When it comes to wildlife travel adventures, "adventure" isn't my "middle name." However, I can’t remember not loving animals. Since I was a very little girl growing up in rural Indiana, I have loved all sorts of wildlife but my primary encounters with animals are like what most people have – of the domestic sort: cats, dogs and horses.
One of the things that I love about having traveled around the world is that I have been able to experience personal encounters with some wildlife animals and sea creatures of the deep first hand. From holding the paw of a baby sloth in Costa Rica to kissing a stingray in the Caymans (yes, that’s right, kissing a stingray), I have had some amazing close encounters with real life wildlife.
Real Life Wildlife Encounters
Costa Rica: The Sloth Sanctuary. I confess. I had no clue as to what a sloth was until I went to Costa Rica. Puerto Limon was one of the ports of call on a Western Caribbean cruise I took with my sister, Trina. When I was researching the options for cruise excursions in Costa Rica, the Sloth Sanctuary fascinated me and it was the best choice. The center shelters over 100 orphaned and injured sloths which receive rehabilitation before being returned to the forest. When you tour the sanctuary, you will get a delightful introduction to the wonderful world of the sloth that includes a one-hour, guided, canoe ride through the bayous of the Estrella River Delta where you may see wild sloths hanging in trees as well as other inhabitants of the rain forest.
[Promotional Video on the Sloth Sanctuary.]
I was enchanted by these creatures and especially the adorable baby sloths. You can also book a night or two at the bed and breakfast on the property. They have voluntourism opportunities as well for two-to-four week programs where you can learn how to care for these precious creatures. If you visit, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with some of the residents like, Buttercup, the Grande Dame of the Sanctuary, the way I did, too. Even if you can’t make it to Cahuita de Limon, Costa Rica to meet a sloth “in person,” you can adopt a sloth and help support the sloth sanctuary online.
[Photo: Buttercup, the adorable sloth, and me in Costa Rica.]
Finland – Arctic Circle: Reindeer Sleigh at Santa’s Reindeer Farm. This was really special because I was on a shoot for ABC-TV with Peter Greenberg producing a “Search for Santa” story at the North Pole. Part of our little feature was that Peter had to take three modes of transport to finally reach Santa’s reindeer farm, a snow mobile, a dog sled and reindeer sleigh. I rode in the dog sled and the reindeer sleigh as well. Dog sleds are so much fun and the dogs are great (I went on a dog sled ride in Lake Placid also), but a reindeer sleigh ride? That’s a childhood dream come true!
Israel - Riding a Camel in the Middle East. When I was in Israel, for one American dollar, you could sit on a camel and get your photo taken. You rode three steps. I genuinely want to take a real camel ride, but for now, all I have is a photo, but thought you’d like the one here that I snapped!
[Photo: Arab gentleman with his camel in Jerusalem.]
California – The San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Formerly San Diego Wild Animal Park). Understand that I absolutely hate most zoos. I remember loving the Washington D.C. National Zoo because it was the first time I ever saw Giant Panda bears (Ling Ling and Sing Sing were residing there at the time) and as Zoos go, the San Diego Zoo is one I’ll tolerate. However, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is an expansive wildlife sanctuary that is home to more than 2,600 animals representing more than 400 species and is, in my opinion, the only way any “zoo” should ever be operated as the animals have room to roam on 1,800 acres.
[Photo: Giraffes at The San Diego Zoo Safari Park.]
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located 30 miles north of downtown San Diego and I love visiting this park for some very tame wildlife encounters. It’s the most inexpensive way to do an “African Safari” without going to Africa. I saved a lot of money with the Go San Diego Card (Go City cards are available in most major cities and offer discounts up to 55% off.)
[Photo: Feeding a giraffe at The San Diego Zoo Safari Park.]
You're packed and ready to go on vacation, so now comes the most important issue at hand: avoiding jet lag when you arrive at your destination. A survey by Conde Naste said that 93% of travelers get jet lag but you don't have to be one of them if you use my tips. ~Marianne Schwab
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About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer
For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more