Close Encounters of the Animal Kind

By Alice Teacake

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Fluffy handbag sized dogs can make you go ‘awww’ and cute wide-eyed monkeys can make your heart melt  and gasp ‘ooooh’ but there are times in the travelling world where you might be exclaiming ‘aaaargh’, ‘oh dear’ and ‘ewwwww’ haha. Welcome to Close Encounters of the Animal Kind where today’s top travels bloggers share their crazy animal adventures!

Hugging a Panda in China

Peachy Panda

When my sister Patti and I signed up to hug a panda named Oreo in China, we didn’t realize my hug would come with a little something extra. Since there were two of us, the plan was for Patti to have some solo cuddle time with Oreo and I would jump in after a few minutes for a group photo. Well, the time came for me to jump in. Oreo took one look at my direction and proceeded to wrap his arm behind my back. Everyone thought it was so sweet he welcomed me with a hug. Too bad that’s not what really happened.

Although from the front it looked like I was getting a hug, Oreo’s hand was actually cupping my behind. Yup, I got goosed by a panda. Perhaps my bum was simply right at the level Oreo preferred to rest his hand or perhaps he is a bit of a cheeky fellow but I will probably never forget now that giant pandas have opposable thumbs.

You can find the ‘panda candy’ Matilda and Patti over at The Travel Sisters

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch Zebra

Grand Theft Auto Zebra

We’ve all heard of safaris that you can take your car through, but very few let you open the windows and feed the animals. That’s exactly what you get to do at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, just outside of San Antonio, Texas. The ranch is 400 acres and has over 500 animals. Once you pay for admission, a complimentary bag of feed is given to each vehicle and you can purchase an additional bag for $2. It is recommended that you drop the food on the ground as the animals approach instead of feeding them from your hand, for obvious safety reasons. But sometimes the animals still get a little too enthusiastic.

While a herd of zebras was nibbling on the feed I’d thrown out of the window a few feet away from the car, I’d stopped to get my camera out of my bag. I had placed the bag of feed on my lap. Next thing I knew, there was a zebra’s head digging through my crotch! I screamed and freaked out enough that it startled the zebra and he backed off some. It all happened so fast! But I was still able to get a quick photo!

You can find Vicky happily travelling, still with her crotch (phew!) at Buddy The Traveling Monkey

Giraffe Center Nairobi Kenya

Giraffe Smooches

During our 365traveldates we had the opportunity to go to numerous safaris and sanctuaries but one of the most interactive visits was at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s a sanctuary and rehabilitation center that shares same property as the world-famous Giraffe Manor (you might recall seeing giraffes poking their heads into this hotel during breakfast on some Instagram posts or Bucketlists). For those who are unable to afford this luxurious stay, the Giraffe Center provides a great (cheap, very cheap) alternative.

During your visit you are able to go through an information center detailing interesting facts about giraffes all over Africa. If your timing doesn’t coincide with a school field trip then you’re likely to be able to stand on the platform at eye level with the giraffes and pet and feed these tall creatures. For those in search of more giraffe loving there’s even the opportunity to kiss the giraffes. This travel date was also Camille’s birthday weekend and even though I went in for a kiss I don’t think she was very jealous.

Many thanks to Mark and Camille from 365 Travel Dates

Dead cochroach

My Pet Martha

While volunteering for a month at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center I lived in a flat on the center grounds. I had to continually deal with an array of insects, and I am far from a fan of this class of critter in general. One cockroach was so large, every time I tried to get close enough to smoosh it with my foot or other object, I just got too creeped out and jumped back with a prolonged “Eeeeeek.” Finally I decided if the creature was going to stay, I might as well name it and try to get along with it. So I named her Martha and set forth one condition that she had to agree to, which was not to be on the floor of my bedroom in the middle of the night — when I got up to pee, I didn’t want to accidentally tango with her.

Though I wasn’t sure how proficient her comprehension of English was, she actually kept to this agreement. And so we lived uneasily together, eyeing one another with mutual fear and revulsion in our truce.

One day I came home to find her on her back, lifeless in the hallway. I suppose she died of natural causes. I took a photo of her next to a deck of cards to illustrate her size (I’d been posting about her on my blog, now I could provide a sense of scale). I did not shed a tear, for though I endeavoured to make peace with her, she was the most reviled room mate I ever had.

You don’t have to look at Martha ever again and can instead enjoy Shara’s face at

Elephant Shamwari Game Reserve

A gentle stampede

When on safari at the Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, we enjoyed many amazing wildlife experiences. Perhaps one of the most incredible was when we found our vehicle parked in the path of a few elephants. Rather than move the vehicle and alarm the animals, our ranger felt it was best that we just sit tight and let them pass. They passed so close that I could have literally reached out and touched them, had it been wise. Of course, it wasn’t, so I took this close-up picture instead.

You can read more fascinating and delightful experiences with Paul Johnson at A Luxury Travel Blog

Florida Squirrel

The Nutty Florida Squirrel

It was June 2009 & I was staying at the St. Petersburg / Madeira Beach KOA camp in Florida with my boyfriend at the time in one of their cabins. We visited the previous year for Spring Break & loved Clearwater area and the beaches so much, so we decided to return again. One afternoon when we returned from the beach, we caught this nutty little cute squirrel stealing our unopened can of mixed nuts. My boyfriend grabbed the camera quickly and captured the entire story step by step as it was happening in front of us. That afternoon, the squirrel won, and we were left nutless!

You can find more sunny stories with Jelena at 100 Days Of Sunshine

Cat Meat in Vietnam


Nananananananana…. CATMAN! Miss, do they eat dogs in Vietnam? One of the hot questions asked by my students. They do but you would go to specialist restaurant to eat them, and I hear it’s tasty. Then I put up The Photo. Cue, gasps, screams, groans, crying.

Craig and I were casually glancing out of the bus window on our way to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Then I saw The Catman. I did a double take and did what any good blogger would do: grabbed the camera. The man was riding a motorbike with a cage on the back. In the cage were live kittens. Their eyes were boring into mine, pleading ‘save me’! A bags worth of kittens had lost their nine lives already and lay limp on top of the cage. The Catman grinned and waved at the camera. I asked my Vietnamese friend (the one who said dog was tasty) if they also ate cats in Vietnam. She said it was frowned upon in the city but it was possible they were used for meals in the countryside.

You can cry a river with Gemma and Craig over at Two Scots Abroad

Alligator Antics

Alligator Antics

I was walking along the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park, Florida. I stopped to take a picture of an alligator sunning itself on the bank near the trail. I stopped and squatted down to take a few pictures of the alligator. As I took the first photo, I saw movement a couple of feet to my right. I glanced over and saw that an anhinga had landed next to me. The bird is harmless, so I went back to taking my pictures. A couple of minutes later, I noticed some more movement on my right. I figured the anhinga had flown off until I heard the screams. I glanced up to see what had caused the screams. I was being greeted by a 6 foot alligator instead of the anhinga. I was 3 feet away! I slowly stood up and backed away. Apparently, the alligator had decided that the anhinga would make a great meal. Another 3 feet and I would have been the meal!

You can find Jennifer travelling safe and sound over at Made All The Difference

Elephant on Safari

True Strength

Last year, we were fortunate enough to fulfill a life-long dream of going on safari in Africa. Our travels took us to the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve bordering Kruger National Park in South Africa. Looking back, we didn’t have any appreciation for what “going on safari” meant. We didn’t know how close to the animals we would be – or how unpredictable they could be. We had several very close encounters with animals: two female lions less than 10 feet away, a herd of African buffalo that surrounded us but left us alone, and even the getting closer to a rhino than I ever thought possible. But the closest encounter that rattled us more than anything was the bull elephant.

We were in a vehicle, came around a thicket of trees and shrubs and suddenly were face-to-face with the massive bull. We were a lot closer than we should have been. As the bull growled at us and shook the dust off, our guide brought us to a halt, and we quickly started backing up to give him some space. It gave us a new appreciation for these majestic creatures.

You can read more about Lance and Laura’s safari adventures at Travel Addicts

Monkeys in Bali

Monkey Maniacs

The worst encounter we have ever had was with some monkeys earlier this year in Bali. Our family of four visited the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. This was a mistake! My kids were only 2 and 4 and they loved walking through the forest to start with. There were monkeys seemingly everywhere, often with babies, and they thought they were adorable. Then, when we got about as far from the entrance as we could be, they attacked!

They started by jumping on poor Mr 2. His scream got them off and my husband carried him from then on. Then they went after Miss 4. They clawed at her and hissed and it was horrible. I was screaming and unable to get them off and was unsure what to do. Thankfully a local helped. I’m also thankful she was wearing a dress and the monkey was swinging on that instead of her skin. We tried to leave but went the wrong way and the monkeys came for my poor daughter again. Someone had to get them off with a broom this time. We basically ran out after that. It was like being in a horror movie and just awful. We are all terrified when we go near monkeys now!

You can thankfully find more delights and less horrors with Sharon at her family blog, Where’s Sharon Family Travel Blog

Grisly Bear

Bear-ly Escaped

I’ve visited Yellowstone National Park as a kid a few times, and I’ve always wanted to go back as an adult. You know, to do all the cool stuff you couldn’t do because your parents wouldn’t let you. So we decided to take the trip, packed up the car, and hit the road. After driving all day and most of the night, we pulled up to the entrance of the camp ground real early in the morning. To our surprise (we should have probably double checked the hours) we found the gates locked. We were tired and cranky, so we pulled off to the side of the road and proceeded to fall asleep in the car.

We suddenly awoke to the vehicle shaking like crazy and loud banging and scratching noises. Not knowing what was going on, we turned on the dome light and about had a heart attack. A bear had begun crawling up our car and was making itself at home on the hood. Needless to say we were terrified. Not knowing what to do, we began rocking back and forth, flashing the headlights, and honking the horn, in an attempt to scare the big guy (or girl) away. After what felt like hours, the bear (which we lovingly call Yogi) crawled off the hood and scampered off. All our commotion caught the attention of one of the park rangers, and they came by to see what was going on. Apparently bears can be curious and we’re not the first person in the park that it’s happened to. They informed us that it’s best not to stop anywhere but the designated areas. We definitely learned our lesson!

Go and camp out more with Joe at Joeography

Beware of the One-Eyed Seal

Beware the One-Eyed Seal

During my scuba diving course, I was with my speedo wearing instructor (not the cute kind) who took me into the kelp beds in Monterey Californica where all the fish seemed to not see me and swim into my face. This began to spook me along with it being REALLY dark. Soon I felt something tugging on my flipper, it was a seal! I tried to shoo him away without hurting him but then I felt something pulling on my air tank… This freaked me out a lot. More seals! I began losing my balance in the water, becoming overwhelmed by the seals. We surfaced and I refused to go back underwater. Panicked, I could see seals popping up everywhere around me.

When I decided it was safe to power swim to shore I put my face in the water and saw a one-eyed seal beneath me inches away from my face. I screamed and refrained from punching the little guy. My instructor, now thinking I was a crazy lady, was slightly concerned and we made our way back to shore as the “overly friendly” one-eyed seal bopped alongside me the entire way. Once I made it to land I cried to my mom as she tried to hold back laughter. I ended up going back in later that day despite my fear; but to this day I ALWAYS keep a lookout for that crazy one eyed seal and his friends anytime I’m in the ocean.

Closing Time Elephants

Trapped by a Herd of Elephants

The best part about Kruger National Park is that they allow you to do a self-drive safari through the park. We rented a small car and spent an entire day driving through the park, pulling over to see zebras, rhinos, warthogs and even herds of elephants. It was all fine until we were on our way to the gate for the 5pm closing time. We came upon a large herd of elephants standing in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. There was one car in front of us and they were not willing to move forward through the herd, but we knew we had to get through or we’d be late for the closing of the gate.

When the elephants moved off the road a bit, we began to inch forward, hoping to drive slowly through the middle of the herd, only that meant we were coming between a momma and her calf, which caused the mom to freak out and charge our car. I still have flashbacks of that enormous, frustrated elephant charging at us, trumpeting loudly. We were helpless in our tiny euro car. She could have easily trampled us if we hadn’t hit the gas and hightailed it out of there as fast as we did. Of course, we were quite a bit late for the gate closing and they actually made us drive BACK THROUGH the park to pay the $10 fine at the ranger station 20km away.

Go on and hightail it over to Savored Journeys to see what else Laura has been getting up to!

Monkey Muggings

Monkey Muggings

For some reason, the monkeys all around Southeast Asia just have a knack for picking on me. Whenever I come across a group of wild monkeys, there’s at least one whose mischief I would not see coming. Once, I had my fresh big bag of chips at the beach in the Philippines stolen, and it was literally just right in front of me. At first I thought, okay, that’s pretty funny. But the next few times just made it feel like I have a target sign written on my back. Another monkey I came across at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur tried to steal my hat, but I was able to outsmart that little one. But during my honeymoon in Bali, my husband convinced me that it would be fun to expose ourselves to those little wildlings in Monkey Forest.

So we did and everything was going fine until one of them tried to run away with his backpack. Yes, his backpack with both our passports and honeymoon cash in it! Thankfully, our guide was able to chase him down before the bully was able to climb into a tree. Minutes later, we sat down, and smaller monkeys gathered around us. Thinking they didn’t have mischief in mind, we let our guards down. However, one monkey would keep trying to put his fingers inside my husband’s mouth to take out the gum he was chewing. And another one tried to snatch away my earrings! Needless to say, we were out of there in no time and that was the last time I exposed myself to wild monkeys anywhere in the world!

You can discover more Asia adventures with Erica at Girl Unspotted

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About Alice Teacake

I'm a feminist British kickass solo female traveller who believes in women facing their fears, pushing their boundaries and reaching their full potential through solo adventure travel! I have been featured in Nat Geo Traveller UK, Lonely Planet, the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed and spoken about solo female travel safety on BBC One, whilst working with a bunch of awesome brands. Follow me for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!

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Close Encounters of the Animal Kind