Experiencing wildlife in it’s natural habit can be a truly rewarding and one of a kinda experience. Visit these unique spots to visit animals in the wild on your next camping adventure.
Discover animals in their natural habitats during your next camping trip. Wildlife refuges, state and national parks are great places to watch or maybe even interact with spectacular animals. Make local KOA Journey®, Holiday® and Resort® campgrounds your expedition base camp.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park | New Mexico
Curious visitors gather at the amphitheater just outside the mouth of the cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park as the hot desert day cools into evening. From May to October, an explosion of 800,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats zoom out of the cave and over the heads of visitors once the sun sets. Thousands of bat wings swish through the air. The bats fly together in a huge dark swirl then dive one by one to dine on insects. The bats hunt all night long and return to their lair bellies full in the early morning.
Salish Sea | Washington
Find the “Southern Residents,” three pods of 78 orca whales, hanging out in a predictable area of the Salish Sea between Washington State and British Columbia during the spring through fall. Orca at times jump out of and dive into the sea as they hunt for salmon. The black and white camouflage coloration of the orca may make them hard to find underwater but their dorsal fin sticks out high above the waves making them easy to spot from shore. Boat tours leave from Anacortes, Washington and get close enough to the orca for visitors to hear them puff air from their blow holes in a bubbling rush. Also be sure to visit the Whale Museum to learn even more about these majestic mammals.
Crystal River Aquatic Reserve | Florida
Snorkel alongside manatees that move through the clear warm water of Florida’s Crystal River Aquatic Reserve. Curious manatees poke whiskered snouts above the surface of the water to watch visitors walking along the reserve’s boardwalk. The gentle aquatic mammals weigh around a thousand pounds and are about ten feet long. They have craggy gray skin, similar to that of an elephant, with a layer of green algae covering. Manatees use their paddle shaped tail and two flippers to maneuver through the water. Before you go, take a virtual swim with the manatee via the Friends of Crystal River.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge | Oklahoma
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge keeps a herd of 650 bison that roam the grassland all year. The bison is the United States’ largest land animal and is the official national mammal. Bison have been successfully re-introduced into 17 large herds across the country after almost disappearing from the land. Massive, scruffy, rust-colored bison graze through the refuge picking up grass seeds in their fur and dropping them in new places to grow. Be careful around bison because they’re fast and can charge at visitors.
Año Nuevo State Park| California
Large waddling elephant seals take over the beach of California’s Año Nuevo State Park. “Arf Arf Arf!” The seals communicate loudly and often to each other filling the cool coastal air. Thousands of elephant seals return to Año Nuevo to breed, give birth and molt at different points throughout the year. Hike across sand dunes, for a three-hour round trip, to see seals jostle for prime sunbathing spots and play in the water. Watch male elephant seals with trunk-like noses clash and momma seals cuddle their young.
Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website www.evabarrows.com. She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruit in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since.