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20 Cutest, Most Intriguing Animals in the World and Where to Find Them

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Emperor penguin chicks gathered in Antarctica

Emperor penguins in Antarctica

The world is full of cute and cuddly animals, so whether on safari or a private walking tour, the following are some of those you can discover in their natural habitats. Several countries are now encouraging conscientious expeditions into rugged landscapes to explore the captivating charm of witnessing wildlife foraging, sleeping, and playing. The following list features the best destinations in which to find the world’s cutest animals and highlights how locals contribute towards conservation to ensure a sustainable future for the adorable fauna.

1. Sloth - Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

The word sloth is synonymous with “lazy” and in the animal’s case refers to its slow movements and sleepy eyes. Their lackadaisical demeanor keeps them well hidden in the rainforest canopy, where they find protection from predators like harpy eagles and jaguars. Costa Rica is home to one of the largest accessible sloth populations in the world, making it likely you will spot one or a bed lazing about in the trees. The protectiveness of the reserve shields the sloths and other interesting wildlife that’s famous for settling in Monteverde’s unique ecosystem.

Best Time to Visit: January | February | March |  April

Learn more: Costa Rica Tours & Vacations

2. Mountain Gorilla - Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

The Ugandan Wildlife Authority defends the pristine beauty of the country’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforest, located at the edge of the Rift Valley. It’s a wilderness paradise that is home to an estimated 400 mountain gorillas. Their population in the country accounts for nearly half of the world’s overall populace. Rangers set out daily to view the different gorilla colonies scattered across the landscape, taking visitors through the dense jungle and sporadic mist for a breathtaking vision of the animals in their private nests, which provide comfort, warmth, and protection.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | July | August | September | December | January | February

Learn more: Uganda Safaris & Gorilla Trekking

3. Pygmy Marmoset - Cocha Salvador Lake, Peru

The greater protected landscape of Manu National Park encompasses a variety of ecosystems, including cloud forests, Andean grasslands, and lowland rainforests. The pygmy marmoset monkey’s name gives away the size of one of the smallest primates in the world. Their minuteness allows them to hide in the canopy and branches of quassia trees, protecting them from lurking predators. As you travel through Peru, trained guides will help draw troops of marmosets out of their hiding places to reveal the true scope of their dimensions compared with the magnificent breadth of the surrounding lowland rainforest.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | July | August

Learn more: Peru Tours & Vacations

4. Koala - Lone Pine Sanctuary, Australia

Koalas are Australia’s iconic furry creature and you may capture images of them hugging eucalyptus trees and feeding on the verdant leaves as you travel Lone Pine Sanctuary in Queensland. Their fluffy coats and puzzled expressions have garnered them a huge following of animal lovers eager to view the marsupials in their natural state - sleeping up to 22 hours a day. The koala sanctuary allows visitors to connect with the wildlife and better understand the importance of sustainable living by making positive changes to our own environments to protect the natural habitats of native wildlife.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | July | August | September | October

Learn more: Australia Tours & Vacations | Australia Travel Guide

5. Giant Pandas - The Bifengxia Giant Panda Base, China

The Chinese giant panda is a highly regarded animal and national heritage symbol that is being preserved for future generations. Nurseries and research centers exist around China to help breed and sustain new pandas to protect the diminished population in the wild. The Bifengxia Giant Panda Base, specifically, is a breeding and research facility in the Sichuan province. It allows volunteers, under supervision, a rare chance to get up close and personal with them as caretakers and to embrace the center’s growing role in the continued survival of the giant panda.

Best Time to Visit: October | November

Learn more: China Tours & Vacations

6. Orangutan - Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo

The untamed wilderness of Tanjung Puting National Park in Borneo is known for its vibrant colors, mysteries, and support of the natural environment in which the fascinating orangutan can be found. The endangered animals make nests at around 3,000 feet above sea level, but also live in grasslands, cultivated fields, and gardens. The adolescents are active throughout the day, but are most wild in the morning when the troops feed. You can trek through the wilds of Borneo or learn more about them in rescue facilities.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | July | August | September | October

Learn more: Natural Cultural Wonders of Indonesia Tour 

7. Meerkat - Kalahari Desert, Southern Africa

An exciting addition to any visit to South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia is the chance to catch a glimpse of the fascinating, mysterious meerkat. Living in the Kalahari and Namib deserts, they gather in gangs or mobs of 20 to 50, often taking over the abandoned burrows of other, smaller animals. Intelligent, somewhat aggressive, and surviving on mostly insects, they are vigilant and always on the lookout for imminent danger, barking to warn off any would-be threats. Standing at attention, perfectly posed for any photo opportunity, it is a real treat to see them in their natural habitat.

Best Time to Visit: March | April | May | September | October | November

Learn more: South Africa Safaris

8. Emperor Penguins - Antarctica

Crown an epic adventure to Antarctica with the ultimate image of baby emperor penguins huddling close together in the vast expanse of snow and intermittent protruding rocks. Each November the iconic penguins of Antarctica birth chicks and form a “creche”. This entails adolescents huddling together for warmth while their parents search for food. Emperor penguins are threatened due to rapid changes in their natural habitat from human activity, such as rising temperatures reducing breeding grounds, and overfishing severely limiting their food sources. Seeing them is a memorable and educational experience.

Best Time to Visit: November

Learn more: Antarctica Tours

9. Hector’s Dolphin - Akaroa, New Zealand

New Zealand’s seas are home to many magnificent and adorable marine mammals and animals, namely the smallest of the dolphin species, the Hector’s Dolphin. These small but stunning swimmers are the rarest marine dolphins in the world, but are commonly spotted in the Akaroa Harbour near Christchurch. Their distinct facial markings, stocky bodies, and iconic rounded fins put them among New Zealand’s cutest water creatures and you will appreciate spotting them in the crystal clear waters on the banks of Akaroa.

Best Time to Visit: December | January | February

Learn more: New Zealand Tours & Vacations | New Zealand Travel Guide

10. Iberian Lynx - Iberian Peninsula, Spain

The Iberian Lynx is fierce and cute. It’s one of the country’s most magnificent sights and its diet consists primarily of European rabbits. Its tawny to bright yellow fur and distinct spots give it the look of a cheetah or leopard, but its long whiskers and furry ears separate it from its wild-cat counterparts. Overhunting, poaching, and diminishing natural habitats have put a strain on the species’ populus, so visitors to Spain will learn about the region’s conservation efforts during tours of the peninsula and untamed countryside in search of the Iberian Lynx.

Best Time to Visit: September | October | November

Learn more: Spain Tours & Vacations | Spain Travel Guide

11. Sugar Glider- New South Wales, Australia

The sugar glider lives in the tall forests and tropical terrain of eastern Australia. A nocturnal marsupial, it feeds on insects and birds, with its sweet tooth satisfied by nectar. It’s small, agile, and can glide across gaps in the trees up to 300 feet wide. You may find the sugar glider living in tree hollows, where it searches for tree sap or pollen to satiate its tremendously sweet appetite, giving credence to its name. When looking for sugar gliders in the wild, always have a trained guide and follow their advice on how to track, spot, and respect the territory and unique ecosystems.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | July | August | September | October

Learn more: Australia Tours & Vacations | Australia Travel Guide

12. Platypus - Tasmania, Australia

The platypus is an iconic Australian animal, but incredibly elusive and rare. They are endemic to Australia and Tasmania, where they actively feed, lay eggs and nest, reflecting their famous mammalian and avian characteristics. They are known for their rubbery bills, webbed feet, fur, ability to secrete milk and lay eggs. They often live in solitary conditions and feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and insects. They are protected throughout Australia, but remain vulnerable to the degradation of their natural habitats across Tasmania and Australia’s east coast.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | July | August | September | October

Learn more: Australia Tours & Vacations | Australia Travel Guide

13. Kiwi - Stewart Island, New Zealand

The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand and the name given to locals from the islands. The bird is one of the many fantastical animals shaped by the elements of the captivating North and South islands. The flightless bird is generally nocturnal and often calls through the wilderness at dusk and dawn with piercing cries. They feed on worms, berries, and seeds, generally adapting to the different terrain across the country. Stewart Island is considered a kiwi-spotting paradise at sundown, with the quiet evenings and open landscape providing the perfect atmosphere in which to spot the birds grazing.

Best Time to Visit: December | January | February

Learn more: New Zealand Tours & Vacations | New Zealand Travel Guide

14. Little Blue Penguin - Pohatu Marine Reserve, New Zealand

The little blue penguins of New Zealand are a spectacle of beauty and charm. They are considered the smallest genus of penguin and come ashore at night to burrow into the banks of the coastline. They are named for their blue backs, as well as their pale gray or blue irises. At Pohatu Marine Reserve, you can find the largest colony of Little Blue Penguins. They inhabit the gorgeous shoreline alongside prevalent marine life such as orcas, albatrosses, and Hector’s dolphins.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | December | January

Learn more: New Zealand Tours & Vacations | New Zealand Travel Guide

15. Tarsius Tarsier - Selayar, Indonesia

The Tarsius tarsier are found only in the primary and secondary forests of select Indonesian islands. They are known for their velvety fur, small round bodies and scaly tails, reflecting their position as the smallest-known primate. They are nocturnal and most active at dusk, when they will travel through the forest in search of places to forage and may sing as they return to their nesting grounds. Selayar Island is a tropical paradise with its white sandy beaches, but it also possesses dense rainforest foliage that hosts the active tarsiers in the greater Taka Bonerate National Park.

Best Time to Visit: May | June | July | August | September | October

Learn more: Asia Tour Packages & Vacations | Southeast Asia Tours & Vacations

16. Rusty-Spotted Cat - Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

The rusty-spotted cat is one of the smallest wild cats in Asia and, with its short red and gray fur, easily blends into surrounding foliage. Nocturnal, they mainly live in dry forests and grasslands. One of the largest populations of rusty-spotted cats exists in Yala National Park, which has light forest and grassy plains, perfect for the hunting, sleeping, and social habits of the cats. They feed mostly on birds and rodents, but may also search for lizards, frogs, and insects. They find refuge in the trees when escaping from larger predators.

Best Time to Visit: February | March | April | May | June

Learn more: Sri Lanka Tours & Vacations

17. Ezo Momonga - Hokkaido, Japan

The Ezo Momonga is also known as the Siberian flying squirrel. They are mainly nocturnal and live only in the colder and forested region of Hokkaido in northern Japan. Their enormous eyes help them to see in the dark while they climb trees, scurry or glide through the open-air using their flattened tail for aerodynamics. The winter in Hokkaido is different from that in south Japan, with the cold fronts from Siberia bringing powdery snow across the terrain. These are perfect conditions for the Siberian flying squirrel.

Best Time to Visit: September | October | November

Learn more:  Japan Tours & Vacations | Japan Travel Guide

18. Bush Baby - South Africa

Bush babies got their name due to the loud, impressive cries they let out and because they are super-cute. Formally known as the lesser galago, they inhabit the safari areas of southern Africa and live high up in leafy trees or thick bush. They resemble bats, with large ears keeping them on high alert for danger, and hunt effectively at night. At around 5 inches and around no more than 10 ounces in weight, spotting one while on a night game drive is not always easy, but a huge treat to see and hear if you do.

Best Time to Visit: June | July | August | September | October

Learn More: South Africa Safaris | African Safari Guide

19. Wombat - Australia Mainland and Tasmania

The wombat is the second-largest marsupial. Depending on whether a bare-nosed or hairy-nosed wombat, these bear-shaped creatures can be found in coastal regions, thick forests or vast, dry landscapes throughout their native Australia. Wombats are nocturnal and love to eat, spending as long as the average human does sleeping and eating, their sharp teeth shredding their favorite grasses.  If threatened, they can run up to 25mph to escape animals such as wild dogs and foxes.

Best Time to Visit:  April | May | June | July

Learn More: Nature and Adventure Tour Australia | Best Time to Visit Australia

20. Blue Footed Booby - Galapagos Islands, South America

These fascinating birds are found in parts of central and south America, with about half of all breeding pairs found in the Galapagos. Named for their clown-like feet, the stunning blue stands out against rocks and water, flocks standing fearlessly alongside human visitors. They can live to around 17 years of age and enjoy a healthy diet, the fish they consume attributing to the color of their feet. The blue touches are used to impress and secure a mate, as they dance in a ritual routine to find a partner for life. The booby does not store its eggs in nests, as other birds do, but scatters them on the ground, creating a barrier to let other birds know they belong to our blue-footed friends.

Best Time to Visit:  June | July | August

Learn More: Best Galapagos Tours | Best Time to Visit Ecuador 

Capture Images of the Cutest Animals in the World with Zicasso

Wander beneath the emerald canopy of the Costa Rican forests in search of the slow-moving sloth or pace across the parched Kalahari Desert in South Africa at sunrise seeking out the fascinating meerkat as you search for some of the world’s most intriguing animals on Zicasso’s Trips of a Lifetime. Do you have an idea where you want to go and what you want to see? Contact a travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request or call us at 1-888-265-9707 to make your travel plans a reality.

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