Well, there are more places that I want to see than will ever fit in one lifetime, so of course there are more animal adventures I want to do with my kids than will ever fit in one blog post. So here is the rest of my Top Ten Animal Adventures list.
6) See Pandas in China
Now this one may be cheating a bit. This list is supposed to be of wild animal adventures and the chance of ever seeing a panda in the wild is pretty much zero. But there’s no way I was leaving them off the list, so I would likely head to the next best thing; the panda breeding and conservation centre in Chengdu China. Here you can see the largest collection of these animals in the world, learn about the efforts scientists are making to conserve the species and, if you are there at the right time, you can even hold a young panda cub for a few minutes. This hands on panda experience was one of the highlights of my trip to China in 2003 and I would love to share this experience with my kids some day.
7) Snorkel on a Coral Reef
I’m definitely not a water person. I’m a weak swimmer, I don’t like the beach, and there’s no way I would ever strap a tank to my back and disappear beneath the depths, so I always assumed that the wonders of the ocean were something I’d have to see in aquariums or on nature shows. When I went on a tour of Egypt that included two nights at a Red Sea resort, I didn’t think I’d find much to do there. A fellow traveller convinced me to try renting snorkel equipment and checking out the nearby reefs and I was completely blown away. Blue with yellow polka dots, orange and green stripes, vivid yellow with a wild purple tail; the variety and beauty of the sea life blew me away. While we may not be going to the Red Sea anytime soon, I do hope to introduce my kids to snorkelling as soon as they’re able and I’ll be looking for opportunities wherever we go.
8) See a Tropical Rain Forest
I’ve always been intrigued by the wildlife and biodiversity of the rain forest. I always thought I’d love to go to the Amazon as an explorer until I started reading actual accounts of people who’ve been there. Turns out it’s not the most comfortable place. And there are an awful lot of bugs. And spiders. And reptiles. And not the nice ones; the place is teaming with creepy crawlies that would love nothing more than to bite you, sting you or crawl into your shoes. Really not cool with me. But still, there are possibilities. There are cruises that go into the Amazon that would provide a safe-ish home base for exploring. Some trips to Peru can include a few days at a treetop camp at the edge of the Amazon that may not be too overwhelming. And if the Amazon proves to be too much for us, there are tropical rain forests in Costa Rica where we could get a taste of the rain forest without quite as much trekking. So, hopefully we will get there eventually. (If anyone knows of a spider-free tropical rain forest alternative, please let me know!)
9) Whale Watching
This one’s a bit easier. In fact, if I really wanted I could drive an hour or so west of here and go on a whale watching tour tomorrow. Wherever you are, there’s probably a whale watching option nearby. Locations include BC, Alaska, the east coast of Canada and New England, Hawaii, Iceland, Norway, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and lots of others. I was fortunate enough to see humpback whales on an excursion in Mexico a couple of years ago. So what’s stopping me? Well, for one thing it’s not cheap. Even locally an excursion would cost about $500 for the whole family. Then there’s the age factor. Like a safari, whale watching is not like a zoo or aquarium. There are no guarantees that you will see anything. The boats aren’t really designed for comfort and there’s a lot of sitting quietly and waiting. So, like a safari, it’s an experience that I plan on saving until the kids are a bit older.
10) Elephant Sanctuary
Once again, this adventure wouldn’t exactly involve animals in the wild, but it would provide a kid with a once in a lifetime experience. The sanctuaries in Asia take abused and abandoned elephants and try to give them as natural a home as possible. There are programs where international volunteers can sign up for duties such as food preparation, maintenance, and of course clean up and really get to see these amazing creatures close up. It would be hard work, and of course it wouldn’t be for very young children, but for an animal loving tween or teen it would be a great chance to have a once in a lifetime animal adventure while really making a difference. What’s not to like about that?