As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate nature more. I’m not saying I’m eager to go on a camping trip anytime soon (or ever, because lol if you know me). However, I can say that, over the past few years, traveling to places that are rich in natural beauty has become a key interest of mine.
Over the past three years I’ve been able to visit some places in the world that have incredibly gorgeous scenery: Iguazu Falls, the Great Barrier Reef, Australian rainforests, literally the entire country of New Zealand, the Scottish Highlands, literally the entire country of Iceland. I definitely love me the hustle and bustle of a big, fancy city and all of its bright lights, but something about nature has really gotten to me.
Along with my desire to see more nature, I have also become really keen on seeing wildlife in the places I go. I mean, who doesn’t love animals? There have been animal encounters in trips I’ve taken since I was little, from giant pandas in China to alpacas in New Zealand, but my favorite animal encounters are the ones that are completely natural — not in a zoo and not even in a wildlife sanctuary.
My all-time favorite animal travel memory so far comes from Iguazu National Park in Argentina. My mom and I stayed at a Sheraton resort that was actually located inside of the national park. The first morning after we arrived I was woken up by my mom urgently saying in a loud whisper, “Rayna, Rayna get up! Look outside!”
I got out of bed and went over to the big, windowed sliding doors that led to our room’s balcony. Outside our window, in the trees just a little bit away, were toucans! There were at least four of them, and they were content just sitting in the bare branches, occasionally hopping from branch to branch. It was the most incredible thing to witness. I never thought that our first morning there we’d wake up to my favorite bird right outside our window. The toucans eventually flew away, but they returned every morning we were there, and I couldn’t got enough.
There’s something special about seeing real live animals out in the wild in their natural habitat — not in an enclosed space in a zoo or on a wildlife farm. I’m dying to go on a real African safari. I was 2 when we went to South Africa, so I don’t actually remember what that safari was like other than from seeing photos of it. (And speaking of seeing photos from that trip, see below for a pic of wild baboons on a cars. One lady in our tour group had her purse stolen by a baboon!)
I love seeing wild animals in places where if feels like I’m the one intruding on their space. From the fish in the Great Barrier Reef to my favorite toucans in Argentina, seeing beautiful wildlife up close and personal — moments in which it’s just you and the animals — is one of my favorite things about traveling.