Amazing Animals in the USA, Canada and Antarctica
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What cool animals can you see in the USA, Alaska and Antarctica?
The United States of America covers such an incredible land mass that a huge variety of amazing animals can be seen here. Especially in the national parks and Alaska.
The US has many distinctive indigenous species found nowhere else on Earth. With most of the North American continent, the US lies in a region containing an assemblage of species similar to northern parts of Africa and Eurasia.
In Antarctica, the wildlife are referred to as ‘extremophiles,’ meaning they must adapt to the dryness, low temperatures, and high exposure common in Antarctica. Much of the ocean around the mainland is covered by sea ice. The Arctic Oceans are also a stable environment for life, both in the water column and on the seabed.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Lazing around with Elephant Seals in San Simeon
San Simeon, California is best known for being the home of Hearst Castle, the magnificent home of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. But for animal lovers, the tiny town holds another mecca: Elephant Seal Beach. Each winter, thousands of these giant blubbery creatures waddle onto the sand on this stretch of the Pacific Coast to mate.
Males stake out territories and compete for female attention, both by fighting and bellowing at each other. These males can weigh up to three tons, and are shockingly agile when motivated! They get their name from the elephant-like trunks they have, though the females don’t look much different from average harbour seals.
How to see the Elephant Seals in California
There is a fence up separating people from the beach, but it is easy to get past. Please respect the signs, though, and stay back, both for your own safety as well as that of the seals.
By Jonathan | The Royal Tour Blog
Bear spotting at Yosemite National Park
My latest and coolest encounter with a wildlife animal was a bit more than a year ago when I was on a road trip in Northern California with my husband. We went to Yosemite National Park and got the brochure about wildlife and how you should behave, especially when it came to bears. Which means no food in the car in the parking after dark if it’s not in a bear can (if you don’t want to come back to a destroyed car), no driving too fast at night because you might kill or seriously harm one, etc.
I was of course secretly hoping to see a bear in its natural habitat (honestly, I was crossing fingers and toes) but I knew the chances were extremely slim. We were only doing an afternoon hike before leaving the National Park, after all. But then, in the middle of the beautiful hike, people started to turn towards the foot of the falls and the atmosphere changed.
I couldn’t believe my eyes but there it was: a bear, trying to catch something in the water! I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day!
Where to see the bears in Yosemite
There isn’t one single place to see bears as the Park is so vast. There are many hiking trails around Yosemite National Park but this bear was spotted whilst on the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls.
By Alice | Take Your Bag
Mustangs in Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park
Driving through the dry red landscape, our local Navajo guide, Harry pointed out various buttes and spires. Sharing local names and legends behind each dramatic rock formation.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park seemed like the Wild West from the movies to us and it was fitting to learn that Western great John Wayne called the area “God’s treasure”.
Harry said he had something special to show us and that we needed to stay extremely quiet. Rounding a bend full of anticipation, we were met with a sight that made my daughter gasp out loud in delight. Only a few meters away, a small herd of Wild Mustang were quietly enjoying a cool drink from a waterhole.
A sandy coloured horse raised its head in acknowledgement of our arrival but seemed content with us stopping and staying a while. We sat enchanted for what seemed a long time until the spell was broken and the herd moved quietly on.
How to see the Mustangs in Monument Valley
You can self-drive through a small area of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park but to fully appreciate the amazing landscape and perhaps get a glimpse of this beautiful, living symbol of the untamed American West you need to book a guided tour by local Navajo.
By Kirsty | Travel with Meraki
Swimming with Turtles on the Big Island, Hawaii
We had the most amazing animal encounter of our travels on the Big Island of Hawaii. Local friends showed us a beach on the Hilo side of the island where they regularly saw Hawaiian sea turtles swimming close to shore.
Sure enough, when we visited Carl Smith Beach Park there were a couple of turtles swimming right by the rocky shore. We were so surprised that the turtles came so close to us. We did not have to approach them and we were very careful not to touch the turtles. This one turtle spent about 30 mins just swimming around the kids. It was amazing!
How to swim with Turtles in Hawaii
The best place to swim with sea turtles in Hawaii’s Big Island is at Carl Smith Beach Park. Carl Smith Beach Park is on the east coast of the Big Island in Hilo town. This is not a sandy beach, rather a grassy park with rocks leading down to the water. There are plenty of spots where you can step into the water from the rocks or by climbing down the stairs.
The Carl Smith Beach Park is by far the best place to see turtles in Hawaii that we encountered on our travels. We did see turtles on the beach in a couple of other locations on the Big Island but they weren’t nearly as active or interested in humans.
By Bethany | Flashpacker Family
Spotting Wild Manatees in Florida
If you’re ever in northeastern Florida, there is a great place to see manatees in the wild – for free! Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is located along Florida’s coast and is a great spot for wildlife viewing!
It’s a joy to just watch the manatee’s bubbles across the water and see them swim up to the dock. There is also a nearby wildlife drive where you can see frogs, snakes, birds, and even alligators in their native habitat. It’s definitely worth a visit! Learn more about the area here.
How to see Manatees at Merritt Island National Park
When you’re in the National Park, you can check out the Manatee viewing platform, but you won’t always have the best of luck there.
Luckily, some locals filled me in on the secret to seeing the manatees up close and personal! Head to the nearby boat ramp and you’ll be amazed at how close the manatees will be! Like big water dogs, they love attention from people. But, please know that Florida law protects manatees and prohibits people from touching them, so look but don’t touch!
By Danielle | Wanderlust on a Budget
An Oregon Bear Encounter
I had a great bear experience while whitewater rafting the Rogue River in Oregon this fall. We actually saw three bears on the 4-day trip, but the best encounter was this one that popped on the river bank and seemed very curious about the bright yellow boats we were floating in. We all hung out for 20 minutes or so, just watching each other, the bear sniffing us out and us taking pictures.
When we finally decided to continue down the river, he followed along on the river bank for quite a while, only stopping when he found a good berry patch that now seemed more interesting than a bunch of stinky humans! I’ve seen bears several times, but this was my favourite because it was the most natural, the bear wasn’t rooting through trash or darting across a highway and there weren’t hordes of people all trying to catch a glimpse. It felt like a very special encounter.
By Leigh | Campfires & Concierges
Moose Crossing in Denali National Park and Preserve
When I was a teenager, my family flew to Alaska and lived out of an RV for a few weeks. It’s still one of my favourite trips more than a decade later, and the wildness and beauty of the environment were palpable.
At one point, we pulled into a camping park near the Denali National Park and Preserve. My brother and I were tired of being cooped up in the RV for hours and quickly ventured off to find the canteen for a snack. The park ranger shouted something about being careful but we didn’t quite catch it.
On the wooden path, there was a crash. We stood frozen as an injured mother moose and her baby calf passed a dozen feet in front of our eyes. She was limping and looked quite distressed, so I feared she’d charge if we moved an inch. As she slowly passed we looked on with wonder at such a raw and incredible moment – just for us in our memory, way before social media. I’d love to return to Alaska someday!
By Eileen | Crooked Flight
Alaskan Brown Bear Viewing in Lake Clark National Park
I grew up in Alaska, so often times people assume seeing a bear in the wild is nothing special for me. However, I still get awe-struck when I see these powerful animals in the wild. Though I prefer not to run into them on the hiking trail, so finding a safe way to view them was a dream come true!
I recently had the opportunity to fly out to Lake Clark National Park, a remote park in Alaska accessible only by small aircraft. It was here we were able to observe and watch the bears, relaxed in their natural habitat.
They had plenty of food and were aware of our presence. I thoroughly enjoyed watching bear cubs play fight, mommas keeping a watchful eye, and big male bears pacing. It was truly something special and a unique experience, even for a local.
Where to see the Alaskan Brown Bears
This trip out to Lake Clark National Park can be easily done as a day trip or multi-day trip from Anchorage, Alaska. Various small aeroplane companies – we flew with a local favourite Rust’s – partner with the bear lodge to create an exhilarating and responsible eco-tour.
The hour and a half flight was breathtaking all on its own. With views of Denali mountain, glaciers, and active volcanoes, the bears have some tough competition. Make sure you bring your telephoto lens and tripod, so you don’t miss a single photo opportunity.
By Susanna | Female Travel Bloggers
Vancouver Orca Whale Encounter
While visiting Vancouver, BC a few years ago, we booked an all-day whale watching excursion with Vancouver Whale Watch, which far exceeded our expectations! On our way out to the more remote islands of the sound, we saw bald eagles and sea lions. The first orca spotting was so exciting – we all snapped 100’s of pictures! Then we saw more and more, it was unbelievable. We saw up to six orcas swimming together at a time!
This continued on for the better part of the day, and I only recall one other tourist boat out there with us, which was great! Our captain and guide were super respectful of the wildlife and so knowledgeable about each whale. They were able to identify several just by different markings on their fins and were also able to tell us how some were related to others within the pods.
Getting to see so many killer whales in their natural habitat was such a special experience and reinforced my commitment to never support organizations like Sea World who keep these beautiful creatures in captivity.
By Leigh | Campfires & Concierges
Male Moose in British Columbia
Several years ago, I was in Northern British Columbia staying at a lodge on Muncho Lake. I was invited by the owner to go out in their float plane to pick up some fishermen staying at a remote cabin. As we made a pass over the lake, we noticed a group of moose on the opposite end of the lake. All females and calves.
As I had never taken a decent photo of a moose before, I got into a canoe with one of the other passengers and we paddled over to the other end of the lake. By the time we got there, the moose was gone.
On the way back, however, we spied a huge bull moose who was feeding in the water. He would put his head underwater to eat the weeds, and then bring his head up to chew. As his head came out of the lake, water would fall off his antlers like a waterfall. He did this over and over as we slowly paddled closer to him. We got about 20m away as he continued to ignore us and eat. Eventually, he went back to shore and left, but it remains the greatest moose encounter I’ve ever had.
How to see Moose in British Columbia
Muncho Lake Provincial Park is located in Northern British Columbia, Canada, only a few minutes from the Alaskan Highway. The gates are closed in the offseason when snow falls. Vehicle access camping is available at either Strawberry Flats campground or Macdonald campground. The cost is $20 per night.
By Gary | Everything Everywhere
Bison Herds in Riding Mountain National Park
Riding Mountain National Park is a gem of southern Manitoba, and within it live one of the few purebred Plains Bison herds left in the country. These beautiful creatures roam within Lake Audy’s Bison Enclosure where you have the opportunity to admire them in their natural habitat. They’re also integral to the Prairie ecosystem as they forage for specific flora and fauna, create trails throughout the area and add nutrients to the soil while circulating seeds.
When visiting though, you have to be patient as the Bison may be in the forest when you first arrive! If you take your time and slowly wander throughout the enclosure though, they just might come out and say hello. If it’s a hot day and the sun is out then they’ll be hanging out in the shade, but if its cooler then chances are they’ll be basking in the sun’s rays.
It may take a few trips around the enclosure, but they just might pop out and surprise you! Remember though, these are wild animals so be sure to stay in your vehicle while in the enclosure!
How to see Bison in Riding National Park
Take Manitoba 354 to Lake Audy Road and follow it past the campground. You’ll then come to the southern enclosure’s gate. Be sure to read all warnings and information signs to ensure a great experience for all. The only place you can exit your vehicle is the lookout in the southern enclosure but always use caution.
By Lindsay | I’ve Been Bit
Crossing paths with a Black Bear in Waterton National Park
It was the last day of my trip to the Canadian Rockies and I actually didn’t see too many animals. I spent my last 2 days in a rather unusual place, Waterton National Park which lies on the border of Montana, USA.
I went for a short hike in the park to see a waterfall, and on my way back, I got a message on my cell. I took it out and continued walking. I raised my head and… a short distance from me I see a black bear on the main trail! Not in the trees or something, it was on the main trail!
We stared at each other. I froze for a second, trying to recall these signs of “bear encounters” but meanwhile pulled out my phone to start taking photos! What you should do in such a case is make noise and that’s what I did. At the beginning, it didn’t have an effect but eventually, he moved away. More of my animal encounters can be found here.
When to see the Black Bears in Waterton National Park
The highest chances of seeing the bears is going early in the morning. But be careful and don’t travel alone!
By Eran | The Laughing Traveller
Kayaking with Humpback Whales in Antarctica
We’ve been lucky enough to have our fair share of epic animal encounters, but by far the most memorable and inspiring one happened in one of the planet’s most remote destinations, Antarctica. We were exploring the Gerlache Strait, an ocean channel rich in marine life, when the captain spotted some humpback whales in the distance.
The crew unloaded the zodiacs and kayaks, and we immediately started paddling out towards the giant creatures. Soon enough they became curious of us, and came right next to the group of kayakers. Much to our surprise, they were super playful, breaching, spy hopping and diving just a few metres from us.
The sight of dozens of humpbacks made our experience of kayaking in Antarctica all the more memorable, and seeing these powerful wonders of the ocean up close is a moment we’ll never forget.
By Jarryd & Alesha | NOMADasaurus
Playful Penguins in Antarctica
Our coolest animal encounter was in the coldest place in the world – Antarctica. While the White Continent has no shortage of amazing wildlife (seabirds and seals and whales, oh my!) we were most charmed by the iconic penguins. Even though we viewed so many penguins on our visit we never grew tired of them.
Visitors cannot touch and must keep a distance of at least 5 meters of the penguins but that doesn’t mean a close encounter is out of your reach. It is perfectly fine to just stand there and let the penguins approach you. Since penguins don’t have any natural enemies on land (they do on air and water) they have no fear of humans and happily waddle over often.
When to visit Antarctica
Visits to Antarctica are possible during the Antarctic summer from November to March when temperatures are typically just below freezing. Lucky visitors will have plenty of opportunities to take in the surroundings and delightful penguins with almost 24 hours of daylight.
By Matilda | The Travel Sisters
Want more cool animals?
This is a series where I feature amazing animal encounters from all over the world! If you liked this post and want to see more, please follow my Facebook Page to be notified when I post the next one!
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