Cover Photo: @jeremyjauncey/Instagram

Follow in the footsteps of Jeremy Jauncey, CEO of Beautiful Destinations and our travel editor-at-large, who shares some of his most memorable animal encounters

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Animal encounter: Pandas

Where: Chengdu, China

Good to know: The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding offers visitors the chance to see and interact with some of the giant pandas. You can even try being a panda keeper for a day to get even closer to the cuddly bears.

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Brown bears

Animal encounter: Brown bears

Where: Homer, Alaska

Good to know: Alaskan brown bears are distinguished from other bears by their distinct shoulder humps, long claws and dish-shaped faces. Eating up to 90 pounds of food per day to store fat, the Alaskan brown bear is known to dig belly-shaped holes in the ground before lying down to rest.

See also: Jeremy Jauncey's Top 5 Travel Picks For 2019


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Animal encounter: Falcons

Where: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Good to know: Falcons are cultural icons and symbols of Dubai—so much so that they're on everything from street signs to local currency. Falconry experiences are available year-round, but make sure you choose a responsible tour operator that respects the animals.

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Whale sharks

Animal encounter: Whale sharks

Where: Maldives

Good to know: It's possible to swim with whale sharks all year round in the Maldives. From May to December, they're most likely to be found on the west side of the Maldives and the rest of the year until April on the east side.

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Animal encounter: Huskies

Where: Levi, Finland

Good to know: Many of the dogs used for dog sledding in Finland are actually Alaskan Huskies, who take guests on exhilarating 10- to 40-kilometre journeys through the pristine landscape of Lapland.

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Animal encounter: Pigs

Where: Pig Beach, Bahamas

Good to know: Pigs are not native to the Bahamas, but the 20-odd pigs and piglets on Pig Beach are thought to have swam over from a shipwreck nearby. Since then, they've been living the good life on Pig Beach with plenty of tourists making the trek to see (and swim with) them.

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Animal encounter: Sardines

Where: Cebu, Philippines

Good to know: Yes, you've probably seen them on your plate before but swimming with a shoal of a million sardines (who stick together for protection against larger prey) is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While the experience itself is free, you'll have to journey three hours west from Cebu to find them off the coast of Moalboal.

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Animal encounter: Elephants

Where: Nairobi, Kenya

Good to know: Besides simply hanging out with elephants in Kenya, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust lets you adopt an orphaned elephant (or rhino or giraffe) and support its journey back into the wild.

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Animal encounter: Sharks

Where: Maldives

Good to know: Sharks are often portrayed as vicious predators in mainstream media, but in reality, many of them are gentle creatures who would rather be left alone. Different sharks are also known to have different personalities—from social to solitary—not unlike humans.

See also: 5 Hong Kong Charities That Support Animals