Eight point seven million, that’s the number of animal species there are on Earth. From microscopic arthropods to the blue whale, animals are everywhere on this planet, big or small. From the gentlest animal, like the manatee, to the deadliest of them, the box jellyfish, for example, they roam their habitats in carefree fashion. But the truth is, not all of these 8.7 animals are afforded the luxury of being in their natural state. Some animals are in serious danger of being extinct, and the most treacherous killers are us. Humans and their unending thirst for advancement directly or indirectly endanger a lot of species of animals throughout the years.
If it was our fault, we also take steps to try and correct it. People created organizations, non-profit ones, or supported by a government or a private entity, that do unbelievable things every day to help save these animals. From saving abused animals and giving them shelter, to creating sanctuaries for near-extinct animals to help them mate and reproduce. There are wild sanctuaries on all six continents, and some of them are even great for a nice visit and a vacation. Here are 20 of the best sanctuaries we gathered for all the nature lovers out there.
20 20. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, India
The Ajan Dam was developed in 1760 for water supply and to protect against floods in the city of Bharatpur. When construction was finished, the remaining soil in the land became Bharatpur Lake. It developed into a haven for wildlife, mostly birds, especially migratory ones, who stop by for warmth, water, and shelter. As a tourist, going to the sanctuary can be done by vehicle or by elephant ride. It is a real bird playground with 408 species of birds living and migrating here. This sanctuary is also called Keoladeo National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Birders, bird lovers, bird watchers, or simply animal and nature lovers, flock to this place and observe these creatures in their protected home.
19 19. Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica
Out of only seven different species of sea turtles in the Earth’s oceans, four of them are amazingly on this protected beach. People visiting this place can see these sea turtles in the Camaronal Wildlife Refuge of Costa Rica. If one happens to be vacationing at one of the beaches in Costa Rica, ask around if the province of Guanacaste is near, then take a trip to this place of wonder and turtle power! About 79 kilometers from Costa Rica’s capital city, Camaronal Wildlife Refuge is a protected nesting area for sea turtles. A long swim in the Pacific takes these turtles to the shores of Camaronal. Have a tour and be lucky enough to see the race of baby sea turtles out to the ocean.
18 18. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, China
All animals are special, but some of them look cuter than the others. One of the cutest and cuddliest animals in the world was once on the brink of being extinct. Pandas live only in China, they are endangered mainly because of habitat loss. This is because of man, and humans have created the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding to help these adorable creatures flourish once again. Located in Sichuan Province, almost 2,000 kilometers southwest of Beijing, the research facility, and nature preserve sits on a 247-acre area. A safe haven for giant pandas and red pandas, it caters to tours for visitors and has an advanced facility for breeding, disease control and genetic management.
17 17. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya
Laws enforced protected wildlife areas and prohibiting ivory poaching have saved the mighty elephant from becoming extinct so far. With the exception of India, most countries that used to have high ivory poaching rates are all in Africa. One such country is Kenya, but in this particular place, elephants are considered a friend, not ivory tusks waiting to be taken. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is said to be the most successful rescue center for elephants in Africa, if not the world. They nurture orphaned baby elephants and help them grow to be as healthy as they can be. This elephant orphanage is located in Nairobi National Park and is open for public viewing every day (except Christmas Day) from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. They have eco-lodges for accommodations in the area, book a stay there and part of the lodge’s income goes to the conservation and management of the orphanage.
16 16. Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, Senegal
Located in the westernmost part of Senegal, which is also located in the westernmost part of Africa, is a UNESCO World Heritage park of birds. This place is called the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, a small watering hole in big Africa that serves as a rest stop for some beautiful species of migratory birds. A 16,000-hectare sanctuary filled with ponds, streams, and a big lake. Local and migratory birds in the sanctuary are the purple heron, white pelican, egret, pink flamingo, African spoonbill, night heron, and the cormorant. They have non-bird neighbors like crocodiles and manatees, too. Including the migratory birds, the park is home to some 1.4 million birds of 400 different species.
15 15. Elephant Nature Park, Thailand
Most tourists who fly to Thailand take vacations at beaches and resorts. But this country is one of a few countries in Asia with an abundance of elephants in their natural habitats. The Elephant Nature Park was established 20 years ago in Northern Thailand, in the Chiang Mai province. Not just a simple park, but a rehabilitation center for abandoned and rescued animals, not just elephants. One can visit and spend an afternoon volunteering, or accommodations are also available for overnight or 2-3 day stays, including a hefty itinerary. Forget the other elephant shows, go straight here to Elephant Nature Park and see, touch and feed elephants in their own home.
14 14. Etosha National Park, Namibia
In tribal language, Etosha means great white place. This describes the amazing Etosha Pan, a vast plain of green and white, the largest salt pan in Africa. Around this salt pan, various animals roam and feed on its waters almost every day. That makes it perfect for visiting animal lovers for viewing and photography. If one ever takes a visit to Etosha National Park, there are more than ample accommodations for the day or overnight, above average facilities even. Regular wild animals roaming around the Etosha National Park are the black rhino, elephants, grazing animals and thousands of migratory birds.
13 13. Josephine's Gallery & Kangaroo Orphanage, Australia
Dingoes, koalas, and kangaroos. These are just some animals exclusive to Australia. Coober Pedy is one town north of South Australia, tourists visit this town for the Breakaways Conservation Park, the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum, the Old Timers Mine, and Josephine’s Gallery. There are many kangaroo orphanages in Australia, but people say that this one is the best. Tourists can visit anytime they want, but the viewing is scheduled twice a day only. A visit starts with a history of the place, introduction of the resident kangaroos, and of course how to act and handle the delicate animals. Please donate before leaving as this orphanage runs purely on donations and volunteer workers.
12 12. Jurong Bird Park, Singapore
Asia has a lot of sanctuaries for birds, and this one in Singapore is one of the largest. The Jurong Bird Park is easy to find, Singapore is just one stretch of the island and everything is accessible from anywhere. It is in Jurong, in southwestern Singapore, and is less than thirty minutes away (about 38 kilometers) from the Changi Airport. It’s a very beautiful park, perfect for the vacationing family. Visitors can watch bird shows, feed lories and lorikeets, and choose from different kinds of tours to your liking. Beyond the park, they also have a conservation area dedicated to helping endangered birds, like the black-winged myna.
11 11. Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
Located between South Sudan and Kenya in Uganda. Right at their borders and on the topmost part of Uganda lies the Kidepo Valley National Park. It is technically part of South Sudan’s protected area called the Kidepo Game Reserve. Tourists can do a lot of things here that involve wildlife; nature walks for example. Birding and game drives are good activities, too. One can also visit the Kananogork Hot Springs and the Narus Valley and Namamukweny Valley. The park has about 475 bird species and 77 mammal species. For accommodations, one can choose from the Apoka Safari Lodge or the Apoka Rest, among others.
10 10. Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, Malaysia
At the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, guests can enjoy a very hands-on experience. Book a day in this park and enjoy the following close encounters with birds. Bird-selfies: take pictures with colorful birds, put them anywhere you like and snap away. Bird feeding: get to feed different kinds of birds, like the lory, hornbill, milky stork, even the ostrich, and the eagles. The park is divided into four zones, each has their own themes and different kinds of birds, like the love aviary and the free-flight walk-in aviary. With a bird population of more than 3,000 and 200 species, this park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
9 9. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia
Great animal sanctuaries are those that allow visitors to touch the locals. Unless they are carnivores and predators, people very much like to have a close encounter, especially if the creatures are cute, cuddly, and adorable. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary may be one of the few remaining places in Australia that still allow guests to cuddle with their koalas. Koalas are furry, cute animals, but they are also very delicate. Since they are nocturnal creatures, they are only allowed 30 minutes of cuddle time with guests. There are also kangaroos, wombats, tasmanian devils, dingoes, and the platypus. The park is located in Brisbane, Australia.
8 8. Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania
In 1959, an area in the northern part of Tanzania, a ways below the Serengeti National Park, was established as a land of peaceful co-existence between man and wildlife. The land is called Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. It’s a 300-square meter area full of breathtaking views and amazing creatures. With the name clueing us in, this land has a deep, volcanic crater. It is the biggest unbroken and unflooded caldera in the world. There are indigenous people cohabitating with the wildlife here in Ngorongoro. The people are called the Maasai and they’ve been here for about 200 years. Colonizing the land and living among black rhinos, zebras, wildebeests, and gazelles.
7 7. Ranthambore National Park, India
National parks, zoos, and wildlife conservation areas are kind of abundant in India. One of the best is Ranthambore National Park. If you are the kind of person who likes wild animals and loves predators and are especially captivated by tigers, this park is the perfect place. Located in southern Rajasthan, on the Sawai Madhopur district, this place is the kingdom of the Bengal tigers. These tigers are diurnal, so one will see plenty of them on a timed and scheduled safari, lasting for 3 and a half hours. There are also a bunch of other wildlife, leopards, hyenas, palm civets, Indian foxes, flying foxes, porcupines, hedgehogs, and 272 different kinds of birds.
6 6. Sloth Sanctuary, Costa Rica
Dogs, some breeds, are known to be very active animals. Always excited and happy to see their owners, doesn’t seem to get tired or lose that exciting energy. There is an animal that, one could say, is the exact opposite of the dog in terms of energy. The sloth’s been known to be one of the laziest animals in the world. They’re not lazy, they are just very slow. They take their time and savor the moment, at least that’s how I like to put it. In Costa Rica, there is a sanctuary dedicated to sloths called The Sloth Sanctuary. It was started in 1992 as a family passion and grew to be what it is now. It is, in fact, the first ever sloth sanctuary in the world. Visitors can choose from tours, the Buttercup Tour or the Insider’s Tour.
5 5. Stony Point Nature Reserve, South Africa
Ice and snow, that’s the kind of habitat we think of when we see penguins. But there are two species of penguins that flourishes outside Antarctica, the Galapagos penguin and the black-footed penguin. The black-footed penguin is also known as the African penguin and they live in South Africa. The Stony Point Nature Reserve is a conservation area protecting, not only the African penguin but two other endangered species of birds. The bank cormorant and the crowned cormorant also flourish on these shores. Cormorants are diving birds that feed on fish and live and breed on coastal cliffs. This unique beach is located in Betty’s Bay, South Africa.
4 4. Tat Kuang Si Bear Park, Laos
Now we go to another park that protects the panda’s cousin, the Asiatic black bear. These are bears that are usually tame, not predatory. They are nocturnal in nature and their regular diet consists of fruits, nuts, herbs, and bamboo shoots. In Laos, south of the town Luang Prabang lies the Tat Kuang Si Bear Park. It’s a small rescue center dedicated to rescuing and nursing Asiatic black bears back to health. A trip to this place comes with a bonus, for this town also has a hidden gem of a waterfall, the Kuang Si falls. It is worth it to make this nature trip, waterfalls, and bears, what a nice combo.
3 3. Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary, New Zealand
Governments also play a key role in saving endangered animals, and one good example is the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary in New Zealand. A partnership between a community conservation organization and the Department of Conservation resulted in the Tiritiri Matangi Open Sanctuary project. In 1980, the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi, the non-profit community organization started working on the island to restore its natural state hoping to bring back its former native inhabitants. Today, the island is a sanctuary to birds and other wildlife. Plan a day trip here, all it takes is a ferry ride from Auckland. This island is again the home of more than 50 different kinds of birds, butterflies, tuatara (a kind of lizard), and New Zealand’s largest insect, the wetapunga (grasshopper on steroids).
2 2. Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary, Ghana
Somewhere in the upper west region of Ghana is a river that flows 40 kilometers called the Black Volta River. It is the home of one of only two hippopotamus habitats remaining in Ghana. The local chiefs turned the area into a sanctuary in 1999. The local community is composed of the tribes Wala and Lobi, and they are the ones who started to save the hippos and their home. Aside from a river safari to see the hippos in their natural habitat, visitors can also join in and share the way of life of the local Lobi people, it’s a cultural immersion with a community eager to share their daily life with tourists.
1 1. Weltvogelpark Walsrode, Germany
Situated in the town of Walsrode, Lower Saxon in the northern part of Germany is the Weltvogelpark. Many people who visit the place claim it is the best bird park in Europe. But in terms of species count and land area, the Weltvogelpark is, in fact, the largest in the world. With over 4,400 birds, the park has a recorded 675 (or more) species, some of these species cannot be seen in other bird parks. A park that caters to tourists and guests, but also takes an active part in the European Endangered Species Program. It specializes in breeding, which actually saved a number of species of endangered birds.