off and I first met and fed many, many Kangaroos in Tasmania. It was a great experience as they were so gentle and seemed friendly…of course thats because i had food for them. Eventually, after about 6 weeks in Australia, I saw hundreds of wild Kangaroos up in Queensland. They seemed quite happy to be bouncing around as the sunset behind them… it was worth the wait to see all those little Skippys I tell ya!

The Deer of Miyajima Island, Japan

On the ferry over to Miyajima island, we were told we might see some of the Deer that live there. I wasn’t expecting them to greet us with such enthusiasm and lack of fear. Prior to this, the only deer I’ve ever come across in my life would look right at you and then run very fast in the opposite direction! However these guys just wondered slowly everywhere on the island and could sniff out food from 50 meters. I saw one stag and there were quite a few baby Bambis too with the biggest brownest eyes just saying ” I’m cute…stroke me” It was a very unique place, famous for the floating Tori Gate…AND now the beautiful, friendly deer.

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