Must-Do Animal Encounters

Must-Do Animal Encounters

There are few extraordinary experiences that are as memorable as getting up-close-and-personal with wildlife. What you may not have realized, however, is that many of these once-in-a-lifetime moments can be had relatively easily with the right guide. Here are three of my favorite experiences guaranteed to be a hit with animal lovers:

Gawking At Grizzlies

With their three-inch claws and snapping teeth, the Alaskan brown bear (aka: grizzly) can be a fearsome creature. They can also be elusive, unless you know where to look. In Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park I got close enough to a 400-pound sow grizzly to hear the smacking of her lips as she peacefully munched her way through a field of tall grass (see Extraordinary Experiences, page 178 for the full story).

Fooling With Falcons

If you’ve ever seen a hawk turning lazy circles in the sky you may have wondered what these graceful birds were really like up close. You can find out at one of the country’s only falconry schools (see Extraordinary Experiences, page 50) where you’ll launch a Harris hawk from your gloved fist while you learn how falconers care for and train them, and how the birds have been used for hunting for centuries.

Meeting The Manatees

By far the most moving interspecies encounter I’ve ever had was getting to know the manatees of Kings Bay in Crystal River, Florida. I’ll leave you to read the entire story in Extraordinary Experiences (see page 58), but suffice it to say I found snorkeling alongside these bearded, blubbery mammals to be downright remarkable. Not only were they thoroughly gentle, they often seemed as curious about me as I was about them. A true once-in-a-lifetime adventure that beats anything nearby Walt Disney World has to offer.