For some of us, it’s not enough to turn on a wildlife program and watch a pride of lions sunning themselves on African plains, or the great apes swinging through rainforest canopies. It just doesn’t do it for us to hear elephant seals chattering among themselves on a sandy beach on the National Geographic Channel, or watch from dry land as a giant manta ray drifts by, trailing a cloud of silt from the ocean floor. We need to see it in person, with our own eyes.
Well, fear not. We’ve put together a list of 12 must-visit destinations for animal lovers with a strong sense of wanderlust and thirst for adventure.
1. Limón Province, Costa Rica
The Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica cares for injured, orphaned and abandoned sloths while providing public tours to increase understanding. Only staff can touch and hold the sloths, but you can see rescued baby sloths in the NICU/nursery!
2. Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia and Maryland
The Assateague horses can be seen wandering along both the Virginia and Maryland ends of the island. Legend has it that these feral horses are the descendants of domestic horses, which made their way to land after a shipwreck off the coast of Virginia.
3. Pig Beach, Bahamas
Located in Exuma, this island is inhabited by about 20 pigs and piglets, but no humans. It’s not clear how they got there, but who cares? They get to spend their days sunning themselves on the sandy beaches, frolicking in the water and otherwise enjoying all the benefits of islanders.
4. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada
Thousands of tourists flock each year to Churchill, one of the few areas inhabited by humans where polar bears can be viewed in the wild. While they can be viewed year-round, the prime viewing months are October and November when they’re on the prowl for seals and other things to eat.
5. San Simeon, California
Thousands of elephant seals make their homes near the Piedras Blancas Light Station in San Simeon, at a rookery that extends more than six miles along the beach. The viewing areas are open year-round, but the best time to go is November-February and April-July.
6. Borneo and Sumatra
Orangutans are native to these islands in southeast Asia, home to some of the most diverse rain forests left on the planet. Visitors can see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat at some of the forest reserves, or at rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries.
7. Kauai, Hawaii:
Visitors to this island paradise who had to leave their dogs at home and find themselves going through withdrawal can just stop by the Kauai Humane Society. The organization operates a program in which visitors borrow shelter dogs for some companionship, and the dogs get to get out, stretch their limbs and breathe in the heavenly, tropical scents.
Get out your diving or snorkeling gear! Located in the western Pacific north of Australia, Micronesia encompasses more than 2,000 islands in a perimeter of almost 3,000 square miles. The warm, crystal-clear waters that surround the region are host to everything from giant manta rays and sea turtles to hammerheads and whale sharks.
9. Kanab, Utah
Best Friends Animal Society is a network of no-kill shelters with locations across the country, but its main facility is located in Kanab, near the Utah-Arizona border. On any given day, the nearly 21,000-acre sanctuary is home to roughly 1,600 animals, including dogs and cats, horses, burros, birds, rabbits, goats and pigs. Tours are offered year-round.
10. Alice Springs, Australia
Located in the southern outback of Australia, The Kangaroo Sanctuary works to educate and encourage people to rescue and care for kangaroos.
These large marsupials are found only in Australia, and can actually be viewed daily grazing on residents’ lawns throughout the country. In Agnes Water on the east coast, you can even rent your own motorcycle and take a guided tour past mobs of ‘roos (yes, that’s the collective term for a bunch of kangaroos) with a friendly outfit called Scooter Roo.
11. Chipley, Florida
There’s no better place to get up close and personal with wolves – whole packs of wolves – than Seacrest Wolf Preserve, which offers both daily and private tours. Staff and volunteers guide groups and individuals through two- and three-acre natural habitats that are home to Gray, Arctic, and British Columbian wolves.
12. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Obviously no bucket list worth its salt would be complete without the creme de la creme, the African safari. Established in 1926, Kruger is South Africa’s first national park and covers more than 7,500 square miles, making it one of the largest game reserves in Africa.
On a safari, you’ll capture photos of everything from rhinos, elephants, and lions to giraffe, wildebeest and zebra, all living as nature intended.
Share this bucket-list with an animal lover today!