There are a lot of factors to consider when planning a trip abroad: hotel quality, airfare selection, and whether or not you”ll be surrounded by adorable animals.
Okay, the last one might not be the highest priority for every vacationer, but maybe it should be, considering these amazing travel options.
1. Lasquite Island, Vancouver: Saint Bernards
Off the coast of Canada”s Vancouver Island, Lasquite is home to about 350 residents. Among them, dog breeder Tikki Smith shares her five-acre home with her husband, son, and at least 40 Saint Bernards.
2. South Africa: Cheetah Outreach
Located in Cape Town on Heartland”s Paardevlei property in South Africa, Cheetah Outreach allows visitors to get up close and personal with these beautiful, big cats. Open seven days a week year-round, the organization hopes to educate the public while promoting the survival of their species.
3. Japan: Cat Islands
Japan is the proud home of not just one cat-centric island, but a whopping 11 separate isles where hoards of felines roam free. Popular options include Aoshima, where 120 cats outnumber the population of elderly locals with a six-to-one ratio, and Tashirojima, also known as “Cat Heaven Island.” Just remember: no dogs allowed.
4. Pennsylvania: Wolf Sanctuary
The sanctuary found in Pennsylvania Dutch Country has offered refuge to Speedwell Wolves for the past 30 years. Visitors can take walking tours along the 80+ acres of land, run by the Darlington family. They even offer special night tours during a full moon.
5. Japan: Bunny Island
During World War II, the rabbits of Okunoshima were used as chemical test subjects at the island”s poison gas factory. Found off the coast of the Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan, thousands of the cotton-tailed cuties are now free to roam as they please.
6. Exuma: Pig Beach
No one is really sure how the feral pigs first arrived on this uninhabited island off the coast of Exuma, Bahamas, but visitors flock to take a few laps with the porkers nonetheless. Legends include sailors leaving the swine so they could go back and munch on them later, but today they thrive on scraps from ships and tasty treats provided by tourists.
7. Galapagos Islands
The islands famously explored and studied by Charles Darwin are still a great place to experience adorable animal life in person. The small patch of land off the coast of Ecuador is packed with a plethora of marine and other wildlife found only on the island. Say hi to friendly sea lions or catch a glimpse of the giant Galapagos tortoises while you relax on the beaches.
8. Kenya: Giraffe Manor
Purchased by Betty Leslie-Melville in 1974, the impressive Nairobi, Kenya abode offers a very different safari experience. In partnership with the Giraffe Centre, the Leslie-Melville family has worked to help replenish the endangered Rothschild breed of giraffes following the Kenyan government”s purchase of their sole habitat. They established the hotel in 1983, and visitors can expect to find up to 12 giraffes roaming the area, poking their long necks in through windows to say hello.
9. Iceland: Horse Tours
What better way to appreciate all the stunning sights of the Icelandic landscape than on the back of a majestic steed? Ishestar Riding Tours offers many tour options, including a day in the countryside or highland as well as multi-day trips for guests looking to experience more giddyup in their getaway.
10. Australia: Kangaroo Sanctuary
Located in Central Australia, The Kangaroo Sanctuary offers a sunset tour for guests to enjoy a relaxing walk through the bush just as the iconic antipodean animals wake up from their daytime slumber. Established in 2005 as a rescue shelter for baby “roos, the facility aims to educate as well as provide an incredible experience for all those visiting.
11. Costa Rica: Sloth Bed & Breakfast
Established in 1992, the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica focuses on both educating the public about and providing care for these unusual (yet undeniably adorable) creatures. Visitors to the facility can even stay overnight for a sloth slumber party to get a full lesson on relaxation from the slow-moving critters.
12. Manitoba, Canada: Polar Bear Adventure
The Tundra Lodge Adventure just outside of Churchill, Manitoba boasts itself as the best polar bear viewing spot on the planet. According to their website, guests can expect a totally immersive experience and the chance to see “scores” of the majestic bears.
13. Uganda: Gorilla Safari
Love Uganda Safaris offers several different and exciting safari options for guests traveling to the area. But perhaps the most impressive tour is their private gorilla safari. The itinerary provides guests with an exclusive five-day experience, including guided gorilla treks in Lake Mburo National Park.
14. California: The Gentle Barn
Founded in 1999 in Tarzana, California, The Gentle Barn has since moved to Santa Clarita, where the six-acre facility is home to over 170 animals rescued from harsh farm life and given a safe environment. They open their barn doors to the public every Sunday when, for a $10 donation, visitors are able to hang out with the horses, cows, pigs, and more. The company hopes to spread their message of healing and safety throughout the rest of the United States over time.
15. Nepal: Parahawking
More adventurous travelers looking to explore new heights should check out parahawking: paragliding in tandem with birds of prey. Guests are strapped in and follow the lead of two Egyptian vultures, Kevin and Bob, who guide them through the thermals in between resting on their hand for a snack and once-in-a-lifetime photo opp.
Now if you”ll excuse me, I have several plane tickets to purchase ASAP.