13 of the best holidays for animal lovers
Swimming pigs! Washing elephants! EVERYTHING FLUFFY AND AWESOME!
If you love animals more than you love people (understandable), and want to use your vacay time to interact with some beautiful non-humans in a responsible, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free way, then look no further - here’s 13 of the best holidays and travelling experiences for doing just that.
Look after rescue elephants and dogs in Thailand
Head to Chiang-Mai in Northern Thailand and you’ll find the Elephant Nature Park, a wonderful non-profit rehabilitation centre that’s home to a herd of around 80 rescue elephants and 450 rescue dogs. Visit for just a day, or stay and help care for the animals for up to 4 weeks. Proceeds that aren’t plowed straight back into the centre are used to help educate elephant tourist camp owners on how to treat the animals under their care with love and dignity. The centre are always in need of medical and supplies - if you want to make a donation, you can do that here.
Experience life on the farm in New York
Just a 2 and a half hour drive from Manhattan lies the picturesque Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a haven for rescued pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, cows, rabbits and more. The key philosophy behind the Sanctuary? To provide visitors with a positive animal-based experience (frolicing with goats, giving a pig a belly rub, and being nuzzled by sheep, anyone?) while educating the public on why animals are friends, not food.
Book a stay for a true ‘get away from it all’ break, and sleep happy in the knowledge that your money will all go towards the care of the 300+ rescue animals. http://woodstocksanctuary.org/
Go and see actual penguins in Antarctica
Forget tiny tanks at the zoo; if you want to see penguins as they should be seen - in the wild - then Antarctica should be on your bucket list. OK so you might have to save for a while, but booking a trip will be worth every penny - plus most trips start from Argentina, which is amazing in its own right. Just make sure you ONLY book with tour operators who are members of IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) - they advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.
Safari responsibly in South Africa
If you like your holidays to feature a touch of luxury, hunters of big game make your blood boil (us too), and conserving South Africa’s wildlife sounds like your cup of tea, then the Karkloof Safari Spa is for you. Get up close to the likes of protected zebras, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, and monkeys as they roam wild and free in their natural habitat, before heading back to the resort to unwind with an award-winning spa treatment. http://www.karkloofsafarispa.com/
Breakfast with giraffes in Kenya
A boutique hotel, Giraffe Manor is set within 140 acres of indigenous forest in the Langata suburb of Nairobi. It’s a beautiful stately building with green lawns, sunny terraces, and enchanting courtyards. But the real selling point? Its herd of resident Rothschild giraffe - who rock up every morning and evening to share some food with the guests - poking their long necks into the windows before retreating to their forest sanctuary. How’s that for a holiday with a difference? https://www.thesafaricollection.com/properties/giraffe-manor/
Care for orphaned Malawi wildlife
An award-winning project, the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre houses almost 200 animals rescued primarily from the illegal wildlife trade, including carnivores, primates, reptiles and antelopes. As a volunteer you’ll contribute to the full rehabilitation process of the animals, from orphan care and integrations to observations and release (the centre’s goal is to release animals back into the wild in every case possible). Volunteer holidays at the LWC range from two weeks to three months, and they have several projects across various locations in Malawi. http://www.lilongwewildlife.org/
Hang out with bunnies in Japan
We know what dreams are made of and it’s this - Okunoshima: an island in Japan that’s literally COVERED in wild rabbits, thanks to an island-wide ban on hunting and dogs. Luckily tourists are still allowed - there’s a hotel and camping ground just waiting for you to go and stay. BUNNIES ALL OF THE BUNNIES.
Save the orangutans in Sumatra
The orangutans of Sumatra are on the verge of extinction thanks to extreme deforestation. Volunteers are desperately working to save them, and you can help them rehabilitate and reintroduce the animals into the wild if you’ve got a spare six months and want to make a lasting difference to the world. http://www.sumatranorangutan.org/
Swim with the now infamous pigs in Barbados
You’ve probably heard about these little piggies by now, thanks to their rise to internet fame (not to mention a visit from Kourtney Kardashian…), but for those who don’t know: there’s a place in the Bahamas where you can swim with wild pigs.
In fact, MTV went there to check it out - watch the video here and see for yourselves.
Visit the cutest animals of all time in the Philippines
Forget that ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’ saying - Tarsiers have eyes bigger than their brains, and they are actually adorable. Unfortunately they’re struggling in the wild due to deforestation destroying their natural habitat - you can help by visiting them at the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary: proceeds go towards rehabilitation. Or sign up to volunteer for longer by contacting the foundation directly.
Swim with sharks in the Marshall Islands
About halfway between Australia and Hawaii lies the Republic of the Marshall Islands, home to 53,000 people and the world’s biggest shark sanctuary - four times the size of California. Go diving at ‘Shark Pass’ and swim nose to.. fin with silvertip and grey reef sharks, along with hundreds of tropical fish.
Help the Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand
For many, backpacking in Thailand has historically involved photo opportunities at tiger ‘sanctuaries’ - often a front for breeding the animals for their skins and body parts - or rides on elephants who have been ‘trained’ via abuse and torture. Buck the trend and help Thailand’s wildlife instead, with the WFFT.
The Foundation runs a number of projects and sanctuaries, and whether you choose to stay for just a day or a couple of weeks, you could be doing anything from nursing orphaned baby monkeys to giving an elephant a shower - all while learning about how the trust is helping Thailand’s endangered animals. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Sleep with Sloths in Costa Rica
OK so you won’t actually be curled up in bed with the little critters, but Costa Rica’s Sloth Sanctuary does have its very own inn. Stay for up to two nights and take a guided ‘insider’s tour’ of the sanctuary.
Written by Lizzie Cox