One cool aspect of traveling that I've always enjoyed is learning more about the animals that are found in the countries I visit. Several months ago I wrote a post about exotic pets from South America. In it, I talked about the captivating capybara, the ornate horned Pac-Man frog and the creepy looking nightwalker-kinkajou. All three of these animals I had come across before during my travels, and I was surprised to find out that people also kept them as pets.
Well, I recently shared the link to that post on my Facebook page, and this led to an interesting discussion on some of the other unique and or bizarre animals many of you have come across during your own travels. (As it turns out, a lot of you found Hawaii animals to be rather bizarre, which is quite the opposite for me, but no worries, I'll still be including them in the following discussion.)
Here are just some of the most bizarre creatures you've seen in your travels, and my personal commentary on each of them...
The Courageously Cunning and Intensely Hated Mongoose
Vanessa Chiasson from Turnipseed Travels said, "I've lived in Africa and I've seen many exotic animals there while on different safaris. One memory that will always stand out is discovering a mongoose - dead - by the side of the road. The safari guides were fascinated and were calling their colleagues over to have a look. Apparently mongoose (mongeese?) are both elusive and quite scrappy, so none of them had ever seen such a perfectly healthy mongoose so close up before. Fast forward a decade and I'm on Hawaii's Big Island and I keep seeing mysterious, slinky, furry creatures darting about. For a few days, we dubbed them "sea ferrets" as we had no idea what they were. Eventually we learned that they were mongoose!! Indian mongoose, as opposed to their fatter African cousins. The babies were the funniest thing I've ever seen - long, slender, fuzzy, and agile - they looked like pipe cleaners darting across the road!"
The mongoose is found on most of the Hawaiian islands, so this is not so bizarre a creature to me. However, I can totally see how they would read as unique and different to those who haven't grown up around them.
It seems that wherever they are, mongoose get a mixed reputation. Some people embrace them as wise and extremely trainable creatures. There was an elementary teacher at my school growing up who had a mongoose for a pet. She would walk around with it on her shoulder, and it curled up around her neck like a scarf.
Others, however, look at the mongoose as a cunning menace to be wary of. I grew up on a farm on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, and we saw the mongoose as something to be very, very careful of. They were an extremely real threat to our chickens and their eggs, and this being so, we took some measures to try and prevent these creatures from establishing a presence on our property.
IF YOU WANT TO SEE MONGOOSE: The mongoose is found on the continent of Africa, in India, and on most of the major Hawaiian islands. If you travel to Hawaii and drive down rural roads, you are almost guaranteed to see one!
Hawaiian Monk Seals & "Wild" (i.e. Feral) Boars
Another reader, Elizabeth Fradella LeFevre from Hawaii Discount Blog said, "I have seen endangered monk seals sleeping on the beach. I also rode past a 'friendly' wild boar on an ATV tour."
Hawaiian monk seals are one of two remaining monk seal species, and is the only seal species found in the waters around the Hawaiian islands. It is a native species, and as such, is given special protection by governmental agencies. There may be as few as just 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left.
The wild boars of Hawaii are in actuality a mixed-breed feral pig. With stock taken from as far back as the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers, mixed in with populations of European pigs brought over more recently. These feral boars have always played a big role in traditional Native Hawaiian folklore, as well as contemporary Hawaiian hunting culture.
To be honest, I was a little surprised to see these animals mentioned as being bizarre. To me they are as commonly known as cats and dogs are in the west. Naturally, the Hawaiian monk seal is not necessarily something you see every day in the islands, but they make regular appearances nonetheless. As for wild/feral pigs, it is a common understanding that you must keep an alert eye out for these grumpy creatures during any hike through territory where they are known to frequent.
If You Would Like to See a Hawaiian Monk Seal or a Wild/Feral Boar: Book a ticket to the islands of Hawaii, of course!
The Goofy-Footed Pukekos Who Walk Away From Danger
When thinking of some bizarre creatures she's seen on her travels, Sarah Bennett from The Further Adventures of Bennett said, "Pukekos in New Zealand. Bizarre but equally awesome to see them running around."
At first glance, Pukekos may look rather harmless, but as they make way their way through the marshes, it's impossible to deny that their gigantic feet make them look pretty ridiculous.
Add on to that the obnoxiously bulbous red growth protruding from their beaks, and you get a rather goofy looking bird.
What makes these birds even sillier is that, when they are threatened, rather than flying away like any other sensible bird species would, these goof-balls just walk away in fear.
This maybe be because, on the rare occasions that they are seen to be flying, they are clumsy both during take off and landing. They're probably just trying to spare themselves the indignity of having to look even more bizarre than they already do.
To See a Pukeko in the Wild: Head to the main islands of New Zealand, as well as parts of Australia, Eastern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The Beady-Eyed Banana-Beaked Hornbills of the Tropics
Shane Donovan from The Working Traveller said, "A hornbill. Evil looking thing; otherwise it's most cats and scabby dogs."
The first thing I thought of when I heard that hornbills were mentioned on my bizarre animals list was, "NOOOO! Not my ZAZU!!!" Childhood memories of that overly serious blue bird that no one ever took seriously crossed my mind nostalgically. And then I Googled pictures of these birds.
It was true, Shane was 100% correct. These birds are bizarre!
There are many species of hornbills, and they range all across the globe, from the Asian tropics to the African continent. One thing they all have in common are their unnecessarily gigantic sized banana-shaped beaks!
Add on to that their typically bright-colored and beady eyes and you get an animal that you just can't trust. Some of them even have these huge tufts of Tina Turner feather wigs that make them look like muppets, banana-nosed muppets, of course, with evil intent, but muppets nonetheless.
Bravo to you Shane, for helping me to see that not all creatures from my childhood memories should be looked back upon with fondness.
To See Hornbills: Travel to tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and parts of Melanesia.
The Blue Bottles - Silent Stingers of Oceania
When asked if she'd ever seen any bizarre animals during her travels, personal friend of mine and regular reader, Red Dances, said, "Blue Bottles in Australia is one."
At first I had no clue what she meant by blue bottles. I had to look into it a little bit further. As soon as I found pictures of these mysterious "blue-bottles" I realized that these are what we call "Portuguese-man-o-wars" in Hawaii. And I had to agree, these dudes are creepy.
I mean just look at them, air-filled bodies shaped like predators, blown up into translucent bubbles that float along the surface of the waters, trailing behind them long tendrils of inky blue venomous stingers that will make you feel like they are burning away layers of skin upon contact!
To make these creatures even more bizarre-worthy, it's interesting to note that they cannot survive on their own, but instead float along the surface of the water like a layer of really nasty bubble wrap, attached and intertwined like one massive floating venomous organism. That is definitely one kind of floating debris that you do not want to come into contact with!
To See Blue-Bottles: According to Wikipedia, although blue-bottles "can be found anywhere in the open ocean (especially warm water seas), it is most commonly found in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and Indian oceans and in the northern Atlantic Gulf Stream."
Fugus, Parrotfish and HumuHumus - Goof Balls of Paradise
Kimmy from Afterglobe said, "Snorkeling in Maui, we've seen fugus, parrot fish, unicorn fish, humuhumu, needle fish, and honu (green sea turtle). I loved how you could hear the parrot fish chomping on the coral and that the humuhumu make snorting noises. I got some fun pictures of many of the sea life that we saw."
When people picture snorkeling in Hawaii, they probably picture graceful angelfish, beautiful butterflyfish and brightly colored clownfish.
Little do they expect to see a timid google-eyed fish that blows up into a water porcupine when afraid, a fish with the beak of a parrot and a penchant for chewing the beautiful coral reef who sleeps in a bubble made out of its own spittle and a fish that has the snout of a pig and a name with a ridiculously unnecessary amount of vowels in it.
And yet, that's exactly what they get when they first see the fugu, the parrotfish and the humuhumunukunukuapua'a respectively.
All three of these fishes are commonly seen in the Hawaiian waters, so are far from bizarre to me. But when I think about the different kinds of characteristics each of these marine animals possess, I will admit, they can be a little bit on the oddball side, (no pun intended, fugu.)
If You Want to See the Fugu, Parrotfish and Humuhumu: Once again, book a ticket to Hawaii, buy yourself a pair of snorkel and goggles and jump right in!
The Mysterious "Raccoon-Dog" That Lives By The River
Meagan LeAnne from Life Outside of Texas said, "I've never seen it in person, but I've heard tales about a 'raccoon dog' that can be spotted by the river near my apartment."
These creatures are a mystery. Some say they are myth, others say they exist. Here is a link that presents them as being legitimately categorized animals. Take some to read it and judge for yourself, but don't forget to come back and share with us your thoughts in the comments below!
These were just a few of the 'bizarre' animals some of you have seen for yourselves on your own travels.
To see additional bizarre animals added after this post was put together, and to read the full discussion, go to the post on my Facebook Page.
As you can see, most of these ironically come from the very islands that I call home, Hawaii. I guess it just shows that bizarre is in the eye of the beholder.
Check out the latest equipment for observing wildlife:
I'm JR. I come from a long line of adventurers, some were nomadic explorers of the sea and others wandering cultivators of the earth. Ultimately, this legacy of drifters has deeply affected my view of travel. Read more...