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10 Destinations Where You Can Get Up Close & Personal With Wildlife

Ever thought about feeding a cougar? Cuddling a koala? Taking a safari to see gazelles and rhinos? Staying with farm animals? Interacting with camels, wolves, lemurs, and monkeys? Kissing a giraffe? Visiting a tiger palace? Well, people have the chance to do all of that and more at the amazing destinations found on this list.

RELATED: USA Ranked Best In The World For Wildlife Tourism, With Canada At Number Ten

These sanctuaries, parks, zoos, preserves, and centers all work to protect animals while educating people on these creatures. While doing so, they open their doors to the public, allowing for tours, feedings, photo ops and other chances to get up close and personal with wildlife!

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10 Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida

Big Cat Rescue has over 80 big cats like cougars, lions, tigers, ocelots, jaguars, leopards and bobcats, which have been rescued after being hurt, abandoned, or forced to retire as a performer. BCR also works to educate the public through education and legislation on ways to end the private possession and trade of these creatures.

Launching in 1992, this place offers a variety of tours, where guests can see these felines up close. People can visit during the day, at night, with groups, alone, in order to help feed the animals or for events like weddings and field trips.

9 Palm Beach Zoo in Palm Beach, Florida

Palm Beach Zoo grew from a small red barn to a major attraction with over over 550 animals and 190 species. Here, guests can enjoy everything from bears, capuchin monkeys, coatis and Komodo dragons to llamas, ocelots, otters, peacocks, and toucans.

There are also special experiences with koalas, tortoises, sloths, flamingos, capybaras, and anteaters; allowing people to get even closer to these creatures. Furthermore, the Palm Beach Zoo has a Conservation Society that helps with projects all over the world and offers educational programs to spread even more knowledge about wildlife and about their work.

8 Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center fights on the behalf of endangered animals, and this place utilizes research, training, management and education, all in order to protect indigenous and exotic endangered and threatened species.

People can stay on-site in a lodge or cabins, can attend camps or workshops, can check out the Children’s Animal Center, can go to events such as the Father’s Day Sunset Safari Dinner & Tour, can have their birthday parties or weddings here and can enjoy a variety of tours. Yes, there are many ways that guests can see animals like gazelle, tortoise, bison, jackrabbit, wolf, goat, rhinoceros or tortoise!

7 Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, New York

Woodstock Farm Sanctuary rescues farm animals and is all about animal rights for creatures such as chickens, cows, ducks, pigs, rabbits, sheep and turkeys. This sanctuary offers memberships, volunteer spots, corporate sponsorships, jobs, internships, and tours.

For tours, people get to enter into pastures and yards; while everyone is surrounded by the animals, the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary team tells the creatures’ stories of where they came and how they ended up where they are now. Oh, and guests can stay on-site at The Gray Barn, a brand-new place with overnight accommodations that comes with a private tour and a vegan breakfast!

6 The Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma

The “animal warriors” at The Greater Wynnewood Animal Park have saved all sorts of animals, including 42 tigers at once, which was one of the largest tiger rescues ever in the country. Some exciting options here include the Exotic Animal Tour’s two hours of interaction with and information on creatures such as camels, wolves, lemurs, monkeys, and reptiles.

There is a V.I.P. Behind-the-Scenes Tour that shows what it is like to work with these animals and includes interactions with big cats, otters, and many more. This place can also bring the animals to parties and events, with their small animal zoo.

5 B Bryan Preserve in Point Arena, California

B Bryan Preserve exists to breed and conserve African Hoof Stock, such as antelopes, zebras, and giraffes. This preserve was started by wildlife enthusiasts, and the entire team works to grow an overall interest in conservation and to build awareness around current problems regarding wildlife.

Guests can take a tour or stay here for an entire weekend, in order to get up-close and personal with these animals and in order to learn about conservation efforts. Tours are taken in a vintage open-air land rover that stops frequently for photo ops and for a chance to feed or even kiss giraffe!

4 North Georgia Zoo & Farm in Cleveland, Georgia

The North Georgia Zoo & Farm, which is home of Wildlife Wonders and Paradise Valley, teaches people about and connects people to animals. There are so many here: insects, birds, small exotics (like hedgehogs and chinchillas), large exotics (like yak), deer, kangaroos, canines, cat, primates, reptiles & amphibians, native mammals (like flying squirrels and woodchucks) and farm & petting zoo animals (like miniature horses, llamas, fainting goats and teacup pigs)!

These can be seen through choices like an Animal Experience (a long time with a more exotic animal), an Animal Encounter (better for kids) and/or The Ultimate Experience Encounter (with 2 to 3 animals).

3 The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary in Orr, Minnesota

Due to Vince Shute’s peaceful approach towards black bears, The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary exists out in the woods of Minnesota. His final wish was that we live in peace with these creatures and The American Bear Association helps keep this sanctuary running. When visited, people learn about and get a chance to see these bears.

These animals roam free in an area mainly consisting of meadow and surrounding woods, and people can observe them from a viewing deck, which allows for some amazing sights and some even cooler photo ops!

2 The Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri

The Endangered Wolf Center helps keep wolves around and put them back into the wild, and this center has endangered species like red wolves and fennec foxes, as well as adoptable wolves (a symbolic adoption, of course, which assists in this cause of helping these species to survive).

People can interact with these animals through parties, camps, field trips, campouts, and tours. Some examples being PredaTours (an educational session and 45 minutes in the animal habitats), the Endangered Species Photography Tour (to get some great pictures), or the Animal Trainer Experience (to learn how the wolves are trained).

1 The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) is a world-renowned wildlife preserve that has some really neat options. With the Wild Encounters Tour, guests have three hours to meet Hercules the Tiger, Bubbles the African elephant, and Ramses the cheetah.

There is also a Night Safari Tour through a tropical garden and a tiger palace full of amazing creatures. At the Preservation Station Overview, visitors can view tigers and baby gibbons for free. People can even travel to Africa with this team to see more wildlife!

NEXT: 20 Best Wildlife Sanctuaries That Fight To Keep Poachers Out

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