Seeing animals in the wild makes for unforgettable travel experiences. When it comes to observing marine life, birds, small mammals, or gentle giants, the world is, quite literally, your oyster. But not all wildlife experiences are created equal. If you’re an animal lover at heart, this list is for you. Read on to learn more about these ethical tours around the world and how they keep animal welfare at the center of each experience.
Johannesburg
Ride through Pilanesberg Game Reserve in search of the park’s most iconic animals.

1. See the Lion King in real life

Aside from the natural beauty, diverse history, and vibrant city culture, South Africa offers once-in-a-lifetime animal viewing opportunities. Johannesburg, also called the City of Gold, is the perfect starting point. Just a three hour’s drive from the city, Pilanesberg National Park is the perfect place to spot lions, leopards, Cape buffalo, elephants, and rhinos on a thrilling safari. Birders will be amazed to learn the park boasts over 360 species of birds.

Release baby turtles into the ocean at the Sea Turtle Conservation Camp.

2. Turn the tide with Acapulco’s turtles

If you’re into nature and adventure, Acapulco in Mexico is a great destination. Once you’ve snorkeled its blue waters and seen the world-famous La Quebrada cliff divers, you’ll need to cool down after the second-hand adrenaline rush. After the rush, visit the Sea Turtle Conservation Camp to learn about the endangered Golfina sea turtle. Then it’s time to actively take part in improving this species’ chances of survival by releasing baby turtles into the ocean.

Big Island
See manta rays up close on a swim and snorkel experience.

3. Meet a manta ray

Hiking the rainforests and surfing on stunning beaches are perfect daytime activities on Big Island, Hawaii. However, it’s at night that you can have an unforgettable marine experience. Enjoy a sunset cruise on a catamaran. Then, as the night falls, grab a snorkel and swim with exquisite manta rays in their natural, wild habitat. Marvel at how they flit around the water thanks to their wing-like pectoral fins.

Wellington
Explore this eco-sanctuary at night with an experienced guide.

4. Search for the elusive kiwi

Known as the home of adrenaline experiences, New Zealand is all about magnificent natural landscapes and extreme sports. The city of Wellington is so diverse: you can visit filming locations of the “Lord of the Rings” films and explore local wineries. Once night falls, though, it’s time to see some of the country’s most fascinating animals. Visit Zealandia on a night tour and explore the wildlife park to spot its many reptiles, birds, and mammals. On your visit to this 555 acre (225 hectares) biodiverse ecosanctuary, you may even spot a kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird.

Boston
Join this 3-hour cruise for the opportunity to spot whales off the coast of Boston.

5. Have a whale of a time in New England

The Boston Tea Party isn’t the only reason to head to the sea in Boston. Hop on a catamaran and cruise out to spot whales and dolphins on this memorable marine mammal tour. Learn all about these amazing animals from on-board experts from the Whale Center of New England. You’ll spot humpback, finback, and minke whales, as well as white-sided dolphins, which only live in the North Atlantic.

Meet the furry locals at Khao Sok National Park.

6. Monkey around in Thailand

A trip to Khao Sok National Park is a must for any nature lover. It’s ideally situated for easy access from Krabi, Phuket, Khao Lak, or Koh Samui, and makes the perfect day trip. Bordering three other national parks, Khao Sok is a haven for flora and fauna — spectacled langur monkeys can be seen from up close. Take an exciting canoe trip through the rainforest to spot some of the other 48 mammal species and 311 bird species that call this unspoiled part of the planet home.

Mauritius
Swim with spinner and bottlenose dolphins in their natural environment on an amazing eco-tour of the Black River coast of Mauritius.

7. Dive deep with dolphins in Mauritius

Known for its palm-fringed, white sand beaches, Mauritius is a tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean. When you’ve done enough beach bumming, it’s time to head to the ocean on a speedboat tour to see dolphins in their natural habitat near the Black River Gorge. You’ll get the chance to see bottlenose and spinner dolphins. Snorkel and swim with them, or simply admire these marine mammals from the boat. 

Ko Lanta
Spend your day in Ko Lanta caring for local dogs and cats at the Lanta Animal Welfare Center.

8. Bond with man’s best friend 

Take some time off from swimming, snorkeling, and diving around Thailand’s beautiful Ko Lanta island in Krabi province. Spend the day first exploring its national park and stroll around its Old Town. In the afternoon, the animal encounter starts. You’ll visit the Lanta Animal Welfare Center to meet the rescued cats and dogs that live there. Play with these loving animals and learn about their welfare. End your day by taking some rescue dogs for their favorite activity — a walk on the beach!

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