Calling all animal-lovers! Is getting up close and personal with majestic creatures one of the “most dos” on your bucket list? It’s a natural first step to make a beeline and research the best safaris in Africa for that travel-plus-animal experience. But for those that seek something that has a bit more to offer outside of jeep-based animal watching, there are a number of other options out there – from the interactive to the amusing – all within a slightly more sane budget.
Here are our top five picks worth visiting where animals roam free.
Elephant Safari Park & Lodge, Bali
If you have a soft spot for elephants, then the Elephant Safari Park & Lodge in Bali, Indonesia is for you. Overlooking 3.5 hectares of pristine parklands and national forest, this animal haven lets guests get up close and personal with some of nature’s most majestic heavyweights. Asiatic elephants can reach up to 5.4 tons and a height of 3.2m!
(Credit: Elephant Safari Park & Lodge)
Set in the serene Balinese jungle, you not only get to wake up amidst lush greenery, but also a surrounding herd of elephants that roam the grounds freely. Want an even more memorable experience? Take a peaceful elephant safari ride through the jungle where you’ll also get the chance to feed, touch and bathe the incredible creatures.
Margaret River, Western Australia
For those keen for a relaxing and indulgent respite amidst wildlife watching, Loaring Place Bed & Breakfast, nestled within Margaret River’s bush, is the ideal escape – particularly for couples after some nature-infused R&R.
(Credit: Loaring Place Bed & Breakfast)
Wild flowers, kangaroos and native birds roam freely around the luxurious and contemporary property which is also eco-friendly. Go for a walk around the grounds to soak up the crisp air and unique Australian bush sounds and sights. Already snapped a memory card full of kangas and their joeys? The central town, pristine beaches, unique caves and the wine region’s nearby vineyards are just a five-minute drive away.
The Atlantis, Dubai
For the water-lovers and animal-loving families out there, you really can’t beat the Atlantic hotel at the world-renowned Palm Island in Dubai. The five-star luxury, coupled with its sprawling marine and waterpark, makes for an unforgettable and pampering trip abroad.
Want to live your ‘Flipper’ dreams? Head to Dolphin Bay where hotel guests can swim or scuba dive alongside these charismatic and intelligent mammals. Cuddling and kissing are pretty much routine affairs for the lovable sea lions at the Sea Lion Point too. Still want more? Step into the shallow waters of the Aquaventure Waterpark’s Shark Lagoon to hand feed Cownose Rays.
Fota Wildlife Park, Ireland
Cork in Ireland may come across as an unlikely animal-infused holiday destination, but the Fota Wildlife Park changes all assumptions thanks to their up close and personal experience. As you wander around the grounds, don’t be surprised if you bump into the lemurs, peacocks and llamas, which roam free. The park’s cheetahs are one of the few animals who are thankfully (breathe a sigh of relief) behind a fence, however managers ensure they are given a close-to-natural-habitat experience by feeding them in the ‘Cheetah run’ – a way of feeding which encourages the cats to chase their food, just like they would in the wild.
(Credit: Eddie Dawson)
It’s easy to spend a full day at the park, but when you’re ready to hang up your animal-loving boots, clock into the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa for an Irish stout and comfortable bed. If you haven’t had enough exploring, take a stroll around the property’s nine acres of gardens.
Jigokudani Onsen Korakukan, Japan
A completely unique, up-close-and-personal animal travel experience can be found on the fringe of Japan's Nagano Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. A 150-year old rustic lodge known as the Jigokudani Onsen Korakukan is possibly the only place in the world where you can enjoy an onsen (Japanese hot spring bath) with Macaques monkeys. These unlikely visitors flock from the neighbouring snow Monkey Park to escape the cold, in the warm, thermal water.
Looking to stay in this neck of the woods? The Aburaya Tosen is four-star, ryokan-style luxury that boasts traditional Japanese décor and just a stone’s throw away from the Jigokudani Monkey Park.