8 Awesome Animal Experiences around the World


I’VE been incredibly fortunate in the past few years, in the course of my travel writing adventures, to indulge in some of the most amazing experiences that exist between humans and animals. Here’s 8 I’ve done that I’ll reckon you’ll love.
1. Walk with the Polar Bears
To be utterly honest, I was more frightened of how cold I expected it to be up in arctic Canada, than being eaten by a polar bear, and I was right. This trip-of-a-lifetime sees you fly into Winnipeg, where you will overnight and be fitted with your polar gear (which assists greatly with minus 14 degree Celsius temperatures). The next day you’ll fly to Churchill, and then board a tiny plane out to Seal River Heritage Lodge. Here, Churchill Wild runs “walk with the polar bear” safaris out on the arctic tundra framing wild and remote Hudson Bay. So unthreatened are these beautiful animals by this tour, one 400kg male came within 10 metres of our group. Sublime.
https://www.churchillwild.com

2. Snorkel with Salmon
In this instance, I WAS frightened of bears, but I had no real reason. On this adventure, you fly out of Vancouver over to Vancouver Island and Campbell River. Here, you can join an eclectic journey with Destiny River Adventures where you will board a raft and paddle down Campbell River, before plunging into 14 degree waters. Yes, chilly, but worth it, as you plummet down the rapids, dodging rocks and snorkelling with salmon. There’s three pools to experience here (in pool two you are advised to fly like a super hero to avoid being shredded to bits by the rocks). And no, there are no grizzly bears waiting by the shoreline to feast on salmon, or you, as it’s the wrong season. What you will experience is a thrill of a lifetime, and come face-to-face with some friendly seals as well.
http://www.destinyriver.com

3. Sail to see the Komodo Dragons
I LOVE lizards and any reptile for that matter, and had always longed to see the komodo dragons. But arriving at Komodo National Park is not as simple as it seems. However, there exists an incredible adventure which makes the journey a dream. Head out with Indonesian Island Sail on its traditional timber boat, and you can spend 14 glorious days sailing from Bali to Komodo and back. Along the way you’ll feast on fabulous food, snorkel some of the clearest waters in the region, swim with manta rays and turtles, and arrive at Komodo National Park where you can snatch a selfie with those gorgeous giants.
http://www.indonesianislandsail.com

4. Float with the Manta Rays
Did someone mention manta rays? A few years ago, while staying on Hawaii’s Big Island, I had the fabulous fortune of a night float with the manta rays. Courtesy of Manta Ray Advocates, at Kona, after dark you are taken out into the bay on an outrigger canoe. Then, when the conditions are just right, you are invited to slip into the ocean. Holding on to a surf board with handles, and sporting a snorkel and mask, you are invited to plunge your face into the ocean and watch as the magnificent mantas swim right up to you. If you are lucky, they will eye-ball you before they perform a tumble turn.
http://www.mantarayshawaii.com/mantaexperience.html

5. Drive a Reindeer or Husky Sleigh
They are hard-core up in Finnish Lapland and it’s easy to see why. When you have months of darkness during winter, and the temperature plummets to minus 40 degrees Celsius, you tend to be made of serious stuff. Up at Beana Laponia Wilderness Boutique Hotel, a working husky farm, you are invited to not only join a husky safari, but are taught how to drive the team. Yes, you can become a musher. And it is seriously great fun as you fly through snowy trails in a pure-white winter wonderland. For those looking for something a little more sedate, the hotel can also arrange for you to do a reindeer safari. Not as fast or as fun as the huskies, but if Santa is your thing, this might be right up your alley.
http://www.beanalaponia.com

6. Meditate with a Horse
If only the horse could talk. One of my craziest animal experiences to date, this one occurred in the Gold Coast Hinterland at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat. Sure, you can do yoga, tai-chi or go bushwalking, or, if you’re like me, you can indulge in a one-hour meditation session with a horse. At first I was dubious, but it became very obvious during this session that Jack knew far more than I realised. Horses are used for therapy as it is believed they can pick up on human emotions (without any of the bullshit) and from my experience, Jack was spot on. When I was nervous, Jack was skittish. When I lost confidence leading him around the ring, so, too, did Jack. By the end of this session I was able to command Jack to gallop, and stop, purely by using my breath.
https://www.gwinganna.com

7. Witness hatching Turtles
There’s few nicer things in nature than watching an animal begin its life journey and at Bundaberg, on Queensland’s Southern Great Barrier Reef, you can do just that. Between November and January, head to Mon Repos Beach and watch the lady loggerhead turtles lay their eggs, and then, between January and March, you can encounter the hatchlings as they erupt from the nests. Carefully managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, join a ranger on a guided tour at night on the beach and your life will never quite be the same again. https://www.bundabergregion.org/turtles/mon-repos-turtle-encounter

8. Hang out with some cool Cats
If you’ve ever wanted to witness Africa’s Big Five, this is your chance. And at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges, you can do this in style. Plonked within South Africa’s Kruger National Park, each day you’ll head out on two safaris, one before dawn and the other before dusk, for your best chances of seeing animals in their wild habitat. Again, I was initially worried about being mauled by a lion, but you are in a four-wheel drive with a ranger and a spotter who are fastidious about safety. And, by the end of my trip, I was even going on walking safaris, out in the open, with the exceptional guides who will explain animal tracks and the stories behind them.
https://www.sabisabi.com

AND ONE I CAN’T WAIT TO DO
9. Swim with the Whales
Last year, I was all set to slip into the Pacific Ocean off of the Sunshine Coast and swim with the whales, but wild weather prevented that adventure. But each year, between July and October, when the humpback whales are migrating from Antarctica to breed and play in Queensland’s warm waters, visitors have the opportunity to go out with Sunreef Mooloolaba to get wet with the whales. You hold onto a floating line attached to the boat, and then it’s up to these mammoth mammals as to how close they wish to get to you. Watch this space…
http://www.sunreef.com.au/experiences/swim-whales

What animal experiences have you done that you’ve loved or want to do? My list doesn’t end. At number 10, I want to swim with the whale sharks and do a shark cage dive

The Goddess’ Briefs : Travel & Lifestyle Ideas for Strong, Smart, Sexy and Spiritual Women (and the great men who love us)

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NOTHING BUT THE BREAST AT RAFFLES
Raffles Hotels & Resorts around the world will be turning their competitors, and their properties, pink with envy this October to help raise awareness and money for Breast Cancer charities. Think pink cocktails, indulgent spa treatments, fashion shows and fund-raising dinners at five establishments including Raffles Singapore; Raffles Maktai, Manila; Raffles Dubai; Raffles Praslin Seychelles; and Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Global Goddess has sipped on a Singapore Sling in Raffles Singapore and has enjoyed the grand fortune of staying a night or two in Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, in Siem Reap, on the edge of Angkor Wat, and I can tell you, it’s all luxury with a Capital L. That Raffles is contributing to this good cause is simply (pink) icing on the cake for this elegant brand. For more information on Raffles or to support breast cancer awareness, go to http://www.raffles.com
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BE SEDUCED BY SEABREEZE IN SAMOA
Regular readers of The Global Goddess will remember I was in Samoa earlier this year, interviewing Samoan men about romance South Pacific-style, while gallantly try not to peer at what was (or in this case, was not) underneath their sarongs. As part of my trip I was incredibly lucky to spend an afternoon at Seabreeze Resort, lazing by the pool and drinking fresh coconut juice, which culminated in a delightful dinner with the Booths – two Queenslanders who own this boutique place. Seabreeze has just been named Samoa’s Leading Hotel at the 2013 World Travel Awards – the Oscars of the tourism industry – held in Dubai. And The Global Goddess concurs this gong it is well deserved. This 4.5 star resort with just 11 air-conditioned villas is luxury personified. http://www.seabreezesamoa.com
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EVERY WHICH WHALE BUT LOOSE
If there is anything more stunning than watching a humpback and its baby frolicking in the warm, clear waters of Queensland, than The Global Goddess would like to know what that is. But, be quick. You’ve only got until the end of October before these gentle giants of the deep begin their journey south again to the colder waters of Antarctica. Arguably the best destination in Queensland from which to witness this spectacle is at Fraser Island. Make a journey of it and stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort, good friends of The Global Goddess who can confirm they will look after you during your stay. Until the end of October, the resort is offering a special for $379 per person twin share which includes 2 nights resort hotel accommodation twin share; hot buffet breakfast daily; return passenger ferry transfers ex River Heads; Half-day whale watch cruise. And you receive a bonus third night free including breakfast. Also during October, guests can enjoy a $90 Refresh Spa Special at Kingfisher Natural Therapy. http://www.kingfisherbay.com
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ROCK YOUR OCTOBER AND EXPLORE YOUR LIFE PURPOSE
It was purely by chance (or was it?) that The Global Goddess stumbled across her Monday meditation class. That was 15 months ago and I couldn’t be more grateful for my discovery. Run by the beautiful and holistic Rhia Valentine through her Universal Change Group, classes are open to anyone who wants to explore what makes them tick, reduce stress, and discuss life issues in small, supportive groups. Rhia offers a range of classes for, beginners, kids, busy parents and the more advanced, in several western Brisbane locations. At the same time, Rhia also conducts a host of healings designed to upgrade your system to its maximum potential. During October, she is offering a discount of her Life Purpose Activation sessions. Normally priced at $100, those who book and pay this month, can receive a session – which can be held via distance, or in person, for $77. Looking at how enlightened The Global Goddess is these days, how could you refuse? Email rhia.valentine@bigpond.com or phone 0450 520 438 to book or for more information.
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GET HOT THIS SPRING
Continuing on her self-improvement journey, The Global Goddess also undertook her first hot yoga class five weeks ago. When it’s 32 degrees outside in Brisbane and 35 degrees inside the classroom, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve gone a bit mad. But the benefits of hot yoga are many and varied. According to Toowong’s Zama Yoga studio where I practice, hot yoga helps you detox, burn fat and stretch further, something to which I can attest. I can also say that from day one I started sleeping better, had more energy and felt generally healthier and happier. But hot yoga is not for everyone (even this Goddess has been known to curse the heat under her breath from time-to-time). At Zama, you can also undertake warm classes – where the studio is heated to 28 degrees – or cool classes, at room temperature. And like many studios, you are not confined to one teacher or one style of yoga. I’ve been going five mornings a week and a typical week includes hot vinyasa, hot power, zamalates (pilates), warm yin, and hatha. Like many studios offer, I took advantage of the $25 for the first week of unlimited classes to see if it suited me. I’ve since been hooked. To find out more, go to http://www.zamayoga.com.au. And please leave a comment below, telling me about your favourite studio or style of yoga, anywhere in the world.
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What did I do with a drunken sailor?

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FACT ONE: there are 74 islands in the Whitsundays.
FACT TWO: there are also 800 horny sailors in town.

IT’S a Whitsunday Wednesday and I am aboard the 80ft yacht, Brahms and Liszt which I am informed is sailing rhyming slang for pissed. Somewhere, in the shimmering waters around me, are 800 sex-charged sailors. Or so I’m told. What I do know is that every second salt is called Fitzy, so I’ve just taken to singing out “g’day Fitzy” when I walk down the dock of the Abell Point Marina each morning and hoping that my greeting lands on the right shoulders. What I am yet to learn is that crusty old salts like their calamari young, so to speak, and I have a better chance of spotting a whale in the Whitsunday Passage than hooking a man. Me, I’m more of a barracuda.
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Airlie Beach Race Week and every man and his dinghy is in town, lured by the warm trade winds which sweep the Australian sailing fraternity north along the Queensland coast. The weather is perfect except for one thing. There’s no wind and so, somewhere out to sea, sit 800 frustrated sailors, the lack of breeze keeping their sails limp, so to speak.
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I, too, am frustrated. I am meant to be writing a story about Airlie Beach and sailing, but it’s difficult without any wind in the sails. In these parts, it blows every week of the year but for once, Mother Nature is refusing to co-operate. Bored sailors circle each other like sharks, jokes and jibes tossed across bows, until early afternoon, when enough breeze picks up to warrant enough of a race. It’s not perfect, but it will do.
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As for me, a great story I eventually find, but it is one borne from dredging rather than smooth sailing. A quick quip here, a chat there, a day out on a tallship, a spot of snorkelling, a few drinks at the yacht club, a wander down the main drag. Some stories are like life. You have to wait for them to come to you, rather than force them. And so it is with this one.
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Sure, I could shout superlatives from the bow of a boat about how wonderful the Whitsundays is, but it’s all that and more. It’s the crinkly smiles behind the sunglasses as experienced eyes look out to sea, searching for a hint of a breeze. Just like I look frantically to the horizon for a story. It’s recognising boats – Fifty Shades of 50, Rum Gutz, Malice – like they are all old friends. It’s the unexpected.
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I came to Airlie Beach expecting some wild winds and, if I’m a little bit honest, hoping I might meet a man. In between grasping for my story, I fantasise about what I would do with a drunken sailor. I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say the thought of sailing off into the sunset with someone held great appeal. But life’s not like that. You can’t just rig up the sails and expect the wind will arrive at your command. Instead, you sit, you watch, you wait. You drop anchor. And you laugh. At life’s perfect imperfection.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Airlie Beach Race Week as a guest of the Whitsunday Sailing Club. Next year, Airlie Beach Race Week will celebrate its 25th anniversary. And with a bit of luck, there will be a breeze. http://www.airlieraceweek.com
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