One of the most enjoyable activities to come from traveling is having a close encounter with an animal. Many people have a fascination with wildlife creatures and plan that into trip destinations. There are quite a few types of places that can offer such experiences; tamer ones include tours at places like zoos or aquariums. There are fun safaris that take it to another level by giving you the option of seeing animals in their environment. Some locations even offer travelers the ability to see REAL wildlife.
We will look at some of the best experiences offered from each. All these locations and opportunities have variables in play, but they have created reputations leading to folks having a great time. Each option varies in price as some are highly expensive due to the unique nature of the experience being offered. Find out just how you can make the most of a visit to an animal experience destination and which one will be best for your personal interests. These are twenty of the absolute best experiences out there for those wanting a close encounter with animals.
20 Greet a beluga whale at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
One Chicago aquarium offers a true once in a lifetime opportunity. Beluga whales are among the most unique animals around, and Shedd Aquarium has a close encounter experience with them.
The experience is priced at $250.00 for the chance to meet a beluga.
Trainers stand with those meeting the beluga on an underwater ledge. The beluga is face to face with you as you get the chance to gently touch its skin, learn some facts about it and get a photograph. Belugas are considered quite friendly and enjoy interaction, making this a fun experience. During your next trip to Chicago, you can factor in beluga-whale-fun in between pizza and baseball games.
19 Observe bears in Finland
The Petola Nature Center provides a great experience for those fascinated by bears. There are over a thousand brown bears located in various forests close to Kuhmo, Finland. This experience is pricy at a few hundred bucks per night depending on your stay time.
Unlike zoos or confined safaris, the animals in this experience aren’t under the control of anyone. You’re essentially spying on the bears as they live their lives in their normal environment. Wolves, wolverine and lynx are also frequently spotted here for those wanting more than just the bears.
18 Kenya Wildlife Safari
Safaris in Africa are considered 'the' top experience for those wanting to witness animals in their natural habitat. Most of the safaris are extremely expensive due to the rare and unique experience offered. The Kenya Wildlife Safari is among the more affordable ones with packages starting at $1180 for an eight-day trip.
The tour combines a learning experience about the areas in Kenya along with the intimate experience of observing wildlife in their natural environment. Rhinos, lions, elephants and hippos are some of the animals spotted on these tours. Kenya Wildlife Safari truly provides a tremendous value for those wanting an extremely immersive experience of spotting wild creatures.
17 Wolf spotting in Minnesota
The NBA team name of the Minnesota Timberwolves is not a coincidence, as there are legitimately timberwolves located in Minnesota. Folks visit here to spot the beautiful wolves in their natural habitat. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National each provide tours that allow folks to find the wolves.
Superior National Forest in Minnesota is rather breathtaking in general, but it becomes even more beautiful when spotting the wildlife there. Aside from the wolves, there are often moose in the area taking a dip in the lake. This is one fun thing to do when spending some time in Minnesota.
16 Meet unlikely friends at Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo is the biggest zoo in the New York area and has started to offer intimate experiences with some of their animals. This zoo has become one of the first ones in the United States following the Animal Planet series about the Bronx Zoo becoming a hit for the network.
A fascinating new experience offered at the zoo is the chance to meet a cheetah and a canine.
The cheetahs are raised with dogs leading to an unlikely bond. The Bronx Zoo offers the chance to meet a cheetah and its canine pal along with getting to see them interact and have fun with each other.
15 Puma tracking in Chile
Chile is a beautiful place worth visiting on its own for the fun things to do there. However, there is one specific appeal for those looking for a unique animal experience. The months of May to September feature the pumas in the area making their presence known when interacting at bodies of water.
Quasar Expeditions offers a safari experience allowing you to observe the pumas from a safe distance. The Andean Puma is the rarest one to find, but it is typically visible here in Chile. Other animals like foxes and armadillos are spotted on the tour as well. Pumas are however the main appeal due to the rare option of seeing them in their natural habitat.
14 Waddle with penguins at Detroit Zoo
Penguins are fascinating animals with a lot of interesting facts about them. The Detroit Zoo decided to use this for a special experience that allows people to interact and learn about the penguins.
Its program is called Mingle with the Macaronis as you meet macaronis and other types of penguins at the zoo.
Anyone taking part in this program gets to learn about the penguins while feeding, petting and watching them play. Penguins are typically quite active which gives you a fun experience most of the time. There’s even a trip to the incubation and nursery area to make it a memorable penguin experience.
13 Northern Tanzania and Zanzibar Safari
The Northern Tanzania and Zanzibar Safari is one of the most breathtaking safari trips one can take in their lifetime. Various beautiful animals can be spotted on this luxury safari experience in Northern Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Zebras, lions, rhinos and other beautiful creatures will be spotted on the safari with a chance for some great photographs. The overall trip itself is relaxing with time spent at a spa and beach club area when not on the safari. For those looking to spend a little more money, this is a dream vacation of relaxation in between getting close to some of the most stunning animals in their habitat.
12 Guided tour at Moose Alley
Maine may be the ideal place in the United States for anyone wanting to observe moose in their natural environment. There are over 70,000 moose located in Maine as the second most populated state in the country just behind Alaska. Maine happens to be an easier place to visit than Alaska adding to the appeal for moose enthusiasts.
Maine Moose Watching Tours offer the best option at getting a chance to observe the moose. Springtime is the best time of the year to visit and get a glimpse of the moose licking salt from the roads. If visiting Maine, this is an ideal way to spend time if you love wildlife.
11 Bobcat safari in California
Northern California is the home of the beautiful Point Reyes Safari location. This specific animal experience will get you closer to observing bobcats. Most guests visit this safari in the hopes of getting a great picture of the elusive bobcat in its natural habitat.
While the bobcats are the draw of the safari, quite a few other fascinating creatures are found here. Animals like coyotes, badgers, seals and owls are spotted during the tour. The location itself is a beautiful place to spend time already, but the bobcats and other animals make it a unique attraction worth checking out.
10 Svalbard Photography Polar Safari
The Svalbard Photography Polar Safari is one safari trip not located in a warm climate. Polar bears are among the most beautiful creatures around, and folks are willing to pay big bucks for a trip here between Norway and the North Pole.
It is one of the more expensive options on the list, but those who can afford it have glowing reviews of the experience. Natural World Safaris offers this safari package and allows you to track the polar bears. Other animals like whales and walruses are often discovered on the safari, but the appeal is getting to observe polar bears up close and personal.
9 Giraffe feedings in Kenya
Kenya is home to many of the most awe-inspiring animal experiences in Africa. Giraffes are one of the more beloved creatures out there. It’s hard to resist the urge of wanting to feed one of these gentle giants. While some zoos do offer this experience, the option of doing it in their natural habitat in Africa makes it more appealing.
Giraffe Manor is the name of the location where visitors get a very close experience meeting the giraffes. The boutique hotel offers the ability to feed the giraffes and go on guided tours to get the best view while learning fun facts. It is certainly among the best bucket list destinations for anyone that loves giraffes.
8 Feed rhinos at Lowry Park Zoo
Rhinos are one of the rarer animals to get a good look at when visiting a zoo. An animal that large requires its own space and is usually not the most visible animal when it comes to getting a close experience. The Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida however finds a way to provide a special experience.
Any rhinoceros enthusiasts should consider visiting the Lowry Park Zoo during weekends. There is an option to feed the rhinos a snack on Saturdays and Sundays when opting for the intimate experience.
This is one of the extremely rare zoos to offer anything like this when it comes to meeting rhinos.
7 Observe rare birds in Cuba
Earthwatch Institute offers a rare chance to see some of the rarest birds in the world in Cuba. The forests of Lomas de Banao Ecological Reserve and the wetlands of Tunas de Zaza Wildlife Refuge are home to these birds that can only be found in certain parts of the Caribbean, like Cuba.
The Cuban Amazon parrot and the Cuban parakeet are two of the rare birds one can find on this tour. Volunteers here work with the scientists to try to document the birds as well as the trees and flowers in the area. This is a more special form of birdwatching with birds you can’t find elsewhere.
6 Grand Teton National Park Safari in Wyoming
Wyoming is home to one of the best safaris in the world. Travelers can visit the Grand Teton National Park Safari for great views and photos of some of the beautiful creatures on the planet. Most people take this trip for the opportunity to get the pictures, but quite a few will just go to enjoy seeing animals that closely.
Elk, sheep, wolves and brown bears are some of the animals you get a great look at. The education offered on the guided tour will teach the average person a lot about the animals as well as the plants and terrain spotted there.
5 Hang out with dolphins at Indianapolis Zoo
Dolphins are a rare beautiful animal that many people would love to have a close encounter with. The nature of spotting dolphins being a difficult task makes it even more special that the Indianapolis Zoo offers a great opportunity.
This experience entails getting about half an hour to swim with the dolphins while feeding them and practicing their signs.
Dolphins are considered very friendly making it a fun experience for travelers of all ages. The Indianapolis Zoo is among the rare ones to offer such an intimate experience with the dolphins. They even throw in a souvenir towel to make sure you don’t forget the already memorable encounter.
4 Enjoy jungle adventure in Costa Rica
The jungle experience here in Costa Rica is considered a bucket list trip for anyone that has a passion for wildlife. Manuel Antonio National Park is home to some of the most breathtaking visuals you’ll find. Aside from the beautiful surroundings, there is no shortage of creatures to spot.
The list ranges from exotic birds like colorful toucans to larger marine mammals like whales and dolphins. It will be difficult to find a more visually appealing experience of such beautiful wildlife in their natural habitat. This pricy experience was made to deliver a lifelong memory one will never forget about.
3 Feed lions and tigers at Adelaide Zoo in Australia
The Adelaide Zoo in Australia is considered one of the top zoos in the world. Not only do they have a variety of beautiful animals to observe, but there are quite a few unique experiences to meet a few of them. Tigers and lions are the animals most people rave about meeting after visiting the Adelaide Zoo.
The Big Cat Interactive Tour allows you to get close to the lions and tigers. Anyone paying for this experience gets the chance to feed both intimidating big cats from a safe space.
It is worth it if you have a love for lions and tigers and want the rare chance to get that close.
2 Big 5 Volunteer Wildlife Conservation Tour in South Africa
The combination of research and adventure makes the Big 5 Volunteer Wildlife Conservation among the more interesting experiences available. Paying volunteers must help contribute to a project dedicated to animal preservation and conservation.
The trip in South Africa features the tracking of stunning animals like elephants, rhinos, lions and leopards. Anyone on this trip gets a close look to take images and help the research team. It is a combination of both fun animal experiences and a way to help them in the process. The asking price of a little over $2000 for a two-week trip is a decent value with the volunteer work being the main reason why.
1 Snorkel with sharks at Adventure Aquarium
The most fascinating animal experience offered at an aquarium features the chance to get close to sharks. Quite a few people have a fear of sharks, but others would love to get as close as possible to one without the element of danger.
The Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey offers an experience where you can swim and snorkel with the sharks. Following training, you get to swim in a submerged channel at the top of the exhibit. You can even touch stingrays. For under $200, you get the opportunity to get as close to a shark as possible without the danger. It is a true experience for shark enthusiasts.