We all need a vacation once in a while, whether it’s a staycation, lounging around on a beach, or booking a tour to see all of a city or country’s most popular tourist spots. Or, if you’re a wildlife lover who wants to avoid the canned vacation experience altogether, then you could break that mould and instead head out on the adventure of a lifetime.
From hanging out at sunset with kangaroos in Australia to bathing elephants in Thailand, here are some of the best–not to mention completely ethical–travel adventures for the wildlife lovers out there.
When Darwin wanted to explore his theory of natural selection, he headed to the Galapagos Islands to study the unique ecosystems there. Now you too can check out the local wildlife while helping to protect their habitats, making this a unique and feel-good trip filled with hiking, giant tortoises, snorkelling and more.
This 188-acre wildlife sanctuary has housed rescued kangaroos since 2011 (and baby kangaroos since the early 2000s), and encourages all of its visitors to rescue and care for the creatures while they’re visiting. Located in Central Australia’s Alice Springs, The Kangaroo Sanctuary only offers its guided tours in the late afternoon, when the nocturnal creatures are just starting to wake up.
There are plenty of places in Thailand that offer tourists the opportunity to hang out with (and sometimes even ride) elephants, but many of them treat their animals terribly, using torture techniques to “train.” That’s not the case with this Chiang Mai-based rescue centre and sanctuary, which provides a natural environment for the majestic creatures. Come for the day and feed and bathe an elephant, or stay overnight for the full experience.
If you love birds, and if you have a particular penchant for raptors, this San Diego adventure is for you. Book a hawk-walk and traverse the trails while free-flying a trained raptor to and from the glove, all while basking in the animal’s natural environment. Or go a little more in-depth with the “private raptor experience,” in which you and a guest can learn to free-fly a hawk and a falcon for two private hours.
This 15-day trek through Brazil includes a stay at a private rainforest reserve and excursions to see local endemic species like the white-whiskered spider monkey and Spix’s red-handed howler monkey. This trip gets bonus points for also including a remote, sustainable, and responsible jaguar safari headed up by expert biologist and naturalist guides.
This award-winning, UNESCO World Heritage Site offers ethical and safe safaris to see some of the coolest creatures inhabiting the Kenyan landscape. The conservation of wildlife remains a top priority as visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, from hanging out at the pool or fire, to rare and up-close animal encounters on horseback.
If it’s the water that’s calling you, what better way to soak in the sun than while also hanging out with the great but gentle manatee? This trip offers the opportunity to volunteer alongside scientists to help protect and preserve the animal’s ecosystem by gathering essential data on their habitat. Naturally, it also allows ample time to explore the country’s unique reefs and jungles during your stay, making this one an all-around winner.
British Columbia is known for many things, but one of the most impressive is the Great Bear Rainforest—a protected 6.4 million hectares of forest that equates to roughly the size of Ireland. Book a trip to go bear- or whale-watching, visit the vast marine life, or take a hike through the gorgeous rainforest itself for a trip you’ll never forget.