Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World

Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

We Chased Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World

On our travels around the world, we had some amazing bucket list animal encounters. It should not be surprising since we travelled to over 100 countries and have written almost 600 travel blog posts.

Animal encounters covered a great range of bucket list trips. We were delighted we saw so many big animals when we travelled in Africa. Even if we missed one of the Big Five. Camels in the Middle East were found in expected and unexpected spots. On our travels in South America we found a fascinating variety of animals. In China, the panda bears charmed us. While our Alaska visit added a different kind of bear encounter. Whale watching trips around the world were a tease until we were treated to the most amazing whale show.

Let us share some travel inspiration with our bucket list animal encounters around the world!

Chasing The Big Five In Africa

Many people have big animal encounters on their bucket list. We went on game drives for big animal sightings in Kenya and then again when we visited Richard’s Bay in South Africa.

The Big Five animals are named for the 5 most dangerous animals – the African lion, African elephant, cape buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard. We saw 4 of the 5 Big Five on our game drives. But we were sad we missed leopards on our visits.

Africa Lions - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

Africa Elephants.jpg

Africa Buffalo.jpg

Africa Rhinos - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

While the Big Five were exciting, we saw so many other animals on the game drives in Africa. Giraffes, zebras and hippos were all on our animal “to see” list. And we were not disappointed.

Africa Hippo.jpg

Africa Zebra laugh - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

We were surprised we saw so many animals. Day trip game drives did not give us early or late day animal sightings. In the middle of the day, many animals hid from the sun. The game drives just whetted our appetite to try a real game safari. Of course, we are looking for that perfect glamping experience!

Camels In The Middle East

Our travels in the Middle East ticked off so many bucket list dreams. We started with iconic stops in Israel. Our experience floating in the Dead Sea was one we won’t soon forget. And the transit through the Suez Canal, took us to more treasures. We saw temples and tombs in Egypt and were awed by Petra.

Everywhere we went in the Middle East we found camels. At the awesome ruins at Petra in Jordon, we got our first up close view of camels. But who was watching who?

Middle East Petra Camels.jpg

We saw camels again as we travelled in the UAE (United Arab Emirates). We even rode a camel at a desert adventure outside of Dubai. But that was a disappointing experience as we moved head to tail in a circle. One day we want to enjoy a more authentic experience overnight in the desert.

UAE Dubai Camels.jpg

While we expected camels in the desert, we were quite amused when we found camels on the beach on our stay in Dubai for New Years. The camel rides went up and down the beach between the sprawled beachgoers.

UAE Dubai Camels - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

Bucket list animal encounters with camels never gave us the experience we really wanted.

South America Added Many Bucket List Animal Encounters

We certainly expected animal encounters when we travelled around South America. As we cruised along the Amazon River, we even had some close animal encounters. In Manaus, we got in the water with the very unique pink dolphins. And in Boca Da Valeria a sloth drew everyone’s attention.

South America Amazon Pink Dolphin - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

South America Amazon Sloth - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

We visited Punta Del Este in Uruguay and the sea lions put on a show by the docks. Some of the sea lions waddled up on the deck. While others watched us warily. I am not sure I have ever found such a hairy sea lion!

South America Punta Del Este Uruguay Sea Lion.jpg

Everyone seemed to have penguins on their list of animals to see when travelling. We travelled for many years and only saw them in aquariums or zoos. Our first encounter with “free” penguins came as we travelled along the cape in South Africa. There was a large colony of African penguins outside of Cape Town at Boulders Beach.

Cape Town Boulder Beach African Penguin.jpg

Cape Town Boulder Beach African Penguin - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

When we reached the Falkland Islands, we were not at all surprised when we found penguins at Bluff Cove Lagoon. We watched the playful Gentoo penguins as they shed and ran into the water. But the King Penguins really were the treat for us.

South America Falkland Islands Penguin.jpg

South America Falkland Islands Gentoo Penguins - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

South America Falkland Islands Gentoo Penguins - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

South America Falkland Islands King Penguins - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

We had one final penguin encounter when we stopped in Punta Arenas Chile and visited Magdalena Island. The Magellanic penguins kept us entertained.

South America Punta Arenas Magdelena Island Chile Magellanic Penguins - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

South America Punta Arenas Magdelena Island Chile Magellanic Penguins.jpg

In San Antonia Chile we headed inland for wine tasting. But were delighted when we also got a great horse show that demonstrated the horse and riders skill. It reminded us of the Andalusian horse show we saw on our travels to Cordoba in Spain.

South America San Antonio Chile Horse Show.jpg

We sat and waited in the bay outside of Panama City after we were stranded by Covid in South America. But one day we got the most entertaining treat when dozens of golden rays put on a water show. Just one of our great memories of water animal encounters.

South America Panama Golden Rays.jpg

Our trip to South America was definitely a success with so many bucket list animal encounters. Our penguin adventures just whetted our appetite. We definitely need to work on scheduling our visit to Antarctica!

Panda Bears In Chengdu China

On our trip to China we were excited when we visited Chegdu. The Chengdu Research Base Of Giant Panda Breeding was a large park with many different panda areas. We saw baby panda bears as they nursed. Saw youngsters at play. And watched older panda bears as they worked through their daily supply of bamboo.

China Chengdu Panda Bears.jpg

China Chengdu Panda Bears - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

China Chengdu Panda Bears - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

The panda bear visit may have been the cutest of the animal encounters we had travelling. They were definitely one of our bucket list animal encounters.

Bears And More On A Trip To Alaska

On our cruise to Alaska, we expected lots of animal sightings. But we were not always rewarded with great views. As we cruised along, we often saw whales at a distance. But we never got a close up sighting.

We booked an excursion on this trip in Prince Rupert British Columbia and were rewarded with awesome views of grizzly bears. Our small boat moved slowly along the shore and the grizzlies came out and played.

Alaska Prince Rupert BC Grizzly Bears - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

Alaska Prince Rupert BC Grizzly Bears.jpg

When we stopped in the channel on our way back, dozens of eagles descended around our small boat. We easily captured great action shots.

Alaska Prince Rupert BC Eagles.jpg

Alaska Prince Rupert BC Eagles - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

One day we will head back to Alaska and head inland for more bucket list animal encounters.

Whale Watching Around The World

We went whale watching around the world. On our whale watching trip in Monterey, we saw lots of tails. When we went whale watching from Steveston in British Columbia, we saw Orca whales as they bobbed in the distance. In the Azores Islands of Portugal, we chased the whales but only saw the whales at a distance.

Monterey Whale Watching.jpg

Victoria BC Whale Watchings Orca Killer Whale.jpg

We booked more whale watching trips and hoped for a much closer encounter. And on our whale watching trip in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, we were rewarded. We saw Orca whales at a distance. But the real treat was when two humpback whales crowded the boat and put on a show for hours.

Campbell River BC Humpback Whale Watching - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

Campbell River BC Humpback Whale Watching - Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World.jpg

Our last whale watching adventure truly was one of the best bucket list animal encounters. We may never have to go whale watching again!

Bucket List Animal Encounters Around The World

We had a wide range of bucket list animal encounters around the world. Many of our best memories of travelling reflected the animal experiences we had. Sometimes our encounters left us wanting more and our travel wish list got longer.

We saw animals in places we expected them. And had animal encounters in the strangest places. Many of our animal encounters happened under the water. And when we could not find live animals, we found so many fun and fascinating pieces of animal art.

There are still many more bucket list animal encounters on our travel wish list. Galapagos Islands remained on the list for encounters with several unusual animals. Who doesn’t want to see a Blue Footed Booby? Penguins were just one of the reasons that Antarctica stayed high on our list.

What places do you recommend for bucket list animal encounters around the world?

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About TravelAtWill 748 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!


  1. What a fun and unusual post to read, Linda! I think each one of us has a longer or shorter animal-encounter bucket list. I managed to see quite a few of these beasts in their own habitat, but still didn’t get to meet a moose in the wild. I chased them all over Alaska, but they seem to be hiding from me somehow. I’m still to see the Panda Bears, which I absolutely adore. Hope to hug one someday….

    • Anda, We were the same way with buffalo as you were with moose. We travelled through the mid-west in the U.S. for days in buffalo country and never saw one. Then we finally found some in Yellowstone. Linda

  2. I went to Alaska specifically to see the grizzly bears and I got to see a mom and her cubs catch salmon off a weir:) I am also obsessed with whales! I’ve been all over the world in search of whales and Cabo San Lucas is the place. Nikki

    • Nikki, We were glad we too got to see grizzlies although one day we would love to see them near a salmon run. We were so glad we got such a great whale experience after so many trips. Cabo San Lucas is on our list for one day. Linda

  3. I have never thought about doing a bucket list of seeing which animals I want to see across the world. I do have a few in my head like the Puffin (UK), more moose in the wild in Canada, penguins, and all those fluffy creatures out of the Lion King in Africa. 😀 Also wild animals in Asia. I remember the first time I saw a whale in the US and a Kangaroo in Australia, I went crazy. Dont get many of those in the UK. He he. Now I have two young children, I cant wait to go and check out the wild animals with them. An experience and education at the same time. 🙂

    • Danik, We still have many animal experiences on our travel wish list. I am sure if we still had small kids the list would be even longer. A great way to delight and educate kids for sure. Linda

  4. I have pinned this post! As an animal lover, I also enjoy animal encounters when I travrl. I’ve done an African safari, a camel safari in India, and seen kangaroos, koalas, penguins, and dolphins in their natural habitat. Would really love to go whale watching, and see pandas in China. I heard it’s also possible to volunteer as a panda keeper there. What a dream job!

  5. Wow, 100 countries!! That’s awesome! The Big Five is high on my list hopefully you’ll be able to see leopards on your next visit. I’ve been able to see whales up close in Vancouver and Mexico. But no on the bears, no way do I want to get close to them.

    • Debra, I am with you about not wanting to see bears up close! We will definitely plan another safari where we can stay in a game park and get the early and late day experiences. Linda

  6. I absolutely love animal encounters when I travel, but I think it is important for us to recognize where we are seeing these animals because many times at tourist attractions the animals are exploited for economic purposes which us travelers would never want to support. Research is so important when it comes to animal encounters! Loved all yours – especially the Pandas!

    • Chloe, I agree that you have to be careful with the animal encounters that you seek out when travelling. Many are not ones that we would ever support. The Panda spot in Chengdu was a large research and recovery facility. It gave us the chance to see so many and we knew they were working to return pandas to natural habitat when feasible. Linda

  7. I’m getting more and more interested in seeing wildlife face to face. Enjoyed my trip to Argentina so much – the penguins were so sweet! Now I’m planning on going to Tanzania as soon as I can.

  8. What a fun and great list! I’m in love with all animals and always incorporate encounters with them wherever I am in the world, even if it’s just simple as feeding ducks in the park at some random destination we’re in. But my biggest dream in your list here is to see the Pandas! I’m guilty of having one or two panda stuff toys (as an adult lol!), so you can maybe tell I’m really into being able to see and hug them one day!

    The ones I would love to see in their natural habitat are the pandas and the penguins! Of course in eco tourism and sustainable settings would be best, for the well-being of the animal. I had a great experience seeing elephants in Thailand in a reserve.

    • We too loved the pandas! We wanted to buy out the whole gift shop. Our son went to an elephant reserve in Chiang Mai in Thailand and it was an amazing memory for him of working with the elephants. A great way to learn more about the animals too! Linda

  9. I love this. I’m all about seeing animals in the wild – as I hate going to zoos. I also saw the Panda Bears in Chengdu and loved the experience. I’m dying to go on an African safari and see all our favorite African animals in the wild.

  10. I love seeing animals in the wild. Whether it is animals on a safari, or in their native environment or even domestic animals like Manx cats and Loaghtan sheepp on the Isle of Man.

  11. Wow these are amazing. I love whale watching, I went on a trip 10 years ago and would love to see them again in another location.

  12. What a fun post to read! You have seen so many amazing animals the only other one I would add would have to be Koala Bears in Australia. They are so cute and cuddly and it was definitely a bucketlist item for me to hold one, which you can only do in Queensland.

  13. Oh, this post fueled my wanderlust and made me sad at the same time. 2020 was the year I had planned to travel all of Africa and go on my first safari. I was literally in South Africa on the road heading to Kruger Park when the lockdown was announced. Animals are a huge motivating factor for me to travel, and I am dying to see all of what you’ve seen for myself some day.

  14. I really like your Bucket list of Animal Encounters Around The World. Such a great idea! You inspired me to make my own list. I haven’t encountered some animals from your list yet. For sure, I would love to see African lions, African elephants, cape buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopards in their natural environment.

  15. Love this unique post on animal encounters around the world! You sure have had a lot of experiences. I love that image of you confidently sitting on a camel in Dubai! Also, those penguins look absolutely delightful, I love those Koalas too. Must do another Aussy trip to see Koalas, Kangaroos and other animals up close:-)

  16. Africa has been a dream trip for me since I was very young and I still have not visited. Your photos from the game drives and of Boulders Beach are incredible. Equally impressed by your experience in the water with the pink dolphins. I would love to see a bear catch a salmon in Alaska, someday!

  17. I love animals. As I’m in Africa I’ve seen many but would love to see Panda bears and although we were in South America we weren’t in Equitos to see the Pink dolphins. Amazing images and adventures you had.

    • Mimmie, The Pandas were a great experience to see in China. So many all in one place. We did fall in love! We saw many pink dolphins in the water but they were hard to spot. So we loved the chance to get in the water and see them up close. Linda

  18. What a great compilation of your animal encounters! I’m obsessed with whales, so just waiting for the time I can travel again to see them (and leave the Hubby at a bar- he gets seasick). The Pacific side of Mexico will be my first stop. Your pictures from Africa and especially that pink dolphin are stunning!

    • Tiffany, We have yet to visit the Pacific side of Mexico but I am sure that is a great spot for whale sightings. So many great spots around the world for amazing animal enocounters. Linda

  19. What a grand list of amazing adventures! I’ve been to a few of these places – Chengdu (those pandas are so cute), Africa (so many yrs ago I need to get back), Petra, Sth America (Magdalena Island, and King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego), etc. Isn’t it so exciting when you see animals in the wild! Seeing the humpbacks sounds amazing. Get to Galapagos as soon as you can. It remains one of the highlights of all out travels. Fabulous post! It brought back so many memories

  20. What a great way to approach this, timing it back it the places you’ve seen. And, the places you’ve seen! 600 blogs is impressive. I would love to be anywhere to see all those penguins- they are funny little animals to watch aren’t they?

    • Renee, The animal encounters always add something fun to our travel adventures. We love the variety in penguins we saw on our last trip. Looking forward to more …. one day. Linda

  21. Absolutely fabulous post, Linda. I’ll keep going back to it for inspiration for future travel and activities. My favourite would have to be the pink dolphin. Also, good to see from the smile on the picture that you clearly love camels as much as Ellie & I do. They’ve got SO MUCH character, right!?!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Stefan, We have had some amazing animal experiences on our travels. It is always amazing how much character so many animals have. That zebra just looked like it was laughing at us! Linda

  22. You captured some AMAZING photos of these cuties! I’m so jealous of how much wildlife you guys have seen over the years! We haven’t been to Africa or many places that have such a diverse animal population, but it’s wayyy up there on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing all your cute encounters!

  23. I can’t believe I have not yet been to Africa to see the Big 5 but its on my list. I live in the Middle East so camels are a common sight for us! I did, however, have some really cool animal encounters in Australia, with the Koalas, kangaroos & crocs. I have been for several whale watching tours but never really been very lucky on those either. I need to make it to Galapagos soon too!

  24. These all look like such cool encounters! For my first two months in Brazil before the pandemic, I was looking into visiting places like Punta del Este and even looking into feasibility for a Falklands trip. I’m jealous that you’ve been to both and got to see so many penguins in the latter!

    • Kevin, We were so glad we got out trip to South America in last year before the world fell apart. We were delighted with how many different spots we found penguins on that trip. But I am sure we missed ones for another trip! Hope you get to do more travelling when things open up. Linda

  25. Great post! Weirdly I have just been reflecting on this too. I’m very jealous of your trip to the pandas in China & Alaska as they are on my list. Antarctica is too. My favourite experiences so far have been in the Galapagos islands which blew my mind & volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia. That was amazing to get so close to the animals. I love your whale photos as although I’ve seen them several times, my best sighting was when I didn’t have a good camera to capture the moment…next time!

    • Sue, We definitely have Galapagos and Antarctica on the “sooner rather than later” list. Hope we get to get them booked when travel timelines become a bit clearer. Sometimes I wish we did not always have a camera out and just enjoyed some of these animal adventures. Linda

  26. Love real animal encounters! I would so love to work with the pandas in Chengdu, they were adorable. I am lucky that i have experienced many of these bucket list encounters but I have still never seen a bear in the wild. Cant wait!

    • Sarah, We were sure glad we saw the pandas when we were in China. Not sure when we might get back to China and would really have regretted missing them on that trip. Hope you see the wild bear before he sees you!!!! Linda

  27. Wow, you guys sure had your share of wildlife. I’m more and more keen on visiting habitats. Actually, one of my first trip after the pandemic will be to Tanzania. However, I would love to see bears but obviously, at the same time, I’m scared 😀

  28. Hard to decide which animal next I want to seek out. Seeing animals in the wild has to be one of my big reasons to travel; not much beats it. My last ones were the Orangutans in Borneo; a big dream to see them…the bear eluded me on my trip to Alaska even though it seems everyone else saw one …I managed 4 of the big 5 in Africa. Maybe a big penguin colony next for me!

    • Justine, I agree that animal encounters always add a great deal to travels. Seeing Orangutans in Borneo must have been such a treat. We have never really seen big monkeys in the wild. But lots of wild monkey on other travels! Linda

  29. Wow these are some incredible adventures Linda. I’m envious of those pink dolphins. And that close up with the forever smiling sloths. I’ve yet to meet one. Great roundup

    • John, I am glad you enjoyed this view of our travels through animal encounters. We have had some interesting adventures. We were so glad we got in the water with the pink dolphins! Linda

  30. How wonderful to see so many beautiful animals! It’s one thing I really love about travelling. I really want to see pink dolphins one day!

  31. To see the wild animals is what we like during our travels. We’re not big city person to begin with. Of all the animals you’ve seen here, we saw and rode on camel in Israel, too. We’ve seen eagles, sea lion, and bears in the wild. We hope to swim with the whale sharks one day.

  32. Oh my God! This post is amazing. What beautiful list of animal encounters. I would love to go to Africa and see the lions. And I want to hike to see the Gorillas. And those dolphins look amazing. So beautiful. I am adding all these animal encounters to my list.

  33. These are fantastic animal encounters across the globe, the pink dolphin looked so cute and it was nice to see the sea lions waddle up to the deck. The African big 5, the penguins, the sloth hanging by the tree, the panda, the camel’s strolling in the desert and the whales swimming in the ocean. It’s an amazing sight to see these animals up close.

  34. Aww this is such an awesome list! Wild animals encounters are always at the top of my bucket list, I’ve done many of these but still so many more to see, especially the pink dolphins in the Amazon. Thanks heaps for putting this list together.

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