wildlife encounters - diving

5 Thrilling Wildlife Encounters to Have in a Lifetime

10 months ago Nature

There’s no shortage of magical moments aboard an Aqua Expeditions vessel. From stunning landscapes to unique cultural experiences, you’re guaranteed to leave with stories to tell. Our wildlife encounters on excursions are no exception, offering experiences straight out of a National Geographic magazine.


Just picture yourself floating serenely in a mystical jellyfish lake or walking among ancient Galapagos tortoises – it’s these one-of-a-kind moments which we love to offer guests across all of our destinations. 


Read on to find out the top five wildlife experiences you can have while sailing with Aqua Expeditions.


1. East Indonesia – Swim with Whale Sharks

whale sharks


Encountering a whale shark out in the open waters can be an incredibly humbling moment. The biggest fish in the world, they can grow up to a size comparable to a city bus. Male whale sharks usually measure between eight to nine meters while their female counterparts can average more than 14.5 meters.  


swim with whale sharks


Despite their intimidating size, whale sharks are non-predatory and gentle. They don’t bite down on prey and instead make use of suction to filter over 6,000 liters of water an hour for small shrimp, algae, fish, and plankton. 


One of the top highlights on Aqua Blu’s Bali-Komodo National Park itinerary is the unique opportunity to chance upon these magnificent creatures in the ocean’s azure waters. Should we be lucky enough to encounter a pod of elusive whale sharks, this once-in-a-lifetime experience will require a 5am wake-up-call but it’s 100% worth it. Imagine snorkeling in the stunning Saleh Bay with up to four whale sharks at a time, while the sun ascends over the high mountain ranges of Sembawa – a truly magical scene.


2. Peruvian Amazon – Play with Pink River Dolphins

pink dolphins - festival of san juan


The pink river dolphin is a rare and beautiful creature which inhabits the waters of the Peruvian Amazon. These dolphins are actually born gray and slowly turn pink as they age with male dolphins being strikingly more pink than their female counterparts. Their final color can also be influenced by their behavior, capillary placement, diet, and exposure to sunlight. 


South American mythology has a lot to say about these enchanting creatures, as a result, they have come to be revered by locals. One legend claims that the dolphins morph into handsome men known as “boto encantado” to seduce women at night. Another says that if you go swimming alone, the dolphins may whisk you away to a magical underwater city. It is considered bad luck to harm the dolphins, and even worse luck to eat them.


Thanks to such superstitions, pink river dolphins don’t face the same poaching threats as some of the Amazon’s other endangered species. 


Although they are known to be shy creatures, pink river dolphins tend to be curious and playful. On our daily skiff excursions aboard Aqua Nera and Aria Amazon, they can be spotted jumping in and out of the water from time to time.


3. East Indonesia – Float in a Stingless Jellyfish Lake

Dubbed the ‘Aliens of the Ocean’, jellyfish have long been feared for their wicked sting. But did you know that not all jellyfish have this ability? Stingless jellyfish do exist and can be found in just a few places in the entire world. Among this short list is Raja Ampat’s Misool – one of only three islands which offers the surreal experience of swimming alongside them.


top 5 wildlife encounters - jellyfish


Lake Lenmakana, a turquoise lagoon isolated in the middle of the island, is one of the jellyfish lakes that can be reached by a short hike up a steep limestone cliffside. The moon, golden medusa, and Cassiopeia (the upside-down jellyfish) are the three different species that bob around the lake, trapped here by ancient tides. 


Isolated from natural predators, these species no longer require venom as self-defense. As such, swimming with them is a thrilling yet perfectly safe adventure. The best time to go in for a dip is at sunrise; the morning light hitting the water with all the jellyfish swimming up to the surface is truly a sight to behold! 


4. Galapagos Archipelago – Slow Down with Galapagos Tortoises

Did you know that the old, pre-Roman Spanish word for tortoise is galápago? The Galapagos Islands were named after their incredible population of giant tortoises – once believed to exceed a quarter of a million. Although hunting has brought that number down over the centuries, these tortoises are now protected species and can be found on islands including Isabela, Santa Cruz, and Fernandina. 


top 5 wildlife encounters - galapagos tortoise


Galapagos tortoises are among the biggest species of tortoises in the world, measuring 1.5 meters and weighing 400 kilograms on average. Much like their smaller counterparts, they are characterized by their slowness. Galapagos tortoises spend an average of 16 hours per day resting, eating grass, and bathing in water. They only pick up the pace during mating season during which time males have been known to travel as much 13 kilometers in only two days. 


Guests aboard our Aqua Mare Galapagos cruise will be able to witness the conservation work by the Ecuadorian government in tandem with the Galapagos National Park to protect the tortoises’ dwindling population. One of the highlights of our East Galapagos itinerary is a visit to the Fausto Llerana Tortoise Center on Santa Cruz Island – a long-term program to save the giant tortoise population on Pinzón.


5. Mighty Mekong – Take Flight with Tonle Sap Water Birds

One of the highlights of our Aqua Mekong itineraries is an early morning excursion into the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary Biosphere Reserve. Spanning 22,000 hectares, this reserve is regarded as the most important breeding ground for some of the world’s most endangered waterbird species


top 5 wildlife encounters - black headed ibis


While exploring Prek Toal, there’ll be opportunities to spot birds including the Milky Stork – known for its striking white plumage – and Spot-Billed Pelican, identified by its unique spot markings on the upper mandible. The Black-headed Ibis and Painted Stork are other sought-after birds which inhabit this region as well.


Aqua Expeditions is the Mekong’s only expedition operator allowed to explore Prek Toal on board private skiffs. This exclusive excursion is available on itineraries from mid-August to November, when the waters of the Mekong River reverses into the Tonle Sap Lake in a naturally occurring phenomenon called the ‘flood-pulse’ system. 


Talk to our friendly Expedition Consultants to plan the adventure of a lifetime with amazing wildlife encounters with Aqua Expeditions. Book now and enjoy our early bird bonuses to some of the most remote destinations in the world.