Clearly out of my element
In my adult years I have always been careful of my interaction with what should be wild animals. If you can touch or ride the animal or they are in an enclosed case (or if you are in an enclosed case) it is probably not the best situation for you or the animal. All I can say is that it is imperative that you always do your research. No animal is here for our entertainment.
Now with that PSA aside, if you get a chance to interact with animals safely and ethically in the wild I would suggest it for all animal lovers. Just last month my friend, Alyssa, took me on a swim with wild manatees. It was such a treat because not only is Alyssa a wonderful animal lover but also a water lover. I am only one of those. Take a guess which one I don't love as much. I snorkeled once in about three feet of water in Puerto Rico to look at fish. Fish. Like guppy fish. I had never in my life been in water where I could not touch the bottom, swimming with actual ton pound animals. Although I was so excited for the swim, I was scared and out of my element (thank you Alyssa for talking me through my mini meltdown).
Once I saw one of the gentle giants, the fear went away. They are lovely, social creatures that would come up and kiss swimmers like a dog would. They are such sweet beings with beautiful minds. Seeing them in their natural habitat was breathtaking and one of my top 5 favorite things I have ever done on vacation. Maybe top 3. It was simply beautiful. Minus seeing actual wild manatees, the main reason the swim was so amazing was because of our captain and guide, Cory and Captain Rick, from Fun 2 Dive Manatee Tours in Crystal River, FL. They genuinely cared so much for the animals and had a lot of knowledge about manatees and the area.
Interacting with the wild like that puts our little place in the universe in perspective. There is so much out there to see as it is.
Thank you Alyssa and Cory for the photos :)