We are thrilled that Dr. Cacinda Maloney of PointsandTravel is here to write about one of her favorite adventurous things to do on a trip: interact with wildlife for National Wildlife Day!
One reason I love to travel so much is that it gives me the chance to explore so many stunning and luscious places in the world. I am not one to brag, but I do have to tell you that I have seen some amazing landscapes, cultures, and people from all over this planet. The beauty of this diversity is not lost on me and honestly, it shouldn’t be lost on you either. Thinking back to all the incredible places I have been and people I have met, I wanted to remind you that September 4 is National Wildlife Day.
I think National Wildlife Day should be a day of celebration, to remind everyone on the planet to take a step back and think about all the natural beauty and wildlife that surrounds us. I feel it is my duty as a traveler to help preserve this entire planet, not only for my children, but also for my grandchildren, and for all the children born way after I am gone.
National Wildlife Day
National Wildlife Day is as an opportunity for us all to learn more about the earth and its endangered species and conservation practices. I want to be a part of these efforts around the world by getting involved in the local communities that are doing the work that needs to be done to pass on this great weight of duty to the next generation. As a former physician, I know that if you don’t take care of your body, you’ll have no place to live. The same thing is true with the Earth; if we don’t take care of it, where will we live? That is a question to ponder as I introduce you to a few amazing wildlife experiences I have encountered through my many years of traveling.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
Yellowstone National Park, United States
One of the reasons that I wanted to start with this world-renowned national park was due to the fact that Yellowstone became the first national park in the country when Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, signed it into law in 1872 (a mere 25 years before my grandfather John F. Clark was born!). In fact, Yellowstone was the first national park in the world and helped establish the ideal of preserving American lands for future generations.
I was lucky enough to get to explore this gorgeous park and during my visit, I was spotted some of the massive wild bison that roam these lands. I even met a man who goes to the park every day to search for gray wolves. It is remarkable the dedication some people have to these wild animals and land. Here in the park, 61 different species—including bears, bison, wolves, moose, elk, badgers, bighorn sheep, and otters, just to name a few—live side by side. We as a nation need to think about what we can learn from them.
But as you know, the United States is not the only country with wildlife.
I have been fortunate to not only have visited Canada, but to have made my way all the way up to Manitoba. It is here where I was able to spot polar bears, and to swim and kayak with beluga whales. To actually be out in the wilderness and to interact somewhat with these amazing creatures was the experience of a lifetime.
For polar bear spotting, we suited up for chilly outdoor weather, chartered a small boat and for an entire afternoon searched for polar bears in the wild. As for the beluga whales, I spent hours in a kayak near the Hudson Bay on the Churchill River. This is the location where about 50,000 female beluga whales bring their babies in summer. They come here because the waters are a bit warmer and calmer for their young, and this allows them time to clean their skin.
Swimming and snorkeling with beluga whales was one of the greatest adventures I have ever had with wild animals. Weighed down with massive gear and a dry suit, I jumped out of our boat and into the freezing cold water. As I made my way out to the end of the rope, I began to hum and sing high-pitched songs and before you know it, I was surrounded by mamma belugas and their babies! The twin experience of kayaking and swimming with beluga whales was life-changing.
Another out-of-this-world experience has been the two times that I was able to visit the Galapagos Islands. The animal encounters there are almost indescribable, but I will do my best to let you know what to expect. You’ll come across birds the size of domesticated dogs! I saw blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, penguins, frigate birds, finches and a slew of others. These birds have no fear of you, so you can literally walk within 6 feet of them and they will not fly away. Some of them have considerable wingspans and it is like an out-of-body experience to visit one of “their” islands!
I also saw massive—and I mean massive—amounts of black marine iguanas! These things are creepy to look at, but fascinating in their evolution. Plus, I saw Sally Lightfoot crabs, land iguanas, sea lions and the famed enormous Galapagos tortoises. Again, incredible experiences were had on these two trips, yielding memories that will last a lifetime!
One may not even imagine the kind of wildlife that Sri Lanka has to offer, but I can tell you that I had one of the funniest elephant safari experiences ever when we went out for the day in search of wild Asian elephants. Loaded into the back of a forest green Jeep with no top and tons of camera gear, we made our way to the “gathering.” The gathering is about four hours Northwest of Colombo at Kaudulla National Park, where it is estimated that Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia!
The reason this experience was so funny was because one of our trucks got in between a Mother Asian Elephant and her child and she did NOT like it one bit! She started galloping towards the truck and at any moment, she looked as if she could topple the thing over with one swift trunk swing. She was mad and she certainly let the driver know that as he got too close to her child! It had been lightly raining and so the driver swerved out of the way through the mud, with the mamma elephant in hot pursuit. I was watching all of this safely from my own truck and we were laughing hard at the sight of the truck trying to get away.
I also had a chance to go on a wildlife animal search for Sri Lankan leopards, only this big cat figured out we were tracking her and went deeper and deeper into the forest.
Komodo Island, Indonesia
What good fortune I had when I was in Indonesia and was able to visit the world-famous Island of Komodo! I absolutely had no idea what to expect, but once again I was amazed at Mother Nature and her ability to provide me with such awe and fascination! The ancient Komodo Dragons are the largest living lizards in the world and quite the sight—some can grow up to 10 feet in length.
Apprehension was my first emotion, but once I got over that, I was able to photograph them and enjoy watching them move ever so slowly around the island. But occasionally, when someone or something (a deer) got in their way, they could move lightning fast! The Komodo Dragon is a vulnerable species and is on the IUCN Red List, which is the most up-to-date list of the world’s most threatened species.
Some people may be astonished to learn that even though I have visited 87 countries, I have never been to Africa. But that is all about to change on my next birthday, as I am going to Tanzania! Honestly, I cannot wait! I know that this experience will also be a life-changing one, just as my other wildlife encounters have been so stay tuned for that.
National Wildlife Day reminds us of how magnificent so many of the world’s creatures are, and as thinking human beings it is our duty to protect them. When I step back and think about it, I know that I admire these wild creatures and the environments that they live in for one main reason: They remind me that I need to find the right balance between my life and the world in which I live. Each encounter encourages me to advocate for preservation and conservation so that they will continue to live in this world for years to come.
This post is dedicated to the memory of wildlife conservationist Steve Irwin. Irwin was killed by a sting ray on September 4 and National Wildlife Day was created in his honor.
Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.