Add These Animal Conservation Experiences To Your Bucketlist

It’s not just how close you get. Or how real it feels. It’s the legacy you create. The support you give helps these species to survive and thrive, reversing some of the devastating impacts of climate change and poaching.

These animal conservation experiences are your chance to understand animal conservation from the inside. Your physical and financial support actively maintains these programs, helping these rare animals continue to live in the wild.

If you like any of these travel ideas how about adding them to your bucketlist? Just tap the heart to save and keep track of your favourites.

Akagera National Park Big-Game Safari


Big game has returned to Rwanda. Elephants roam, lions roar, and black rhinos have a haven away from poachers. Zebra and antelope move in joyous troops, until nightfall, when tense scenes unfold around waterholes. Akagera was decimated during the Rwandan genocide, as parts of this national park became refugee camps. But one of Africa’s great conservation successes has taken place here. Wild animals have been relocated, helping to return Akagera to its former glory. You will go on a full-day big-game safari, tracking Africa’s four-legged giants on game drives with local conservationists. You will get close, follow the conservation story, and feel at home on the wild Rwandan savannah.

Bear Spotting at Sun Bear Conservation Centre


A date with the world’s smallest bear waits for you at BSBCC, a conservation centre offering sanctuary and care to the great Malayan sun bear.Make the most of the centre’s many observation spots, and spend your afternoon getting to know this modest creature, symbolic of the rising sun itself.Take a tour of the facility, as your bear keeper guide explains the intricate inner workings of animal welfare. If wildlife rehabilitation is a big interest of yours, you can even have the chance for an exclusive chat with a research worker on site.

Build & Name Your Very Own Coral Frame


If you believe vacations are also about learning and giving, this is the experience for you. You will join a team of marine biologists and photographers in a visit to the coral reefs they tend to. Witness the growth of corals, the pioneering techniques used to restore deserted sandy seabeds and ask all questions you have about coral reefs. If you like, you can also join a reef-building session, and become the sponsor of a coral frame — it’s the perfect way of giving back to this ecosystem you love.

Cockscomb Refuge Wildlife Tour in Dangriga


Have a chance to see jaguars, puma, ocelot, peccary, brocket deer, tayra, coatimundi, and more exotic animals in this world-famous refuge. Wildlife flourishes here more than anywhere else in the country.Spanning 150 square miles of tropical forest, Cockscomb Refuge is a protected area focused on the preservation of jaguars—indeed, it is the only jaguar preserve on earth. Explore the park and learn of its inhabitants with your private guide. And hopefully get a glimpse of the jaguar.

Elephants and Bees Conservation Experience


Communities and animals live in harmony around Queen Elizabeth National Park. And that’s a difficult feat to achieve, especially when elephants are fond of farmers’ crops.Human-wildlife conflicts require innovative solutions and you will experience a remarkable bee hive program in rural Uganda.After a game drive and boat safari you will meet local beekeepers. They create beehive fences, separating man and nature with another form of nature. Then by harvesting honey they generate funds to make the project sustainable.

Ethical Orangutan Feeding at Semenggoh


In Malay, they call them “forest man”, and once you meet them you’ll soon see why. Argued to be our closest living relatives, the orangutans can be revered for both beauty and brain.Native to the countries of Borneo, come face to face with these mysterious mammals with a visit to Semenggoh Nature Reserve. Witness their wisdom firsthand, as you learn more about them from your naturalist guide.Baby orangutans live in their mother’s nest for up to eight years. If you’re lucky, you could even catch a glimpse of an infant up close.

Gorilla Habituation Experience, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest


Hide in the trees and watch. Admire the gorillas and how they behave, the interactions and subtleties that make a gorilla troop seem so much like a human family. Keep watching. For four hours you are in the presence of the gorillas, on this exclusive activity led by gorilla conservationists. It takes four or five years to habituate a mountain gorilla troop to human presence. You will be part of this process. The group size is just four and the activity must be booked at least six months in advance. With gorilla trekking you spend an hour practically surrounded by a troop. With this gorilla habituation experience you will spend four hours with a troop. You won’t be able to get as close, as the gorillas are not fully accustomed to human presence. But with four hours you can discover more behaviours and emotions. Consider combining the two activities for the complete gorilla experience.

Humboldt Penguin Reserve & Damas Island Boat Tour


Humboldt Penguin Reserve is a sprawling 859-hectare wildlife reserve off the coast of Chile. Though conservation efforts target the eponymous penguin, the reserve is also a haven for sea turtles, dolphins, whales, sea birds, and more marine species. Appreciate the reserve’s three islands from the comfort of your private boat. Feel the hot sun dry ocean spray on your skin. Watch the penguins with their distinctive black and white coloring as they maneuver along the rocky coastline to socialize and fish. Keep your eyes out for humpback and sperm whales as you come around a bend and are greeted by one of Damas Island’s luxurious white sand beaches.

Kwandwe Rhino Conservation Safari

South Africa

Hover over Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in a helicopter. Keep your eyes peeled for your quarry – endangered black and white rhinos.This rhino conservation safari will see you working beside specially-trained rangers. You’ll track and dart rhino. You’ll have the chance to get close enough to touch these magnificent wild creatures, as scientists work to microchip and medically check individuals. And in doing so you’ll make a real difference to the survival of the species.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Trip from San Jose

Costa Rica

Close your eyes and imagine Costa Rican wildlife . . . Everything you just pictured can be found at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.Located near San Jose, this charming nature park and animal sanctuary has it all: dozens of bird species, monkeys, butterfly gardens, sloths, capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, snakes, jaguar, tropical frogs, ocelots, and more exotic creatures.Hand-feed a hummingbird. Pet a snake. This is nature up-close and personal. The park encompasses both rainforest and cloud forest, as well as five beautiful waterfalls.

Leopard & Cheetah Conservation in Okonjima


A cheetah purrs. You can feel it move. Inhale, exhale. Now that purr once more. Here you are, crouched besides a cheetah, in the African bush. Cheetahs are not massively dangerous. They’ll break your leg, do severe damage to your face. But they won’t kill you, certainly not when experienced conservationist guides lead your experience. At Okonjima you really can be close enough to touch, as you support a conservation program and learn all about wild cheetahs.A leopard will kill you in an instant. One bite to the neck and you’re gone. And leopards can’t be trusted. So you won’t get as close to leopards. But with great guides you will be close enough to gain a very unique perspective on one of Africa’s most elusive animals.

Lewa Conservancy Elephant Conservation Experience


See exactly how your money is used to support wildlife populations, and lift the lid on the conservation work that goes on at Lewa.Head behind the scenes to the radio room to learn about complex systems used to monitor the conservancy’s wildlife, such as the use of elephant radio collars. Observe a dog tracking demonstration to see how the team deter poachers.Learn about projects designed to permit animals and humans to successfully coexist. These include the Elephant Underpass, built so these animals can continue their ancient migration routes undisturbed by a major highway.

Lewa Rhino Safari


A backdrop of Mount Kenya. The rarest of the big five. One of only a handful of reserves where sightings of both svelte black rhino and bulkier whites are almost guaranteed - rhino numbers equal 14% of Kenya’s entire population hereAnimals don’t get much rarer than black and white rhino. Hunted near to extinction first for sport and then for their horns, Lewa is helping these majestic beasts back from the brink.

Living With an Elephant for a Day in Jaipur


Spend a day with the gentle giants of Jaipur and learn how they have been cared for by generations of local families. You can spend your time bathing an elephant, painting them in traditional Rajasthani decoration and feeding them. Wander with them as they sway from side to side and appreciate what an incredibly strong and majestic mammal they are. None of the elephants will wear saddles, as the tourist trend of riding them is not an ethical practice to support.

Loisaba Anti-Poaching Sniffer Dogs Tracking Demonstration


Join Loisaba’s dedicated anti-poaching unit for the day. Comprising bloodhounds and their human handlers, the team make daily recess of the conservancy’s 57,000 acres to help protect its precious wildlife.The demonstration will detail how the animals are able to track poachers, alongside the training and activities they undergo to ensure the continued security of the conservancy and its surrounding communities.

Meet Chimpanzees at Sweetwaters Sanctuary


Step onto the small Ol Pejeta island that’s home to 40 orphaned and rescued chimpanzees. Hear their chatter and watch their play at close quarters.Our ancestral cousins are not native to Kenya. It makes Sweetwaters Sanctuary a unique opportunity to encounter these apes at a site aiming to replicate their natural homes.

Meru Rhino Sanctuary Visit Guided by Rhino Conservationist


Lush vegetation riddled with swampy pools and gently meandering rivers. The long shapely horns of a black rhino. The magnificent bulk of its white cousins. The expertise of a conservationist working hard to secure a future for these icons of Africa.Meru Rhino Sanctuary is a stronghold for Kenya’s rhino population. It’s a sanctuary within a sanctuary. Home to 60-plus individuals, it offers great opportunities to witness the last of their kind in their native environment, while learning more about them from the experts.

Mountain Gorilla Conservation Tour


1000 doesn’t sound like many but the mountain gorilla population is on the rise. Back in the 1970s the world’s largest primate was almost lost from the world. Dian Fossey helped to pioneer modern gorilla conservation in Rwanda, in the face of European zoos poaching and killing these precious animals. Visiting the Dian Fossey Centre you will learn about her work, before heading out into the community to see gorilla conservation in action. You’ll meet poachers turned trackers to hear their story, to see how villagers coexist with gorillas, and explore the new methods being used to preserve gorillas. This is not an experience with a gorilla troop, for that you must do gorilla trekking. But this experience will help to complete your understanding of the gorillas and wildlife conservation.

Napo Wildlife Centre, Yasuni National Park


Reaching Napo Wildlife Centre is a thrilling experience. From Coca you travel for two hours by motorboat down the Napo River. Then it’s another two hours on a dugout canoe to an ecolodge that’s far from the everyday. Constructed and partially owned by the Anangu Quichua community, Napo Wildlife Centre blends into its surroundings. It’s one of South America’s best eco lodges. 11 different monkeys patrol the surroundings, caimans can be seen on nocturnal canoe rides, while jaguar encounters are not too rare. Wander a canopy, canoe the creeks, and discover the Amazon, then listen to the monkeys call all night.

Okonjima Wild Cat Safari


Cheetahs have lost 91% of their historic range over the last 60 years. Only around 7000 cheetahs are left in the wild. Leopards are also disappearing at a frightening rate. Namibia is one of their remaining havens. Both these spotted cats are supported at the excellent Okonjima Africat rehabilitation centre. On this nature reserve you can track big cats with radio collars, making it easy to experience different big cats in a single afternoon or morning game drive.Not just leopards and cheetahs, but also African wild cats, servals, bat-eared foxes, aardwolves, honey badgers, jackals, brown and spotted hyenas.This is a stunning stop on the route between Windhoek and Etosha, or a possible day trip from Windhoek.

Ol Pejeta Black Rhino Safari


Get up close with some of the rarest animals on the planet and witness black rhinos in their native habitat. Discover what makes these majestic animals special and why we need to protect them for future generations.Ol Pejeta is the largest rhino sanctuary in East Africa. It is home to more than 100 critically-endangered black rhino. They are protected 24 hours a day by specially trained personnel against poachers looking to profit from horns worth $60,000.

Ol Pejeta Horseback Riding With Rhinos


Enter the 600-acre predator-free Endangered Species Boma. Come side by side the two remaining northern white rhino. Admire their southern rhino cousins.Ride through herds of highly-endangered Grevy’s zebra and Jackson’s hartebeest among several other species. Top it off by dismounting and enjoying tea and cake at Morani’s Restaurant.Safari on horseback is a completely different perspective and this is one of the best places in Africa to do it.

Ol Pejeta Junior Rangers Safari for Kids


Ensure your junior safari goers make the most of their time at Ol Pejeta by enrolling them as a Junior Ranger. They will complete a special conservancy program covering everything from wildlife tracking to wilderness survival. It’s all about the guiding. From building a fire to tracking elephants, the junior rangers safari will help your kids more involved with the African bush. Most of the activities take place during the day, while you are lounging around and resting.

Ol Pejeta Lion Tracking with Conservationists


Enjoy an early morning face to face with Ol Pejeta’s premier hunters. Think sunset facing the stretching form of a fully-grown male and a lasting scientific legacy.Join the Ol Pejeta team on a lion tracking mission and uncover some of the mystery of their lives, while supporting their continued conservation. This is your chance to do more than just take photos. It’s your chance to follow lions on their daily rounds.

Olduvai Gorge Private Anthropologist Tour


The secrets to human existence can be found beneath the ground on Tanzania’s plains. Fossils and skeletons provide a link to homo sapiens and prove that we all originate in Africa. You can feel the history here. Just to stand here and understand that this is where it all started, millions of years ago. An anthropologist will take you on a tour of the gorge, narrating its history and the discoveries. You will also explore the archaeological site, which is still being excavated after 50 years. And if you’ve seen this place before, note it’s also where Mufasa was trampled by wildebeest in The Lion King.

Perancak Temple & Turtle Tour


Journey to the quaint fishing village of Perancak, to discover a humble way of life that appreciates simple pleasures. As this laid back lifestyle draws you in, visit the Perancak Temple. Sat by the river’s edge, this sacred house is the perfect place to cleanse and replenish.Sling on a sarong and experience Balinese meditative practice in its most authentic form. This is a space of healing and discovery. Learn of the village’s past, as your local guide reveals the secrets behind the temple’s traditional design.Finally, acquaint with a turtle conservation expert, as he takes you on a private turtle-spotting tour. Learn about their habits and history, before gently releasing baby turtles back into the waters.

Phinda Pangolin Conservation Experience

South Africa

Odd to look at. Reclusive. Nocturnal. Highly-endangered. Just some of the words you could use to describe the pangolin.With their scaly plates used in the traditional medicines of southeast Asia, the pangolin has become the most poached and trafficked mammal on the planet.Join a steadfast team of conservationists working hard to re-establish a population of locally-extinct Temminck’s ground pangolin at Phinda Private Game Reserve.You’ll track tagged animals across the landscape using radio antennae. You’ll help input important data points. And you’ll get to see these bizarre but loveable animals up close.

Rhino Conservation Up Close in Kruger

South Africa

South Africa’s Kruger is on the frontline of rhino conservation. More than half the planet’s rhinos reside in South Africa and for all the great conservation successes, the country is still losing three a day to poachers.Spending a day with conservationists provides an incredible perspective on the situation on the ground, including many moments with white rhinos. From aerial reconnaissance to rhino tracking and tagging, you also venture to areas where few visitors ever venture.

Rhino Walking Safari in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park


White rhinos are enormous. And those horns! Don’t get too close to them on this walking safari!Staying downwind you will approach the white rhinos on foot. These are the only rhinos in Zambia and they have a 24-hour guard team. It’s the guards that will lead you to the rhinos. You can do this during the middle of the day, when the rhinos are resting. There are no fences but you won’t be tempted to get too close.Just to see such massive animals taking a midday nap is an exhilarating experience.

Sea Turtle Monitoring in Magdalena Bay


Participate in a renowned sea turtle conservation project that connects local communities with international scientific research.Get an early start and meet the team as the sunrise colors Magdalena Bay. Learn from local fishermen-conservationists about the aims and protocols of the program, as well as how they prepare their nets and how you can help with the day’s data collection. Then get in on the action.Travel with the monitoring team to check nets for sea turtles. When you find one, transport the turtle back to shore and help take measurements. See these fascinating creatures up-close, and be there when they are released once more into the wild.

See Kangaroos and Koalas in the Wild Near Melbourne


A kangaroo mob bounds across the open plains, barely 20 metres away. Koalas cling to their eucalyptus branches, sleepily open their eyes to your presence. Wander into the wilderness near Melbourne to enjoy the company of Australia’s wide array of creatures. The money you pay for the privilege is used to sustain and conserve wildlife. A brisk walk into the bush will bring you face to face with koalas and kangaroos, as well as a variety of other roaming residents, which may come closer to you and have a suspicious sniff. Conservation specialists will tell you all about these animals and help you get close enough to say hello. But there’s no touching. This is your moment with kangaroos in the wild.

See the Last Northern White Rhino in Ol Pejeta


From numbering thousands to just two individuals, the northern white rhino is now extinct. From a habitat spanning East and Central Africa to the 600-acre Endangered Species Boma at Ol Pejeta, the two remaining are both female, so there will be no more of this species. They enjoy protection around the clock by armed guards.Your chance to encounter Najin and her daughter Fatu. The last of their species – one that is already functionally extinct with no living males.

Stay at Wolf Lodge


Dig your fingers in the wolf’s thick fur. Look into those wistful eyes. Wolf Lodge provides exclusive accommodation inside an animal park. These animals are not able to live on their own in nature, so they are kept in vast enclosures and lovingly taken care of. You will have a wildlife expert with you and be able to enjoy a number of wildlife experiences during your stay. Wolves are usually shy, but at Wolf Lodge they are used to being close to humans. Live the thrill of meeting wild creatures that are friendly but free spirits. You don’t watch on from a distance but enjoy nature directly from your accommodation.

The Bat Jungle Tour in Monteverde

Costa Rica

The Bat Jungle is an educational attraction in Monteverde that encourages visitors to take a closer look at these misunderstood creatures of the night.Designed and operated by an acclaimed bat biologist, the Bat Jungle features nearly 100 live bats in an enclosure that simulates the region’s cloud forests. Listen to the feed from a special ultrasonic microphone and hear the sounds bats use to socialize and echolocate. Watch their every move and learn about their behavior. Afterward, walk away with a deeper understanding of bats and their ecological importance.

The Children's Eternal Rainforest Tour in Monteverde

Costa Rica

Venture into the largest private nature reserve in Costa Rica. The Children’s Eternal Rainforest covers an area of 22,500 hectares and represents the conservation efforts of children in more than 40 countries.Witness the biodiversity that has made Costa Rica a world-famous destination. See sloths effortlessly climbing trees, resplendent quetzals preening themselves high in the canopy, and scores of tree frogs and other amphibians. It’s no coincidence that so many actors have come together to protect this spectacular cloud forest. See for yourself what they value so dearly.

Turtle Nesting on Turtle Islands


A collection of islands, with a common goal. Turtle conservation, protection and more. Explore this safe haven for Philippines’s shy but intelligent underwater natives.Brush up on their history, their habits and their activity, with a private tour of Turtle Island Park. Once dusk hits, grab a seat and enjoy the view. The nesting ritual begins as the turtles dance their way ashore to bury their eggs.Some time later, the eggs begin to hatch. Born and ready, the baby turtles are released. Using the ocean’s shine as nature’s satnav, watch these enchanting infants find their way home.

Turtle Sanctuary & Glamping, Libaran Island


Jungle glamour and charming tents. A lavish camping experience on one of Borneo’s quieter islands. Enjoy a night away from the crowds, with a coastal retreat right by the sea. Expect beach breakfasts and starry nights.The pristine shores of this serene isle makes it an ideal spot for turtle landing. Spend your afternoon exploring the Libaran hatcheries. And once night falls, return to the sanctuary for the grand release.Witness the baby turtles returning home, as they paddle their way back to sea. An endearing display of innocence and serene end to the day.