Travel insights from Jenna Buege, associate editor of The Compass

5 Wild Travel Experiences for Animal Aficionados

Do you want to see animals up close and personal in a natural way? We aren’t talking zoos and enclosures. No, instead, think dipping your toes in the Great Barrier Reef, whale watching off the coast of Boston or embarking on an exotic cruise in search of unique wildlife. The world is a wild place, are you ready to embrace it?

Whale Watching in Hawaii

Ultimate Whalewatch and Snorkel in Maui guarantees visitors a humpback whale experience so intimate that you can almost reach out and touch them (seriously, they’ll be just mere feet away). On this adrenaline-fueled adventure, travelers set sail on the company’s fast and safe rafting vessels which rest low in the water, making them the perfect form of transportation for a close encounter of the whale kind. The average adult humpback whale measures a whopping 45 feet in length and can weigh over 90,000 pounds. Travelers will also encounter other beloved marine animals like sea turtles, dolphins and octopi on this excursion as they listen to whale songs on the raft’s hydrophone.

Dragon Sightings in Indonesia

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Komodo (Varanus Komodoensis) 😎 . #komodoisland #varanuskomodoensis

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Do you fantasize about hanging out with dragons? Well pack your bags for Komodo National Park in Indonesia, home to the Komodo dragon, the largest species of monitor lizard on earth. Ok, so the Komodo dragon doesn’t fly or spit fire but they can grow up to eight and a half feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds. It’s also worth mentioning that these reptilian superstars can run an impressive 12 mph when prompted so don’t get on their bad side. Komodo National Park offers four different guided hiking routes where travelers can gaze in awe at the 3,000 dragons who call this place home.

The Crabby Case of Christmas Island

As a former fiddler crab owner, I was excited to discover Australia’s Christmas Island, a magical place where over 50 million red crabs gather each year to spawn. The migration season typically spans from October to December as red crabs release their eggs into the sea at high tide during the last lunar quarter. Many roads on the island are closed during this time to prevent crab casualties, however, visitors can still get around by car but they will be required to drive slowly and carefully. As for the main event, have your camera ready to capture these crabs in action as they make their dash to the sea.

Great White Fright: Shark Diving in California

Extra adventurous domestic travelers don’t have to go far to experience some of the best shark diving around with California Shark Diving in San Diego and Los Angeles. Those embarking on this exciting expedition can choose between a shark viewing trip (aka the option for those looking to stay out of the water and a comfortable distance from the creatures that inspired Jaws) or a shark diving trip where they will be fully immersed in the waves of the Pacific Ocean in a shark-proof diving cage with 360 degree views and plenty of wiggle room. The most common species of sharks seen on this trip are mako, blue, hammerhead and the infamous great white shark.

Polar Bear Populous in Canada

Imagine rolling along in your tour bus when you encounter a polar bear in its natural habitat. Just outside the vehicle window, the bear stands a towering 10 feet tall on its hind legs as you and your fellow travelers reach for your cameras to capture this picture-perfect moment. This scene is the everyday reality for travelers exploring the city of Churchill with Great White Bear Tours. In addition to seeing polar bears, travelers will also have the opportunity to meet a local dog sled musher and their team followed by a dog sled ride through the Boreal Forest.

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