Take me to the creepy crawlies!
February 6, 2022 1:03 PM   Subscribe

My new partner loves reptiles, insects, amphibians (birds too…no hard limits) and this discovery has sent me on a journey of exploration. Similar to the Narcisse Snake Dens or the Montreal Insectarium, where in the world is a guaranteed cool critter experience?

North America would be most accessible right now, but years ago I went to Costa Rica and saw so many amazing critters, I would love to look ahead to future travel to places like that. Open to museums, dedicated bug tours, unique migrations, enthusiastic naturalists, etc. We are not likely to spare the resources for a full-on African safari, Okavango boat tour or Amazonian adventure, but share what you know. Also down with your favorite wow-factor videos of such things.
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Madagascar, hands down. I visited 4 national parks around the the middle and south of the country over a decade ago. You can find insects that don’t exist anywhere else. Each national park has a different feel and ecosystem. When I was there you were required to hire a guide when you went into the park. As a backpacker back then I scoffed at the added cost but the park-provided guides were super knowledgeable and I even managed to get a few female guides. I recall being able to request the guide focus on different things. For example, you could say I want to see insects or find a specific insect and they will focus on that (while still pointing out other cool critters you come across).

I’m sure there’s lots of group or organized trips you could take but I’m pretty adventurous and did it as a woman alone in my 20s with no French. I was already in Africa and flew from Kenya (only 1 flight a week back then!) but a lot of people fly from France. I flew into Antananarivo because I was not interested in the resorts in the north and it was easier to get to the national parks I wanted to visit from the capital. I also took one internal flight to get to parks on the southwest like Tsingy (not the best for critters but so cool) and the avenue of balboas. Another cool thing I did was a 3-day canoe trip down the Tsiribihina river. Watching birds and wildlife from a canoe only a few inches above the water was special. While I’m sure this is a big/dream trip maybe it’s worth adding to your dream list. I enjoyed the animals and environment of Madagascar more than the safari I took in Tanzania because you were surrounded by everything and, while seeing big cats and giraffes was amazing, you’re always a bit detached because you’re hopefully safe in a car.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:51 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

As another reptile fan, I have enjoyed:

- Literally just going to Key West, where there are lizards and iguanas EVERYWHERE and they are not afraid of you so you can get a good close look. This is probably true in other parts of Florida too? Every day felt like a reptile safari

- I realize this is outside your parameters, but we got stranded in Swakopmund, Namibia for a while once and they have a great little Snake Park and various "little five" tours where you go out in the dunes and see sooooo many amazing lizards and geckos and spiders and stuff. It was extremely fun and exciting.

- The Everglades if really big reptiles are your jam. We saw literally hundreds of alligators and we were not looking very hard

- The Living Desert (Palm Desert, CA) is probably my favorite zoo anywhere and they've got some awesome aviaries and lots of cool critters, including/especially reptiles. I got to pet a tarantula there! (And now they have WALLABIES that just walk around by you!!)

- Reptile Gardens (Rapid City, SD) - maybe not worth the trip all by itself because it's smallish, but they have cool reptiles and the Black Hills are awesome. Tortoises are the highlight here FOR SURE, I could've spent all day watching them
posted by goodbyewaffles at 1:52 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]

Deep Look on PBS uses macrophotography to make short clips on YouTube about various insects and sea life.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles does a Bug Fair in spring every year, and all sorts of great exhibits on insects are on display, many of them very user friendly. Not sure how COViD has impacted their fairs, but you may have a local chapter where you live. I got to have a rose tarantula crawl all the way up my arm and feel its little velcro feet gripping my skin. I loved it. Also, there was a blue emperor scorpion on offer for touching, but having grown up with bark scorpions in Texas, I couldn't bring myself to touch it! Anyway, lots of science information and displays of beautiful beetles, moths, butterflies et cetera to look and learn about. Highly recommended.
posted by effluvia at 5:21 PM on February 6

I stayed at a cabana hotel outside of Tarapoto, Perú and the people in the next cabana were entomologists from Oxford (including the world's leading expert on small moths) who hung up a sheet one night, shined a bright light on it, and collected some hundreds of specimens, some of which had not been documented before. Any decently remote area would yield fascinating results, I'm sure. Be careful, though. Not all insects are going to end up on the sheet so wear closed-toe shoes.

Small moths are under 1" average adult wingspan, if you were wondering.
posted by ananci at 5:22 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]

Not a specific location as such, but maybe sign up for a bugshot course? There's one in Montana this year.
posted by dhruva at 2:16 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]

Go to Kingston, GA and hit the Okefenokee Swamp! It's a National Park, and lodging is cheap around there. You can rent a canoe and see about 150 alligators of all sizes in a couple hours. We're critter lovers too, & we thought this was amazing!
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 2:03 PM on February 8

Go to the Great Smokey Mountains and see the Synchronous Lightning Bugs.
posted by CathyG at 10:37 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

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