If you're an animal lover to the core, why not seek a vacation that will allow you to discover furry friends in fascinating new places. Animal-centric vacations can involve a lot more than visiting a petting zoo. From a safari in Canada to a cat sanctuary surrounded by Roman ruins, here are 20 trips every animal lover should consider taking in their lifetime.
Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh, India)
Bandhavgarh National Park is a 600-square-mile national park in eastern India that has about 250 different species of birds and 22 different mammals, including barking deer, striped hyenas and sambar, but it's most famously known as having the highest density of tigers in India. In fact, tigers are so easily spotted here that it's said visitors are particularly unlucky if they don't see one. Because summers in India are particularly harsh, it's best to plan your visit between November and March.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (Kanab, Utah)
If you're a lover of dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs or horses, you'll be in heaven when you visit the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. The largest sanctuary for companion animals in the United States, you can take hikes with stops in "neighborhoods" with fun names like Old Dogtown and Cat World. For a more rewarding visit, you can also volunteer to help the animals. If you can't make the trek to Utah, Best Friends also has regional locations in Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Houston. It's always a good decision to adopt a rescue animal - and we all know rescue dogs make the best pets.
Best Friends Animal Society/Yelp
Churchill (Manitoba, Canada)
There are some animals that you see at the zoo that seem like completely different beasts when observed in their natural habitat, and polar bears are definitely one of those animals. In October and November of every year, the town of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, is along the polar bear migration path, so you can literally look out your window and see these majestic creatures ambling by. Stay at the Tundra Lodge, a half-bus, half-hotel that rolls right up to the polar bears. It's best to plan your trip sooner rather than later, though, as you may not be able to see polar bears in their natural habitat for much longer due to climate change.
Elephant Nature Park (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Since the 1990s, the Elephant Nature Park in the Chiang Mai province of northern Thailand has been a place of refuge for rescued elephants. There are numerous ways to experience this place, from stopping by for a short visit to observe the elephants (as well as the dogs, cats, buffalo, birds and more that live at the sanctuary) to volunteering and caring for the elephants for a week.
Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
Perhaps one of the most famous animal-centric trips in the world, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador really are a unique travel experience - you're not likely to see more diverse and fascinating wildlife anywhere else in the world. Here, you can observe Darwin's finches, Galapagos giant tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins as well as the local flora and ecosystems that helped to inspire Darwin's theory of evolution. If the striking beauty of this place isn't enough for you, consider visiting more of the world's most stunning remote islands.
Paul Van Den Berg/Dreamstime.com
Great Barrier Reef (Queensland, Australia)
Stretching over 1,250 miles along 900 islands, the Great Barrier Reef is not just one reef, but a group of roughly 3,000 individual reefs. Learn to scuba dive or snorkel to see the bright colors and remarkable activities of roughly 2,000 different kinds of fish, 4,000 mollusk species and 400 different types of coral. Just make sure not to touch anything. Human contact can easily kill the coral and disturb this delicate ecosystem, which is already endangered by rising water temperatures. If that's not quite your speed, you can take an overhead helicopter tour for a bird's eye view. The Great Barrier Reef really needs to be seen to be believed, making it one of the 50 places every traveler should visit before turning 50.
Kangaroo Sanctuary (Alice Springs, Australia)
Australia offers a lot of unique animal life, but perhaps no creature is more famous Down Under than the kangaroo. To see as many of these hoppy marsupials as possible, head to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and stop by the Kangaroo Sanctuary. Because 'roos mostly sleep during the day, guided tours start here in the late afternoon. The best way to experience the sanctuary is with a sunset tour, which has not only great views of the kangaroos but also of the beautiful 90-acre property.
Kruger National Park (Northeastern South Africa)
Across the more than 7,500 square miles of South Africa's Kruger National Park, you can see the "Big Five" game animals (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and cape buffalo) as well as impalas, zebra, Greater kudu, giraffes and spotted hyenas. Each season offers different views and animals at Kruger National Park. Visitors in the summer will see newborn animals and lush vegetation, but you'll have an easier time spotting game during the dry winter months.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (Northern Kenya)
No matter what sort of animal experience you are looking for, you can have it at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. With nine different lodges and houses, each one more luxurious than the last, you'll sleep in style at night while spotting some truly extraordinary animals during the day, including rhinos, Grevy's zebra, elephants, lions and possibly wild exotic dogs. Experiencing a trip like this is something everyone - not just animal lovers - should do in their lifetime.
Parc Safari (Quebec, Canada)
You don't have to go all the way to Africa to go on a world-class safari. Just head to Parc Safari in Quebec, Canada. There are family-friendly experiences all throughout the park, including a 3-mile drive where you can pet and feed ostriches, great kudu, elk and dromedaries. One of the more interesting aspects of Parc Safari is the Feline Tunnel, a glass enclosure you can walk through and see lions from every angle above, beside and below you.
Pig Beach (Exuma Cays, Bahamas)
Perhaps one of the most famously Instagrammable spots in the world, you can swim with real pigs in the Exuma Cays of the Bahamas. No one knows exactly why there are swimming pigs in the Caribbean, but everyone does know they're adorable.
The Raptor Trust (Millington, New Jersey)
If owls, eagles and ravens are your thing, you can't miss The Raptor Trust in Millington, New Jersey. Take a relaxing hike through the walking trails and aviaries, where you'll see about 50 different birds, including bald eagles, turkey vultures, ravens, snowy owls, red-tailed hawks and more.
Photo Courtesy of The Raptor Trust
San Diego Zoo (San Diego, California)
One of the best zoos in America, the San Diego Zoo is a must-visit if you're an animal lover. Like a trip around the world in one day, this expansive zoo boasts polar bears, giraffes, orangutans, penguins, gorillas, koalas and hundreds of other creatures. Travel about an hour away to the zoo's Safari Park where you can take a tour and see rhinos, giraffes, kangaroos and more up close. The San Diego Zoo is far and away one of the best things to do in California.
Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary (Rome, Italy)
If you're a cat lover, then you will be in heaven at the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Rome, Italy. This Ancient Roman temple is now ruins that are home to over 150 feral cats that you can meet every day from noon to 6 p.m. Most of the cats that live here have special needs, whether they are blind, injured or come from abusive homes. This is also one of Rome's most historic spots; among the ruins is part of the Theatre of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C.
Volcanoes National Park (Musanze, Rwanda)
The very first national park in Africa, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is a truly remarkable place with 62 square miles of lush rainforest and five volcanoes. Here, you'll spot golden monkeys as well as the critically endangered mountain gorilla, which can only be seen on safari in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. For $1,500, you can get a gorilla trek permit and see these majestic creatures up close and personal.
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (New York, New York)
Madison Square Garden hosts the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City every February, and this event is a doggone dream. The show itself is a sight to behold and a friendly competition where pretty pups are judged against a breed standard until the Best in Show is found. There are events leading up to the show around the city, including the beloved Meet the Breeds event, where for $35, you can meet over 100 different breeds of dogs. It's a must-do if you're looking for your next pet. After all, having a dog does make you a better person.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary (Keenesburg, Colorado)
With more than 10,000 acres and more than 450 animals, the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, is the largest nonprofit carnivore sanctuary in the world. This place truly is a sanctuary for animals, and its lions, tigers, wolves, bears, leopards and more roam freely. Thus, visiting is a wholly unique experience. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is famous for its Mile Into The Wild Walkway, an elevated 1.5-mile platform where you can truly see these animals in nature.
Wolf Haven International (Tenino, Washington)
Gray wolves, Mexican gray wolves, red wolves and even some wolfdogs call the Wolf Haven International sanctuary in Tenino, Washington, home. Their mission is simple: to rescue and provide sanctuary for displaced, captive-born wolves. Visitors here can expect a 50-minute guided walking tour through the public portion of the wolf sanctuary (a small portion of their total acreage) and see some of the residents.
Wolf Haven International/Yelp
Woodstock Farm Sanctuary (High Falls, New York)
Fun for the whole family, the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York is home to chickens, cows, ducks, goats, pigs, sheep and more farm animals that have been saved from the factory farming industry. A one-hour tour of this charming estate allows you to meet and greet some of these cuddly creatures. A word of warning, though: Because Woodstock Farm Sanctuary promotes veganism, they don't tiptoe around where meat comes from, so be sure your kids are willing to hear some hard truths.
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming/Montana/Idaho)
Yellowstone National Park may be best known for Old Faithful, but the animals you'll see here are just as remarkable. You can spot black bears, bison, bobcats, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, mountain lions and more in their natural habitats. Home to over 67 different mammals and 300 different birds, Yellowstone's plentiful, diverse wildlife makes for some of the most magnificent views in America's national parks.
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