A beluga whale.


30 wildlife experiences to have before you're 30

Published July 21st, 2016

Sir David Attenborough reckons there are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world and, given he’s probably seen at least half of them (plus he is SIR David Attenborough), we think it’s as good as number as any to highlight the sheer diversity, volume and abundantly spectacular amount of life we’re lucky to share our planet with.

From animals facing extinction to journeys requiring a high level of fitness, we’ve narrowed the animal must-see list (rather substantially!) and come up with 30 of the best wildlife experiences to have before you turn 30. So fly like the eagle, run like the deer (swim like the fish, growl like the bear, you’ve heard that song too?) as you journey to ...

1.      Enjoy the company of gigantic sea tortoises and playful sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador (the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution!).


A photo posted by Dine Tee (@welten.bummler.in) on

2.      Let the sloths, piranhas, anacondas and howler monkeys welcome you to THE jungle, Amazon Basin, Brazil.

3.      Find joy in the baby faced Borneo Pygmy Elephants (and be surrounded by the interestingly long shaped *cough* peen noses of the Proboscis monkeys) in Sabah, Borneo.


A photo posted by Julian (@julian_maleevsky) on

4.      Track rhinos (for conservation) and get acquainted with your own meerkat manor in the Kalahari Desert, Namibia.

5.      Join the little Penguin Parade on a research tour of Phillip Island, near Melbourne, Australia.

6.      Get up close with the one, the only, the endangered Bengal Tiger at Jim Corbett National Park, India.

7.      Let more than one million wildebeest running together in the world’s greatest migration (and sometimes away from one of their many predators, eek!) take your breath away in the Serengeti, Tanzania.

8.      Hike the rocky wilderness of Al Hajar Mountains, Oman in search of endemic species including the Wadi Kharrar rock gecko only found here.

9.      Don’t let a black or grizzly bear get close enough to steal your picnic basket at Yellowstone National Park, United States.


A photo posted by Shruti Pant (@shruti_pant) on

10.  Swim with the biggest sharks in the sea, whale sharks (they grow up to 20-metres long), where they always find zooplankton to munch on in Tofo, Mozambique.

11.  Catch a glimpse of some of the world’s most endangered and elusive species like pumas, jaguars and scarlet macaws on a tour of Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica.

12.  Kayak with penguins, whales, dolphins and marlin in the waters of the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

13.  Witness the world’s largest carnivorous land mammal – the brown bear – and the bald eagle, caribou, moose and lynx they share home with in the wilds of Alaska.

14.  Salute the matriarch (her name is FiFi) of the fragile chimpanzee habitat and don't forget to check out the olive baboons of the Gombe Stream in Tanzania – made famous by the pioneering work of Jane Goodall in the 60s.

15.  Learn to be a panda keeper (not a noodle chef) as you contribute towards vital research for their survival at conservation centres in the birthplace of the giant panda in Chengdu, China.


A photo posted by Nicky (@nickhye) on

16.  Don’t get too close to the polar bears, merrily living their lives amongst the icy fjords and frozen landscape of Svalbard, Norway.

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17.  Spend a few of the best hours of your life swimming and playing with dolphin pods of the bottlenose, Atlantic spotted, common, Risso’s and striped variety in the Azores in Portugal.

18.  Pry into swamp life on an airboat tour to see the ‘gators of the Everglades in the United States.


A photo posted by Minh Thao (@mini.trg) on

19.  Get your ultimate thrill swimming with humpback whales off of Vava’u in Tonga, French Polynesia.

20.  Or try your luck free diving with Beluga Whales while exploring the arctic tundra in the one and only Hudson Bay, Canada.


A Beluga whale.
Who could resist that face?

21.  I like to move it move it. Get your boogie on with the (sadly) threatened and endangered animals including no less than 25 species of lemurs in the rainforests of Atsinanana, Madagascar. Most of which are found nowhere else on earth.

22.  If you dare, hammer about (dive) with hammerhead sharks in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. Or opt for a tamer experience with the area’s sea lions, manta rays, dolphins and whale sharks.

23.  Gaze into the eyes of a true scavenger above the dramatic canyons of Ordesa National Park, Spain, where giant Griffon Vultures are found high in the cliffs.


A photo posted by Keith Ladzinski (@ladzinski) on

24.  Step your African safari up a notch (like it needs it) on the back of a horse riding alongside giraffes through the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Listen to lions roar and crocodile splash over your crackling campfire.

25.  No wildlife must-see list is complete without at least one wolf pack mention. Rise and shine with the rare and endangered Ethiopian Wolves in the Sanetti Plateau of Bale National Park, Ethiopia at sunset.

26.  Did you ride to school in a kangaroo? Um, no, but it’s still rad going to see them and koalas at places like Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland.


A photo posted by @yeahsimone on

27.  Let the curious and graceful giant manta rays check you out swimming off of Stradbroke Island in Queensland or Yap in Micronesia.

28.  Puffins are real. See them in the thousands on a boat tour to the Farne Islands in the United Kingdom.

29.  See the Big 5 – African lion, elephant and leopard as well as the Cape Buffalo and white and black rhinoceros – on a wildlife safari in one of Kenya’s national parks.


A photo posted by Sandra (@safari.lover) on

30.  Have a giant wildlife experience in Canaima National Park, Venezuela, which is home of the giant (well, armadillos, otters and anteaters) as well as two-toed sloths, cougars and jaguars.

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Jolee Wakefield

A seasoned backpacker and travel writer, Jolee has spent the past decade wandering the globe in pursuit of good vibes, unusual conversations and unforgettable adventures like cave diving in Mexico, mountain climbing in Borneo and learning (failing at) local dances in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.