Weird and Wonderful

Weird and wonderful animals of the world

What we as humans label as ‘weird’ or ‘wonderful’ is highly subjective but having run Wildlife Trails for more than 20 years and talked to so many wildlife lovers and photographers returning from safaris from around the world, it is clear that many of us share a sense of wonder and fascination about certain animals of the world. Often, they have a very specific evolutionary adaptation to their specific habitat and food source which makes them ‘stand out’ from other native species. A classic example would be the rarely seen and ‘weird and wonderful’ Pangolin, which can be seen in both Africa and Asia. For this little animal review of the weird and wonderful, we will mainly be sticking to the world of mammals.

Weird and wonderful animals of Europe

An everyday sight from my childhood but now highly endangered would be the common Hedgehog which many people find both a little weird and wonderful. However, there is an even rarer mammal found in the fast-running of the Pyrenees in France and Spain called the Desman which trumps the Hedgehog when it comes to a weird appearance. The Desman has the most remarkable long snout to enable it to breathe in fast-flowing webbed feet and a naked tail.

Weird and wonderful animals of North America

The Wolverine is found in both North America and Europe and we were lucky enough to see our first Wolverines on the border between Finland and Russia. It is a remarkable animal and perfectly adapted for its life in some of the harshest climates in the world. I remember being in the photo hide as the wolverine arrived at considerable speed across the icy lake where a meat carcass was left to encourage its appearance. Both its formidable claws and teeth are designed to rip through skin efficiently and it is famous for being able to take down prey much bigger than itself, such as adult deer.

Weird and wonderful animals of South & Central America

Surely both Sloths and Tapirs are excellent candidates for weird and wonderful animals in South America? I remember seeing and photographing a wonderful 3 toed Sloth near an Amazon jungle lodge on a recce trip to Brazil. We were lucky enough to be in a river with Pink River Dolphins – another candidate? – so I suggested the Sloth was not going anywhere fast and we should follow the dolphins first and then return to spend more time with the Sloth. Imagine my surprise when we returned 10 minutes later and there was no sign of the Sloth – maybe not as slow as their reputation suggests.

Weird and wonderful animals of Africa

There are many excellent contenders for the weirdest and wonderful animals in Africa and I have already mentioned the amazing Pangolin, with their amazing scaly armour, huge claws for digging and a ridiculously long tongue for feeding on termites and ants. Sadly, they are one of the most trafficked wildlife species in the world, with both their meat and scales used in Chinese traditional medicine.

Another personal favourite is the quirky Shoebill with its enormous flat bill and beady eyes, which we first saw in Uganda. What an amazing bird and to be able to see them up close and personal in the river deltas of Murchison National Park was a huge privilege. Why not join us on our Gorilla and Shoebill safari in Uganda in 2022?

Last, but certainly not least, when it comes to punching above its weight for the title of the weirdest and wonderful animal in Africa is the slightly demonic – but cute, weird and wonderful – long-fingered Lemur known as the Aye-aye of Madagascar. It is one of two primates that use their fingers to tap on the wood of trees to find hollowed out chambers indicating the presence of grubs or insects. It then used its incisors to gnaw the wood and create a small opening that its long bony fingers can access to pull the grubs out – this is called percussive foraging. Although very challenging to see in the wild, we do have some bespoke and small group Madagascar wildlife holidays that give you the chance to see the Aye-aye in the wild.

Weird and wonderful animals of Asia

Asia is the continent we visit the most often as wildlife lovers and photographers, particularly India, which we have visited more than 30 times since 1997. So, it feels right that one of our weird and wonderful animals of Asia should come from India and our choice is the extraordinary Bengal Slow Loris which although very challenging to see because of its nocturnal behaviour, is simply one of the most unique primates in the world, with its huge saucer-like eyes, round head and tiny ears.  Its second toe on the back foot has a unique curved “toilet-claw” that it uses for scratching and grooming, while all the other nails are straight in appearance.

While we are talking about both primates and weird and wonderful animals of Asia, I have to also briefly mention the incredible Proboscis monkey of Borneo. The nasal appendage ‘worn’ by the male is simply astonishing in both appearance and size and despite all the publicity going to the Orangutan when discussing Borneo as a wildlife location, there is no doubt that your first sightings of Proboscis money will delight and astound in equal measure. If you would like to see this magnificent primate then please check out our Borneo tours and wildlife safaris.


Our Clients Say About Us


We went to Alaska, which Wildlife Trails sorted out for us. I chose Wildlife Trails because Allan was more knowledgeable than others I emailed, and more helpful. We went to Anchorage, Seward, er, Nikiski, Kodiak and Katmai. At Nikiski we stayed at Daniels Lake Lodge B&B in a log cabin by the lake. It was an amazing place and was the wildest and most remote of our journey. We saw a black bear and 3 coyote on the road. Had a great day out with Alaska West Air near there. We had bears right beside our boat at Big River Lakes near Wolverine Creek, saw bald eagles and plenty of salmon in the river. They gave us a scenic flight on the way back flying right over double glacier and its ice field - so close we almost landed on it. Really breath-taking. We booked up Juneau Mendenhall Glacier Ice Adventure Tour ourselves through Alaska Shore Excursions - local tour operator was Liquid Alaska Tours. This was excellent. We did canoeing, went in an ice cave under the glacier and used crampons to climb on top of it. A fantastic day out. Would recommend these. Also had a great day out at Brooks Falls watching the bears catching the salmon that were jumping up the waterfall. Well worth the trip. Wouldn't recommend Jayleen's Alaska whale watching trip. We didn't see anything but a lighthouse for most of the morning. Cost us a fortune for 6 hours when we saw more on the 2 hour cruise with Alaska Tales for a fraction of the cost. These are a new company. We didn't have many on the boat so didn't have to fight the crowds to see the whales and they took us straight to them so didn't waste any of our time. To see black bears close up we went to AnAn Bear observatory. A mother and cub came very close to where we were standing on a platform. At the other places we saw brown bears. A great trip all in all. As I stated above Wildlife Trails are very knowledgeable and helpful. They always replied quickly to any emails I sent asking them a lot of questions (some I should have been able to work out myself). When we had problems they were always contactable to help us sort them out. The ferry they booked for us went on strike but Wildlife Trails had sorted us out a flight in its place before we even knew there was a problem, so the holiday ran very smoothly. I would recommend Wildlife Trails to anyone and I have already booked another trip with them next year.

ByDawn and Steve
Fantastic Canadian adventure

We had a two week holiday on Vancouver Island.. we went on a whale watching tour and saw Orcas, Humpbacks, Dahl porpoises, white striped Dolphins, seals and Sea lions. We then did a Grizzly bear r and saw lots of Grizzlies as well as loads of Black Bears. The highlight of the holiday was a three day kayaking trip which was fantastic. Kayaking with Orcas and Humpback whales was incredible Our holiday was completely organised by Wildlife Trails, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.. everything was planned to perfection and they made the entire holiday exactly what we asked for

ByChris and John
Outstanding from planning, throughout the whole trip and home again

We had a 13 day tour to India, mostly wildlife as this was what we wanted and a little element of city & culture. Day in Delhi staying at the Imperial, apart from noisy traffic getting to the el it was an iconic place to be, so much hitory and staff who had been there 30yrs and proud of what they did. then onto 5 days at Ranthambor - 2 incredible Tiger sightings with so many other species, onto Agra and the Taj Mahal and then the Saptura National Park. Great time was taken in the planning, we were given lots of options as to how to make the trip up including time of year and how to maximize wildlife sighting.