With all the world’s news bordering on apocalyptic these days, we thought our readers might enjoy a perspective with some wholesome levity. With this in mind, RAVE takes a look at some of the best countries where you can see the most unique and interesting wild animals.
Not all of these animals will present a good travel opportunity for the whole family of course. Some of these animals are heavily protected by laws, and in some cases they are quite dangerous themselves. In any case, we’ll provide the details on where the wild things truly are.
We’ll tell you where each amazing species of animal lives, and where you should travel to meet them. So if enjoying some of the earth’s most majestic wildlife sounds like the ideal vacation for you–then keep reading!
Destinations with Unique and Interesting Wild Animals
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we’re a mere plane ticket away from countries (and vacations) whose wildlife is almost unbelievable! No matter where you live, there are places with wild animals near and far that can transport you to another world.
Even if vacations to see wild animals aren’t on your to-do list, you can still enjoy wild animals from afar and learn about the most important conservation efforts aimed at saving the world’s most precious animals. In this post, we invite you to join us on a virtual journey as we share 30 unique animal species in 30 different countries.
Are you looking for the best country to see wild animals? Maybe our list can get you started in the right direction. Then, all that’s left to do is buy your ticket and head out into the wild!
“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.”
― Steve Irwin
Vancouver Island Marmots–Vancouver Island, Canada
The Vancouver Island Marmot is famously named “Canada’s most endangered mammal.” The marmots themselves—which are only in the mountainous regions of Vancouver Island—luckily have many professional conservators there to help the population grow, such as the Marmot Recovery Foundation.
But don’t let the precarious position of these cute members of the squirrel family make you shy away from visiting them. The population is growing steadily. These one-of-a-kind mammals are in good hands. If you do decide to visit, make sure you consider this marmots’ amazing schedule. They hibernate over 210 days per year!
During hibernation their hearts slow down to just 3 to 4 beats per minute, an astounding drop from their usual 110-200 beats per minute during times of activity.
Manx Cats–Isle Of Man
Of all the most unique and interesting wild animals on the planet, the Manx cat might take the prize for the most fascinating feature or lack thereof. Namely, their lack of tails! Zoologists have hypothesized that the Isle of Man’s unique and isolated location caused these house-cat-sized felines to lose their tails over time.
The history of the Manx cat is much more interesting than their stub tails. If you’re able to travel to the Isle of Man (ferries are available from Ireland and Britain year-round), be sure to pick up some local currency. It shows a Manx cat right on their coins! These curious creatures have indeed turned their genetic mutation into one of the most popular symbols of the island! Bravo to these one-of-a-kind animals.
And if you prefer to enjoy domesticated wildlife from the comfort of your own home, you can even consider adoption. This wonderful breed of cat has adapted well to domestication, and is the favorite breed of many cat lovers!
Odds are, you’ve seen a lemur at some point in your life. Magazines, TV shows, and popular wildlife documentaries all seem to target these other-worldly primates. But there’s so much more behind the lemur.
Like the Manx cat’s story, lemurs developed their unique profile and expressive mannerisms due to their isolated island. Madagascar, which was challenging to fly to mere decades ago, is now more welcoming to tourists and lemur fanatics. Indeed, you can only find these devious but kind-hearted monkeys on Madagascar.
Though the Ring-tailed lemur variety has captured worldwide attention, there are over 100 different species. So, point your next trip to the big island of Madagascar. You’re sure to find yourself in a unique world.
Wilson’s Bird-Of-Paradise–West Papua, Indonesia
Sometimes we have to sit back and enjoy the animal kingdom for its heart-stopping spectacle. However, Wilson’s bird-of-paradise might just take the cake for the most colorful explosion of outward beauty on this planet.
Besides the superlatives, this bird has a unique habitat too. It occupies the lowland rainforests of a few tiny islands off West Papua. Visiting these locations may require a little more preparation than visiting the Americas or Europe, but the trek is worth it.
Why? Because their habitat is diminishing and might collapse if conservation efforts don’t pick up. Thankfully, we have dozens of documentaries that show off this beauty. So while it might not be feasible to plan a trip to visit these amazing birds, you can certainly enjoy their majesty from the comfort of your couch!
“I feel like I’m nothing without wildlife. They are the stars. I feel awkward without them.”
— Bindi Irwin
Pink Land Iguana–Wolf Volcano, Isabela Island
Have you heard of the Komodo dragon? Encountered the giant tortoises of the Galapagos? What about marine iguanas with their dinosaur-like skin? Well, let us introduce you to another ancient-looking reptile, the Pink Land Iguana.
This is the only known location with reptiles who’ve adapted a rich pink coloration. This combined with the otherworldly environment (a volcanic island) makes Isabela Island one of the most jaw-dropping locations on this list. Visitors describe an experience similar to visiting an alien planet.
This magnificent animal hasn’t drawn the same attention as its lizard-like relations. One reason is its isolation. If you’re looking for a trip to enjoy wild animals like none other, plan to visit Isabela Island. North of the Galapagos, it’s a stunning volcanic landscape that fits these iguanas perfectly. Just don’t forget to share with others how endangered these pink specimens are.
There are fewer than 100 left! Thankfully this is something the Galapagos Conservation Trust aims to change through their breeding program.
“Humanity can no longer stand by in silence while our wildlife are being used, abused and exploited.
It is time we all stand together, to be the voice of the voiceless before it’s too late. Extinction means forever.”
― Paul Oxton
When you visit your local zoo, there’s one area that most people just have to see: the monkey house.
But you’re not likely to meet the Gelada baboon from Ethiopia at any garden variety zoo. This is because the Gelada lives in a remote highlands region of Ethiopia on the open plains. Come to think of it; it’s quite an odd landscape in which to see a monkey.
Like lemurs, these baboons are extremely intelligent, humorous, and witty. Unfortunately, they haven’t garnered worldwide attention yet. But once you witness their bold red chest pattern, you’re sure to add these creatures to your list of wonders. Visiting Ethiopia might present some challenges when seeking entry, so it’s perhaps best to enjoy their majestic pose and funny antics from home.
Australia is both a country and a continent of extremes. The internet contains hundreds of videos and first-hand accounts of Australia’s unusual and breathtaking snakes, insects, and mammals. But one specimen stands out from the rest: the Thorny Devil.
Named in a straightforward and purely Australian manner, these lizards are both cute and intimidating. If you’re looking for the best region to see wild animals, Australia is the place to visit, as it has some of the highest density of uniquely adapted animals in all the world. The Thorny devil resembles North America’s Gila Monster (in shape and name), but it stands out with its sharp spiky flesh.
These unique reptiles live up to two decades! An achievement aided by their astute use of camouflage, such as the “false head” on their backs designed to misdirect would-be predators to a thorny surprise. If you’re heading down under, be sure to see one for yourself. All roses have their thorns after all!
What do the Lion King, BBC’s Planet Earth, and colorful encyclopedias have in common? For one, they give us a glimpse at the incredible diversity of African fauna. For example, the Bongo, which is critically endangered, just might be the most unique African animal out there.
Blending the vertical stripe camouflage of the Zebra with the graceful portrait of the Kudu, Bongos are genuinely a hybrid animal. You’re more likely to see one in a great zoo than in their native Kenya, though. Conservation efforts have kept them high up in the Kenyan mountains, away from poachers, such as the Bongo Surveillance Project (BSP).
Hopefully, their numbers will rebound soon!
Alabama Beach Mice–Gulf Coast, USA
The United States has a uniquely diverse ecosystem. The land supports millions of species, with hundreds of them so well-known they could take over for the Bald Eagle as the national animal. However, instead of going big with the bison, moose, or other large mammals, we chose to go small. Thus, in a small part of the Alabama coast lives the diminutive and adorable Alabama Beach Mouse.
They don’t live anywhere else on the planet, and their entire population takes up only dozens of miles. So, even though they aren’t imposing, they are an essential part of the beach ecosystem. If you’re looking for wild animals that most folks overlook, take a trip to Alabama to see a truly one-of-a-kind rodent!
Giant Pandas–Central China
Asia has some of the least-traveled lands in the world. There’s a good reason: many species in the continent are susceptible to prying visitors. The Giant Panda has the perfect Asian animal temperament: rare, shy, and hugely dependent on a stable ecology. So when a zoo obtains a Giant Panda baby, it’s always worldwide news.
China may be the best country to see wild animals, but many of them are protected. Enjoy the oversized, bumbling dignity of the Giant Panda at your local zoo. The more people realize how precious these species are, the more funding we have to protect them.
You can explore the rich history of conversation efforts for giant pandas here.
The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will.
The king cobra is like an animal out of a children’s book or a popular comic. They even have myths and fables written about them. But there’s much more to these “charming” specimens than the stories tell. In person, you’ll see exactly how real-life they are. The snake can reach 15 feet in length and can even raise its head to five feet to look you in the eyes!
Imagine meeting a snake as tall as a human being! In fact, they are the longest venomous snakes in India, China, and all over Southeast Asia— truly a monster of an animal. Obviously this beautiful animal is best enjoyed from a safe distance, but there’s several ways to see them in a safe environment around India.
Europe isn’t usually the first continent people choose for vacations to see wild animals. But that may be a mistake. Because in reality, Europe contains more biomes and ecosystems than anywhere else in the world, save the rainforests. The Eurasian Lynx from Sweden is one of the unique wild animals you can only see there.
Eurasian Lynxes are related to bobcats and the hundreds of Asian wild cats, and there’s a huge success story behind their current populations. In the 19th century, European and Russian poachers nearly eradicated them. However, today, they are thriving thanks to aggressive conservation efforts.
Despite their supple feline posture, these furry hunters rank as the third largest animal in Europe–just behind the brown bear and wolf.
When you look at a sloth, it’s hard to remember that you haven’t left Earth for another world. While it might seem reasonable to relate them to tree-climbing primates, they are actually genetically closest to anteaters! Go figure.
Sloths live all over Central and South America in tropical rainforests, keeping their distance from fellow sloths nearly their entire life. These animals are essential for biologists to track where some of the oldest species came from. If you can book a vacation to the Amazon, be sure not to overlook a tour to find sloths in the wild.
“Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius.”
—E. O. Wilson
Green Sea Turtles–Galapagos Island
These prominent members of the sea turtle family swim near the Galapagos Islands, but they travel thousands of miles around both sides of South America too. A vacation to the Pacific or Atlantic coasts of South America is sure to allow you to observe a Green Sea Turtle in the flesh.
But their color is truly their star feature. The Green Sea Turtle gets its coloration from fat pockets under its rigid carapace. However, while you can view photos and documentaries all day long, it’s best to see their vibrant colors in real life.
Why? Their blue-green hue is truly striking up close. And despite their monstrous stature, they’re surprisingly deft swimmers. Quite the sight to behold!
Formosan Rock Macaques–Taiwan
If there is any type of wild animals humans find irresistible, it’s primates. Monkeys and apes of all varieties capture our attention and leave us dreaming about what we are as humans and how far our culture removed us from our roots in nature. The Formosan Rock Macaque must be one of the most human-like monkeys in the world.
Formosan Rock Macaques live and groom each other in highly complex social units. Their faces, seen up close in their native Taiwan, are just as expressive as ours. They even take hot baths together! If you want to catch a glimpse at these one-of-a-kind cousins to humans, do it quick.
Their numbers have improved since poaching times, with their official designation suggesting “least concern.” You can explore the full history of these conservation efforts here.
Philippine Crocodiles–The Philippines
Similar to the pink land iguana from Isabela Island, the Philippine Crocodile is both exciting and terrifying to see. The Philippines are one of the best countries to see wild animals, and their unique reptiles must be near the top of the list.
This crocodile only lives in the Philippines. It has developed a highly individual scale pattern, personality, and shape. These species have been rescued, in part, thanks to substantial native efforts to give them their own habitats. Once, men hunted them out of fear and a desire for their hide. Today, there are only about 100 remaining, but the population is going up.
Haast Tokoeka Kiwis–New Zealand
Flora and fauna of the island of New Zealand never fail to surprise. Like other species which developed in island ecosystems, the Haast Tokoeka Kiwi bird looks like nothing else. Their unique spherical body and fine, needle-like beaks combine to make a unique profile.
But the kiwi has predators that outmatch its slow flight. So it’s currently a “threatened” species. As long as preservationists continue to save them, you’ll have no trouble vacationing to New Zealand to see the kiwi with the other wild animals.
Observing Marine Iguanas swimming is like watching a fairy-tale beast in real life. Though Darwin first documented these dragon-like beauties on the Galapagos Islands, they inhabit a larger area. Vacations to Ecuador aren’t complete until you visit the rocky, Martian coast and catch a glimpse of these iguanas.
Their scales are as tough as plate steel, and their tails—half their total size!—are razor sharp. Though they spend most of their time on the warm ocean rock outcroppings, they really show off their talents underwater.
For those with an inclination towards herpetology, these incredible reptiles are about as close as you can get to enjoying a living/breathing reptile.
Maui Dolphins–Midway Islands
Let’s face it. It’s hard not to love dolphins. All across times and cultures, people have adored these hyper-intelligent aquatic mammals. We know about their family social structure, responsiveness to human language, and playfulness. But do you know about the different sizes of dolphins?
Maui Dolphins are the smallest species on the planet. Named after one of their stopping points during migration, they live near other Pacific islands too. In person, you can see them circling Port Waikato. Their miniature fins and blunted head truly make them look human.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
Cocos Finches–Cocos Islands
This next one is for our resident aviary enthusiasts. So much genetic variety in animals occurs in isolated areas, and the Cocos Finch is a great example.
There is no way around it: visiting Cocos Islands (over 600 miles south of Costa Rica) will take some planning. But the Cocos Finches are a good enough reason to try. The island has no inhabitants. It’s solely a nature reserve, so the finches thrive. Not only are they rare, but the males display a unique palette of feather colors seen nowhere else.
Did you know we developed another list of the best places to see wild animals just for island locations? Check it out!
Mexican Walking Fish–Mexico
No, this isn’t the Mexican Jumping Frog from Mark Twain. Instead, this is the Mexican Walking Fish, and it’s just as fantastic and authentic as you might imagine. This species, actually a salamander and an amphibian, is one of the oldest continuously existent animals on Earth.
They genuinely look prehistoric. Yet, all along, these salamanders have been living in Mexico. Six hundred years ago, they were a major food source for the Aztecs. Today, it’s relatively easy to see these creatures in Mexico. But, keep in mind, despite being common pets they’re critically endangered in the wild.
Thankfully, experts are rescuing more every year. The Smithsonian Magazine explores the full and strange story of such conservation efforts.
Continuing with the amphibian theme, we have a hard time looking away from the bizarre Clawed Frog from Nigeria. Measuring four inches wide and weighing only about two ounces, their size is commonplace. However, it’s when you see the small, clawed hooks on their arms that they stand out.
The claws help them crawl., as they can’t jump due to genetic mutations. Another interesting adaptation that Clawed Frogs have developed is their eyes on the top of their heads. It might be worth your time making a trip to Nigeria and Subsaharan Africa just to catch a glimpse of these natural oddities.
European Legless Lizards–Romania
Just as the Mexican Walking Fish is a salamander, this Eastern European lizard looks just like a snake. Its dimensions are certainly snakelike, with a three-foot length and 14-ounce maximum weight. Yet, the people of Romania and Western Asia have recognized this hybrid animal for years.
According to local myth, if you come across one of these lizards and disturb it, they shatter into a million pieces. Though they aren’t made of glass, they do have segmented bodies. So if they feel in danger, they can split themselves into parts and flee! Many local zoos house these lizards, but we recommend visiting them in their local habitat.
Without disturbing them, that is! They will quite literally fall apart under stress, so always strive to be a responsible visitor in nature.
The Hoatzin, or Canje Pheasant, is undoubtedly one of the most unique and interesting wild animals. And we mean “unique” in the most respectful sense. Their heads have lots of intricate details that draw out the bird’s uniqueness. Witness their plume of orange tassels and distinctive long necks.
To see a wild animal like the Hoatzin, you’d have to visit them in their native Bolivia and other swampy mangrove areas all across northwest South America. If you can’t manage the trip, don’t worry. Their population is growing slightly. It looks like the Hoatzin is here to stay, for now.
Now here’s a bird that went all-out with its decorative costume. The South American Long-Wattled Umbrellabird lives in the hard-to-reach central humid rainforests. This bird makes a strong impression like other display birds and birds-of-paradise, except the Umbrellabird wears an all-black tuxedo.
The feathers droop down heavily from the beak and flip up from the eyes in a beautiful pompadour shape. If you get a chance to visit the South American tropical rainforests or zoos and reserves nearby, you won’t long forget the Umbrellabird.
Victoria Crowned Pigeons–New Guinea
What comes to your mind first when you think of a pigeon? Rather monotonous grey feathers? Bad tempers? Or perhaps pigeons are your personal spirit animal. If so, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon is truly the king and queen of those ubiquitous birds. They are known for wearing an impressive crown of peacock-shaped feathers.
The Victoria Crowned pigeon also outweighs common pigeons by pounds (5.5 pounds) and stoops over them too (30 inches). They are the largest pigeon in the world, after the extinct Dodo bird. The history of its name traces the history of British rule in New Guinea. Regardless of the term, this is one remarkable wild animal.
Few animals display the regality that this bird has evolved to show. Viewing this animal in the wild is nothing less than a magical experience.
To millions of viewers of popular nature documentaries, these translucent and almost plastic-colored frogs are already well-known. Yet, their precious jewel-like appearance never ceases to amaze. The glass frog lives primarily in Brazil, but these species have very few conservation concerns, and you’ll likely find a specimen nearby.
The glassy film that is their skin exposes all their vital organs. This fact has puzzled biologists for decades. Yet, the clear skin helps them escape predators at night.
Sometimes the strangeness of nature provides comfort to us. And this strange frog is a favorite among such appreciators of oddities.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
The shoebill stork has a humorous look, with its heavy, unwieldy beak seeming to force the bird’s head into a sleeping position. But there’s so much more to Shoebill storks than their off-balance appearance. These birds have been a treasured part of east African culture and myth.
Today, the population of Shoebills is threatened, despite their past cultural status. Nevertheless, these spectacular birds use their giant bill to catch equally huge fish from local rivers. The bill requires a massive body to support it, too. At 55 inches tall with a maximum wingspan of over eight feet, it’s one of the largest storks in the world.
Unfortunately, vacations and visits to Sudan and Zambia aren’t advisable at present. Instead, we recommend visiting a local bird sanctuary or zoo that keeps these massive birds. They specialize in standing absolutely still while hunting. They’re truly one of the most unique and interesting wild animals!
For a lot of people, the fear of large insects is real and severe. There’s something off-putting about seeing a magnified version of an animal or insect you thought you knew. Yet, there’s still a lot of excitement about taking a vacation to see a wild animal or bug just to widen your experience of the animal kingdom. Go to Malaysia, and that’s sure to happen.
The giant katydid measures six inches across. That might seem to be a big jump in sizes from the katydids that populate the northern hemisphere, but it’s important to keep some perspective on these insects. The total number of katydid species in the world amounts to some 6,000 distinct insects.
Sometimes the sheer volume of various animals that occupy the world is shocking. Nevertheless, the Malaysian giant katydid is the largest known specimen.
Markhors are some of the most unique and rare animal species in the world. They live primarily in the mountainous zones separating Afghanistan and northern India. While it could be challenging to take a vacation to observe this rugged and dignified type of goat at present, it’s worthwhile to seek them out in your local zoos and natural reserves.
The Markhor is a wild goat with a distinctive hairy coat and tall, curly horns that seem to call out for respect and nobility. Besides how they look, these breathtaking creatures have played a central role in Afghani and local Pakistani legends.
They call this goat the “snake eater.” Myth traces this name back to when local farmers used the Markhors’ foamy saliva to treat snakebites. Surprisingly, Afghanistan may be one of the best countries to see wild animals, although making the journey may not be practical.
Thanks to our whirlwind globetrot to countries with wild animals, beautiful species are never far from home. While there are plenty of solid contenders, it’s probably impossible to judge any one place as the best country to see wild animals. Indeed, it’s better to appreciate the wildness and unique ecosystems that we live in every day. We all must learn to have more respect and awe for the other inhabitants of earth we often we take for granted.
What we’ve tried to offer here is but a tiny fraction of the wonders that nature has to offer with the goal that you might feel a part of the whole. Wild animals need people to support them, but sometimes that support has to be from afar. For further information, check out places like: