From cave paintings, folklore, and mythology to modern-day movies and documentaries, our admiration for the unique and amazing wildlife has been expressed throughout history. Whether in the treetops and mountains or beneath the water’s surface, we travel far and wide to experience the wonders of seeing these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. Here are some of our greatest wildlife journeys.
Whale Sharks and Gray Whales
On our Baja: Exploring the Sea of Cortez journeys, we search for whale sharks and gray whales, among a wide range of other wildlife. Experiencing these awesome creatures in the wild is, no doubt, a life-changing event. Did you know that whale sharks are not actually whales, but the largest fish in the sea? They do have a lot in common with whales, though—these massive sharks can get as long as 40 feet and weigh up to 20 tons, and they are filter feeders, like whales. They have an impressive lifespan of 70 to 100 years!
Gray whales are known to be some of the friendliest whales to humans, and they are incredibly fun to interact with. In many Native American coastal tribes, these whales are associated with wisdom and spiritual awareness, and sighting them is considered a sign of good luck.
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Numerous films and documentaries depict the awesome connection between humans and orangutans, whose name means “person of the forest” in Malay. They are possibly the closest relatives of humans—no wonder we find them so fascinating! Orangutans spend 90 percent of their time in the treetops of Sumatra and Borneo, the only two places in the world where they’re still found. In Sepilok Forest Reserve on our Wildlife Adventures in Borneo, we have the privilege of roaming among these incredible creatures, looking deep into their eyes, and sharing inquisitive, meaningful, and sometimes even humorous glances.
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The Himalayas abound with myths about the elusive snow leopard. From stories of great lamas making trips in the form of snow leopards in search of rare medicinal herbs, to the belief that these cats have been born to remove sins of their past lives, fantastical folklore reflects our great reverence toward these majestic animals. Found at high altitudes, snow leopards are solitary cats with large territories in cold, dry, mountainous habitats of central and south Asia. Their massive paws and thick tails help them navigate the cold climates and mountainous terrain. Though their stealth has earned them the title of “ghosts of the mountains,” we have had successful and stunning sightings of them on our Snow Leopards and Tigers of India trip—truly a magical experience! Check out one of our adventurers’ blog posts to see their experience of snow leopard sightings.
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Lemurs and Chameleons
Madagascar has some of the highest biodiversity on the planet. Of the roughly 200,000 known species found on Madagascar, about 150,000 are endemic. Unique to the island are more than 50 types of lemurs and about half the world’s 150 or so species of chameleons. Lemurs display a wide range of behaviors, from synchronized singing (the indri) to sashaying across the sand (the sifaka).
Chameleons, on the other hand, are known for their ability to dramatically change colors. Contrary to popular belief, scientists believe they typically don’t change color to match their surroundings, but rather, to convey emotion. On our journeys in Madagascar, we cross paths with lemurs sashaying, singing, and swinging, as well as plenty of emotional chameleons!
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Legendary Godzilla has led many of us to believe that gorillas are beastly creatures, but we have learned that these giants are surprisingly shy and gentle when we encounter them in Uganda on our Mountain Gorilla Safari and Ultimate Uganda Safari. When threatened, however, they will beat their chests and let out angry grunts and roars—stay away from a vulnerable mother and baby! Mountain gorillas, the largest living primates on earth, are wanderers. Though they have a territory, they move around and sleep in different places each night. Tracking these gentle giants is a thrill like no other. Because 98% of their DNA overlaps with humans, witnessing them in the wild is both profound and uncanny, and will often send chills down the spine of their human admirers.