10 Strange animals and where to go to see them
For many travellers, the chance to see exotic wildlife is one of the major reasons to take a holiday to a specific place.
We’re no different.
Weird and wacky animals always catch our attention, and we’ve made sure most of our tours give travellers the opportunity to spot some of the world’s most unusual wildlife in the flesh.
There are some truly bizarre animals out there in the wild, so we’ve collected a list of our ten favourite strange-looking animals for you to enjoy—and perhaps to go in search of.
1. Pangolin (Africa and Asia)
Pangolins are truly bizarre creatures that look a bit like armoured anteaters. In fact, another name for them is ‘scaly anteaters’! Amazingly, though, they are much more closely related to dogs, cats and even seals that to anteaters or armadillos, the mammals they most resemble.
Despite their strange looks, we think pangolins are actually quite cute, with their beady eyes and big feet, and of course their habit of curling up into a ball when they’re threatened!
A good place to go to try to spot pangolins is sub-Saharan Africa, where three different subspecies may be spotted.
Sadly many species of pangolin have become critically endangered in Africa as well as Asia due to intensive illegal hunting and poaching for their meat and scales.
2. Aye-aye (Madagascar)
Madagascar is known for being home to a great many strange animals, most of which are found nowhere else in the world.
One great example of this is the aye-aye, with its bulging eyes, ever-growing teeth and long fingers. It can be very creepy-looking, especially if you suddenly come face-to-face with one in the forest at night!
Aye-ayes are a type of lemur and can be found exclusively in the jungles of Madagascar, where they come out at night to forage.
3. Capybara (South America)
Capybaras are the largest living rodents and are found across much of Latin America. They tend to live near bodies of water in large social groups, which can reach up to 100 individuals during the dry season.
They are often spotted acting as a perch for various birds, which adds to their unusual appearance.
One thing that may surprise you about Capybaras is that they are incredibly fast, capable of running as quickly as a horse if they need to. They can also stay underwater for up to five minutes, and have been seen using this trick to avoid predators.
4. Armadillo Girdled Lizard (South Africa)
Endemic to the Northern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa, this lizard reminds us of nothing more than a tiny dragon. This resemblance is especially pronounced when they roll themselves up to protect themselves from danger—the behaviour that earned them their name.
Another interesting fact about Armadillo Girdled Lizards is that they are one of the few lizard species who give birth to live young, and there is some evidence that the females may actually feed her young, which is even more uncommon.
5. Magnificent frigatebird (Galapagos Islands)
These incredible birds, endemic to the Galapagos Islands, boast wingspans of nearly two and a half metres and have been spotted flying as high as 2,500 metres above sea level.
They are sometimes called ‘man-o’-war’ birds, because they like to attack other birds while they’re flying and even try to steal their food on occasion.
What makes these birds truly strange, though, is the big red sac the males have on their chests, which they balloon up to try to attract a mate.
6. Fossa (Madagascar)
These cat-like animals can measure up to 4ft in length and researchers believe they are most closely related to the more familiar mongoose and other animals like it, although they look a lot like cougars.
Fossa primarily eat lemurs, and is the only carnivore on Madagascar that is big enough to eat even adult lemurs.
Their long bodies, small rounded ears and short legs earn them a place on this list—although, like the pangolin, we can’t help thinking they’re rather cute.
7. Sloth (Latin America)
Their faces look slightly dopey and from some angles they seem to be smiling. Their slowness of movement is due both to their slow metabolism, a result of their leaf diet, and is also thought to help them escape detection by predators who hunt by sight.
Sloths today might be small and cute, but up until about 11,000 years ago their ancestors roamed on the ground and were larger than modern elephants.
8. Velvet ants (South America)
Confusingly, these insects are actually wasps of multiple different breeds. The females are wingless and hairy, and very much resemble ants.
Some specimens in Chile have been found with black and white colouring, and when you see these you will understand why they are also called ‘panda ants’.
These bugs are known for their extremely painful stings. Such is the strength of these stings, in fact, that these wasps are also known by another name: ‘cow killers’.
9. Pink Fairy Armadillo (Argentina)
These beautifully bizarre creatures might just be our favourites on this list!
The pink fairy armadillo is a tiny creature found only in central Argentina, and they are so rare that scientists have not even been able to classify their conservation status. Small enough to fit in a human hand, these tiny armadillos are nocturnal and burrow in the ground.
These are generally difficult to spot due to their shyness, but if you want to try, central Argentina is the place to go.
10. Maned wolf (South America)
Maned wolves are not, in fact, wolves—just to be confusing. These long-legged beauties are in a genus all of their own and are related to wild dogs, foxes, wolves, and all other species of canid.
They are solitary creatures with large ears and are omnivorous, unlike many other hunters. Some scientists think that over half their diet might be vegetable matter, in fact. This certainly adds to their strangeness, but we think these canids are very beautiful despite how unusual they are.