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What to Do When Manatees Stampede, and Other Important Travel Lessons

Some tips for close encounters in the animal kingdom.

Vacationers and wild animals have an uneasy relationship. From stampeding manatees to thieving monkeys, here are some videos that will surprise you—and hopefully make you think twice before encroaching too much on a wild animal’s personal space—and some tips for better close encounters in the animal kingdom.

Stampeding Manatees

The Scenario: You’re in a crowd of curious boaters, kayakers, snorkelers, and swimmers who have gotten a little too close to manatees. Something startles the herd and suddenly the usually slow-moving marine mammals become underwater projectiles.

How to Avoid It: There are dozens of “manatee manners” to follow (which you can see starting from about 2:45 in this video from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), but the easiest thing to remember is to always practice passive observation. That means no touching, no chasing, no poking. Just hands-off watching.

Thieving Monkeys

The Scenario: You’re hanging out somewhere in relatively close proximity to monkeys that are used to humans. Maybe you’re eating a sandwich, or wearing sparkly jewelry. The next thing you know, you’re being shaken down by a monkey.

How to Avoid It: The Internet is full of thousands of videos of monkeys taking stuff from tourists. Sandwiches, jewelry, wigs, money … name nearly anything and you can bet a monkey has snatched it from a semi-unsuspecting traveler.

If you’re going to be in close proximity to monkeys, keep your valuables tucked away and don’t keep food in your bag. And please, don’t casually stroll near one holding a banana and expect to keep it. Know that monkeys can be aggressive, will bite, and carry diseases you don’t want to bring home from vacation.

RELATED: Please Do Not Participate in These Cruel Activities on Vacation

Burglarizing Bears

The Scenario: You’ve just finished a delicious meal in the mountain cabin you’ve rented for the weekend. It’s a nice day and you decide to leave the windows open a bit and go for a walk. You return to find total chaos—a bear has ransacked the house.

How to Avoid It: There is going to be the risk of a break-in wherever bears live in close contact to humans. With their incredible sense of smell, bears simply can’t resist the tempting scent of food wafting from any window that’s open even a crack (or sometimes not open at all).

If you’re in a bear area, put all of your food away and store it safely after eating. Bears are strong and resourceful, so leaving food unattended for even a few minutes can lead to thousands of dollars of damage—think windows pried off their hinges, screens slashed open, and refrigerator doors torn clean off.

Flying Fish

The Scenario: You’re out on the water, minding your own business, when suddenly an Asian Carp flies out of the water and smacks you in the face.

How to Avoid It: Asian carp were imported in the 1970s to filter ponds at Arkansas fish farms. Some escaped into the wild and now 23 states have populations of this invasive fish. The fish jump out of the water when startled, and according to the National Wildlife Federation, not to mention hundreds of videos on YouTube, often collide with people, causing injuries.

The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant has a list of suggestions for avoiding injury, including not following other boats moving at high speeds, wearing life jackets, and even installing a Plexiglass shield to deflect jumping carp.

RELATED: The World’s Most Adordable Animals (And Where to Find Them)

Destructive Parrots

The Scenario: You return to your rental car after a magnificent hike in New Zealand to discover your car is being methodically ripped apart by large, green parrots.

How to Avoid It: Kea Parrots are smart, curious, and destructive. There’s a distinct lack of advice about how to protect your belongings from these birds, other than to make sure your car windows are rolled up so you don’t give the birds access to the soft inner workings of the vehicle.

If you’ve got a rental car and don’t have the sort of coverage that will keep you responsibility-free if you return a car devoid of rubber caulking, steer clear of popular trailheads in mountainous parts of the South Island, as the birds tend to congregate where they know there will be cars and people.

Domesticated Animal Bonus: Jumping Goats

The Scenario: You’re enjoying a bit of country life, soaking up the sunshine, breathing in the fresh air, and admiring the bucolic landscape. And then a small, adorable goat ricochets off of you on its way to knocking over its goat brothers and sisters like bowling pins.

How to Avoid It: Yes, you might get a bruise or two by standing within bounding distance of the tiny heart-shaped hooves of a baby goat, but it’s probably worth it to soak up all the mischief and joy.

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis vacations in bear country. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.


By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

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