As you travel, especially if you are interested in seeing wild animals or spending some time around other natural forces and phenomena, there are certain sounds which only nature makes – and some of these sounds will stay with you for ever. Just like seeing an old photo which you took on safari, tasting food you enjoyed at a street market in Asia or smelling the distinct aroma of an exotic fruit (in particular I’m thinking of durian fruit as I write this) – sounds can evoke great emotion or trigger incredible memories… especially when it is a sound you perhaps just heard in the distance and never go to see the culprit – it is amazing how far some natural sounds will travel!
Here I have listed 5 sounds which I have experienced, and which will stay with me as a fond reminder of that trip for ever! Whilst it wasn’t always possible, where I have been able to I have included recordings of those sounds taken on these trips. Please feel free to leave a comment to let me know which natural sounds you have experienced will stay with you, and which I should really try to experience myself.
The Song of the Gibbon, Vietnam
This is by a long long way my favourite sound (natural or otherwise) in the world, and living right next door to Wingham Wildlife Park who house this exact same species I am lucky enough to hear it on most mornings (especially when i is foggy), however here is nothing as amazing as hearing this first thing in the morning, in the humid Vietnamese rain forest!
We got up very early in the morning while staying in Cat Tien National Park and were taken to the main park office to meet our morning gibbon walk guide. We only trekked for about 20 minutes or so before we got to the giant banyan tree, at which point we had some (delicious) breakfast while we waited for the gibbons to wake up. Just after dawn we heard the sound of gibbons calling and our guide rushed us to their position.
We were so glad to actually see a bonded pair of White Cheeked Gibbons in the wild, as this isn’t guaranteed with this tour… but all of the conditions were in our favor. However we couldn’t believe our eyes when it turned out that they had a little baby with them too, which must have been no more than 9 months or so old. After watching them silently for about what felt like 5 minutes (but to be honest I didn’t check the time and we could have been there for 2 hours considering how many photos I took) they started to sing – first one, and then in unison.
Sadly the photos came out rubbish as I had the wrong lens with me on this trip and the lighting was terrible, but I do have that absolutely magical sound not only in my mind, but recorded!
The Racket of the Rainforest, Borneo
Out of all the rain forests I have been to so far (in Costa Rica, Borneo, Vietnam & Australia) it is the Baku National Park which has so far had the loudest inhabitants – especially for some reason at about 2:00 pm – our guide said you can always tell when it is 2:00 pm because a special species of cicada always starts to chirp at that time… It might have been a fluke but just as it started it was in fact 2:00 pm!
A lot of people complain that in the rain forest they can’t sleep, but personally I love the noise and find it relaxing – it really drives home the fact that you are at that point absolutely surrounded by nature! It also helps that for many years (before I started to travel) I kept a lot of reptiles which were in my bedroom, and the majority of these fed on crickets. This was also my first rain forest experience so there are a lot of other memories of the temperature, humidity and amazing wildlife which accompany this sound for me!
The Call of the Howler Monkey, Costa Rica
When we heard these guys at our lodge in Tortuguero, Costa Rica and it was very early in the morning… as well as being just 10 meters or so away from our room! It is a really deep grumble and can be heard from really far away it’s no wonder they call them their wake up call at that lodge!
In a recording it might not sound like a particularly nice noise, and to be honest not hugely different from the grunt of a pig, however for the size of this monkey it really is an incredible sound.
The Falls of Gulfoss, Iceland
There is so much to see in Iceland and much of it revolves around water (be it from rivers, waterfalls or volcanic activity), with one of the most spectacular being the massive Gullfoss waterfalls where 140 cubic meters of water (although in the winter when we were there it is more like 80 cubic meters) per second cascade over the edge.
The audio file doesn’t really do the real thing justice, and as you walk down towards the lower viewing area you have to really speak up around your travelling partner to ensure that you can hear each other. Whilst this isn’t necessarily my fondest Iceland memory, or even my favourite waterfall for that matter, the sheer crashing noise it emits really sums up the raw power ad beauty of Iceland.
The Laugh of the Kookaburra, Australia
The kookaburra is a type of kingfisher bird from Australia and the sound it makes is not only unmistakable but also in my opinion one of the best bird songs there is… It might not be as beautiful as some of the smaller song birds, but to me, it’s just a sound that makes you feel good!
We heard a few kookaburras whilst in Australia (having seen our first wild one sitting on top of a sign in Taronga Zoo, Sydney, of all places! However it wasn’t until we went to the great ocean road near Melbourne to look for koalas where we first heard our first wild Kookaburra.
Sounds of Nature Not Yet Heard
There are a few sounds of nature which I am yet to experience, and can’t wait for the day that I do. These include (but I am sure that this list will increase with time, even as I get round to hearing them, rather than decreasing):
- The chest beat of a wild gorilla
- The pant hoot of a wild chimpanzee
- The rumble of a volcanic eruption
- A whale singing
- The warning of a wild rattle snake