9 min read

Vacations Every Animal Lover Should Add To Their Bucket List

If you love animals, you probably want them to be a big part of your vacation.

Sometimes taking your dog to play frisbee on the beach is exactly the trip you want - but other times you might dream a little bigger.

Here, in no particular order (since we're basically dying to visit all of them equally), are our once-in-a-lifetime fantasy adventures that satisfy our longing to be close to animals - and that help animals, too.

Ol Pejeta and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in breathtaking Kenya

It's basically "The Lion King" in real life - and you can enter the adventure.

Ol Pejeta and Lewa, neighboring wildlife conservancies in Africa, are home to rhinos, zebras, giraffes, lions - you name it.

They offer horseback excursions to see the wild expanses and the wild animals who live there.

While you're there, pop by and see Sudan and his friends - the world's last northern white rhinos.

Plus, you know your money is going to a great organization for animals: Ol Pejeta was recently long-listed for the African Responsible Tourism awards.

So you can live the dream and help a good cause at the same time.

Don't have the means just yet to go so far as Kenya? Take an "armchair safari" and follow the conservancies on Instagram here and here.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in majestic Colorado

But you don't have to get a stamp in your passport to see exotic animals responsibly.

Colorado's Wild Animal Sanctuary is the world's largest carnivore sanctuary, home to over 400 rescued lions, tigers, bears and wolves who get to roam free on 720 acres of safe land.

Big Cat Rescue in sunny Florida

Just about 90 miles from SeaWorld Orlando, which you're probably avoiding like the plague, you can find an animal-friendly destination: Big Cat Rescue.

The 67-acre sanctuary is home to 100 exotic cats .

You can stay at a hotel along the Gulf of Mexico - after a long day of visiting the big rescued cats at the sanctuary, you can sit and watch the sunset over the water.

Click here to enter to win an animal lover's dream vacation, which includes a tour of Big Cat Rescue.

Too impatient to wait? Click here to see a live explore.org webcam of the big cats at the sanctuary.

Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York

If you love animals, you probably feel like a big beautiful cow is just as majestic as an exotic wild animal - and probably even more lovable, since you can get up close and personal.

At Farm Sanctuary in New York State, you can meet animals who are inspirational survivors of factory farms and agricultural industries - but they're treated so well you wouldn't even know it to look at them.

Situated in beautiful upstate New York, the sanctuary has little cabins you can rent, and feel what it's like to stay on the friendliest kind of farm.

Nearby, you can enjoy the Finger Lakes, stop by local wineries and visit the gorgeous Taughannock Falls.

Taughannock Falls in upstate New York.Shutterstock

Taughannock Falls in upstate New York. | Shutterstock

And Farm Sanctuary also has branches in California and a forthcoming location in New Jersey - and it isn't the only safe haven for rescued farm animals. Click here to find a sanctuary in your area.

Can't wait to get some Farm Sanctuary love in person? Check out its Tumblr.

Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary in beautiful Spain

Farm animal sanctuaries aren't just a U.S. phenomenon.

Galicia, in northwestern Spain, sits on a beautiful and rugged coastline that the Romans thought was the end of the known world.

The rock cathedrals on the coast of Galicia, Spain.Shutterstock

The rock cathedrals on the coast of Galicia, Spain. | Shutterstock

The region seems a place to visit in its own right - and luckily the adventuring animal lover won't be disappointed, since Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary is also in Galicia, and is home to some famously resilient farm animals, including Fernando the donkey and a herd of happy little rescued lambs.

Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary

Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary

The people - and animals - at the sanctuary are more than happy to welcome volunteers who are adventuring through Europe and want to meet animals and get their hands dirty.

Learn more about how you can meet the animals at Mino Valley here.

Elephant Nature Park in lush Thailand

If you ever happen to be trekking through Thailand, there's a very special place you'll have to go see: Elephant Nature Park.

All the elephants at Elephant Nature Park have been rescued from lives of deprivation and neglect. Many endured painful processes to make them tame enough for tourists to ride.

But at Elephant Nature Park, they are finally living the good life - and you can share their happiness.

Elephant Nature Park welcomes both visitors and adventurous volunteers to help care for the elephants.

"My wife and I truly had a once in a lifetime experience," one reviewer wrote on Facebook. "The park represents the best and worst of mankind. The cruelty of man and their terrible treatment of these wonderful, soulful animals is heart wrenching. At the same time, you will see how a few dedicated, generous, caring people can overcome man's flaws."

Being on vacation never felt so heartwarming. Click here to learn more.

Did we miss an animal-friendly fantasy trip? Let us know your ultimate bucket list animal adventure. Email sarahv@thedodo.com.