Monday, November 22, 2010

How to Get Up Close and Personal with Animals When Traveling

One of the wild pig population of Big Major Spot Island, Bahamas (photo courtesy of http://curiousanimals.net/)

Had enough of the tired, old "swimming with the dolphins" routine? Can't deal with one more ride on a burro down the Grand Canyon's Bright Angel Trail? Been there, done that, bestially speaking? Not to worry...there are plenty more animals afoot at vacation spots around the world. From pigs to deer to penguins, you can have an up close and personal cross-species experience on your next trip.

Pigs in the Bahamas: Big Major Spot Island is the place to be for human to pig interaction. The aptly named Pig Beach hosts a family of wild pigs, who have lived there for generations. Just like porcine beach bums, the amiable pigs lounge on the beach, swim in the surf and subsist on wild plants and roots and food donations from tourists. Just don't offer your BLT...

Long-Tailed Macaque in a pensive mood, Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud, Bali (photo courtesy of http://www.monkeyforestubud.com/)  

Monkeys in Bali: the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, Bali is home to approximately 340 wild monkeys known as Long-Tailed Macaques, and one of the best places to come face to face with a Balinese monkey. The monkeys are accustomed to visitors and have lived happily near human communities for years. The dual nature of monkeys (fun-loving but mischievous) is revered in Hinduism, the principal religion of Bali, and so the monkeys are respected and cared for by locals and tourists alike. Remember that these are still wild animals, though, and can be unpredictable. Guard your personal belongings, such as bags, wallets, cameras, hats and sunglasses...the monkeys love shiny, colorful things and are adept at pickpocketing.


Tame Deer in Nara, Japan:  in the former capital city of Japan, Nara, more than 1,200 tame Sika deer roam the streets, enjoying free run in the forests, parks (especially Nara Park), the stores, and even the temples. You can buy Deer Cookies (shika sembei) from the many deer food vendors and the deer will eat directly from your hand. The deer are considered sacred and divine (until 1637, killing a sacred deer was punishable by death), and are officially protected as National Treasures.


Simone feeding the Sacred Deer of Nara, Japan

Penguins in ChileLos Pinguinos Natural Monument on Magdalena Island, near Punta Arenas, Chile, is home to a huge colony of 60,000 families of Magellanic penguins. The island is the penguins' nesting and hunting ground, where sardines and squid, their principal source of food, is abundant. Human visitors to the island can get a close look at penguin life, as long as they don't touch or feed the birds. Photography, flora and fauna observation and sea-kayaking are allowed. The island and surrounding sea is also home to dozens of types of seabirds and sealife, including whales, dolphins, penguins, pumas, condors and guanacos.  

Magellanic Penguins on their way to their nests, Los Pinguinos Natural Monument, Punta Arenas, Chile (photo by Luis Bastardo) 

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