Cultural Experience | Hawaii

14 Animals You May Find When You Study Abroad

Camels, Koalas, and Cheetahs: Oh My! Check out these wild animals and more.

The world is full of amazing animals. Sure, you can travel to the zoo to see a wide variety of them, but nothing really compares to seeing animals in their native habitat. The opportunity  to get up close and personal with some of these animals is an unforgettable experience. It may even be the highlight of your study abroad trip.

If you love animals, here are just a few of the many places you can find them:

Camels – Morocco


Camels are mostly found in Northern Africa, but they also inhabit parts of Australia. For centuries, travelers and merchants have domesticated these animals to make traveling across the desert easier. Today, traveling can be a comfortable  luxury, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go back your roots. Many businesses in Morocco offer authentic camel treks for tourists.

Llamas – Ecuador


You’ll find Llamas, the cousin of the camel, in parts of South America like Ecuador and Peru. Many of these animals have been domesticated by farmers. The tradition of llama herding dates back to the Ancient Incas. In Ecuador, you’ll probably spot many llamas roaming around farms and ranches, but if you want to spend more time with these fun creatures, you can trek through the Andes Mountains with them.

Koala – Australia


Often inaccurately called a “koala bear,” koalas aren’t bears at all; they’re marsupials. You probably already know that koalas are native to Australia. I have a lot of friends who have visited Australia, and almost every one of them comes back with a picture of them with a koala. If you want to take an instagram-worthy picture yourself, you can find koalas and conservation centers across the continent.

Donkey – Greece


Okay, so you can find donkeys just about anywhere, but think back on all the study abroad movies you’ve seen. Any time someone goes to Greece in a film, you see the classic shot of a character riding a up winding hill with all of his or her luggage piled on the back of a donkey. Greece is on my bucket list, and you can bet that when I make it there I’ll be traveling to my hostel the same way.

Lion – India


We herald the lion as the king of the jungle, and often think of his home as parts of Africa. However, many people forget that there are other kinds of lions. The Asiatic lion is a subspecies found in India. These lions are endangered, so your best bet to visit one is at a wildlife reserve. When traveling through India, you’ll probably see many cultural depictions of the lions in art as they are a part of the country’s  mythology.

Dolphins – Hawaii


Dolphins swim throughout the sea, so their location isn’t just limited to one spot. I’ve seen them off the coast of Ocean City in the summer and spotted several on my cruise this past spring break. Dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals. They are often very social, which mean they’re a great animal to visit. In Hawaii you can swim with dolphins, and maybe even hug one.

Trolls – Iceland


Time to switch it up with some mythical creatures. Trolls play a large role in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore. When I hear the word trolls, I think of those funny bright haired toys of the 1990s, but the trolls you’ll find abroad are much more diverse. Some are mischievous, some are evil, and some are kind. Be sure to grab one in a gift shop to bring back home with you.

Lion Dance – China

Lion Dance

In China, you may not have the time to see an actual lion, but you should definitely make time to witness a lion dance. Dancers typically perform this traditional dance during the Chinese New Year, but they may also perform it at ceremonial events or religious festivals. The Chinese originated the lion dance, but you can find similar variations in Tibet, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Elephant – Thailand


Like lions, you’ll find elephants across both Asia and Africa. These large majestic mammals are often hunted by poachers for their ivory tusks. In order to help save the elephants, many groups have established wildlife sanctuaries. You can visit several of these sanctuaries in Thailand. Not only do you have the opportunity to ride an elephant there, you can also volunteer to work with them during your time abroad.

Giraffe – Kenya


Time for my favorite animal! I’ve had the opportunity to see a wonderful giraffe exhibit at the Dublin Zoo, but I imagine that can’t compare to witnessing them in one of their native African habitats like Kenya. You could certainly take a safari to see them along with other animals, but there are also locations dedicated to just giraffes. The Giraffe Centre in Nairobi has just been added to my bucket list.

Cheetah – South Africa


You can spot (haha get it?) cheetahs throughout most of Africa and parts of East Asia. It may be hard to catch up with them though…cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour). Luckily, there’s a Cheetah Outreach in South Africa that provides tourists the opportunity to encounter these beautiful felines.

Reindeer – Canada


In Frozen, Kristoff sings that “reindeers are better than people.” You’ll have to decide that for yourself. You probably first heard about reindeer when you learned about Santa, Rudolph, and the other seven reindeer that pulled his sleigh. Unlike, the trolls, these creatures are real. Reindeer are located throughout the arctic climates in North America and Europe. In Canada, farmers herd reindeer, and you may spot a few pulling sleds. Groups like the Alberta Reindeer Association help promote awareness about the growing reindeer industry.

Mechanical Bull

mechanical bull

So what do you do if you can’t find a real animal, but just want to party with the animals you’re traveling with? A mechanical bull is  as close as you get. You can find them in bars across the world. Just be careful. Unlike some of the animals on this list, this creature isn’t easily tamed.

Dog – Home


After a whirlwind tour of animals around the globe, there’s nothing like coming back to your favorite animal home. Whether it’s a dog, cat, goldfish, iguana, hamster, or something else, be sure to show your pet some love!

Courtney Guth

University of Maryland | 31 stories

Courtney Guth is a senior English major at the University of Maryland College Park actively seeking an answer to the age-old question, “so what are you going to do with that?” Her answer currently involves working in communications and development for a small non-profit in Washington, D.C. If she’s not exploring the nation’s capital, she’s probably watching an old movie, attempting to cook, or losing her voice at a Maryland Terrapins’ game. She believes the adage that “the world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page” but why just read when you can write?

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