13 Bucket List Animal Encounters - Family Traveller (USA)
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There’s no better way for kids to learn about the amazing creatures that share our planet than with an up-close-and personal animal experience. Kick your wanderlust into high gear with one of these unforgettable trips.

The Safari Collection

Eat Breakfast with Giraffes in Kenya

At Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, visitors will delight in interacting with their unique breakfast guests. Set on 12 acres of private land within 140 acres of indigenous forest, the resident Rothschild giraffes freely roam the grounds and often wander up to the iconic rooms, sticking their long necks through the windows in hopes of a treat.

Explore more adventures you can find with a Family Vacation to Kenya.

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Kayak with Beluga Whales in Canada

Adventurous travelers can head to Northern Manitoba’s Hudson Bay coastline. Home to the world’s largest population of beluga whales, the playful and curious creatures often come shockingly close to kayakers gliding through the waters. Less bold visitors can also book a tour and spot the whales from a zodiac or larger passenger boats.

Check out more Family Vacations to Canada ideas.

 

Centre Bush Bus and the Kangaroo Sanctuary

Stroll at Sunset with Kangaroos in Australia

The Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs is home to baby and adult red kangaroos and aims to rehabilitate and release orphaned baby kangaroos, in addition to educating visitors. Due to the animals’ nocturnal habits, the sanctuary offers tours of the 188-acre wildlife reserve starting in the late afternoon as the sun begins to dip and their furry residents are waking up and becoming active.

Learn more about Family Vacations to Australia here.

 

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Snorkel with Whale Sharks in Mexico

Come face-to-face with the world’s largest fish with a swim off of Isla Holbox. The gentle giants frequent the warm waters northwest of Cancún during the summer months. Despite their enormous size (they grow up to 40 feet long!) the filter-feeders are docile and snorkelers and divers can easily get close enough to see their distinctive white spots.

For more fun, read Top 10 Exciting Experiences in Cancun.

 

Courtesy of San Ignacio Resort Hotel

Help Save Iguanas in Belize

Located onsite at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, the Green Iguana Conservation Project teaches kids about the animals in a highly interactive environment. Founded to conserve and look after the endangered species, kids can pick up and hold the friendly lizards while being educated on the incubation, hatching, rearing and releasing process.

 

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Monkey Around in Guatemala

Just minutes away from the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Uaxactun and Yaxha, and spread across 300+ acres in the Jungle of Petén, Guatemala, Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel blends hospitality with ecological reserve focusing on the conservation of the country’s native species. To really get up close and personal with nature’s beautiful wildlife creatures, Las Lagunas offers private boat tours to Monkey Island, where spider monkeys are being bred and taken care of. Here, guests will have the opportunity to meet-and-greet friendly monkeys, and even feed them fruits and vegetables for breakfast.

Courtesy of Resorts World Bimini Bahamas

Hangout with Hammerheads in The Bahamas

Known as the shark capital of the world, The Bahamas are home to an abundance of over 40 shark species swimming in its crystal clear waters. The ideal escape for Shark Week fanatics is the Bahamian Out Island of North Bimini, only 50 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, and just a 20 minute seaplane flight from Miami. At the brand new Hilton at Resorts World Bimini, shark lovers and thrill-seekers can get up-close-and-personal for their shark fix with a guided dive with hammerheads through on-site tour operator, Bimini Undersea. The island even offers an exhilarating cage dive with bull sharks — if you dare! To embrace your inner shark nerd, Resorts World Bimini offers an island excursion to South Bimini that includes a visit to the famous Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, aka the Sharklab, where you can hangout alongside expert shark scientists, and learn about their field work through interaction with juvenile sharks.

Learn more about Family Vacations in the Bahamas.

 

Courtesy of Curacao Ostrich Farm

Ride Ostriches in Curacao

Located near Groot St. Joris in Santa Catharina on the East Side of Curacao, The Ostrich Farm offers fun for the whole family allowing families to get personal with ostriches of all shapes and sizes. One of the largest breeding farms outside of Africa, a 45 minute tour will 
walk you through the life of an ostrich with opportunities to interact, feed and even ride them. After their wild safari ride, guests can grab a bite at Zambezi Restaurant where children can play at the playground, or visit the souvenir shop to purchase some goodies to take home with them. 

Explore the Caribbean's wide variety of islands and attractions in Family Vacations to the Caribbean.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Create Your Own Dolphin Tale in Clearwater Beach, Florida

The whole family will enjoy the pearlescent white sand beaches and the gorgeous Gulf Coast. Families will love the local wildlife right down the street at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where injured marine life are rescued and nursed back to health by aquarium staff and volunteers. The aquarium offers plenty of hands-on experiences to enhance your visit. Work behind the scenes assisting with the poolside feeding of resident dolphins, turtles, and even sharks. Hop aboard the Dolphin Adventure catamaran to learn about the local dolphin population. Little ones will love posing for a picture with the stars of Warner Bros. Pictures’ Dolphin Tale 1 & 2, Winter and Hope. If you want to keep the adventure going, The Wyndham Clearwater Beach Resort even offers Dolphin Tale-themed rooms.

Learn more about about Family Vacations in Clearwater.

Courtesy of South Dakota Tourism

Round Up Buffalo in South Dakota

At the end of September every year families can head to Custer State Park to witness a truly unique sight. Each fall cowboys and cowgirls saddle up to round up the 1,300 bison that call the 71,000-acre park home. Free and open to the public, kids will be wowed as the huge herd thunders by into the corrals. The animals are then vaccinated, given health check ups and more. Throughout the rest of the year jeep tours provide off-road adventures in the park with sightings of free roaming buffalo, burros, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs.

Discover 8 Great Things for Kids to See and Do in South Dakota for more vacation ideas.

 

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Witness the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti

A truly breathtaking scene, from July to October, families can witness the great migration of more than one million wildebeests as well as gazelles and zebras from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Massai Mara National Reserve in Kenya in the wild and open country. Truly the trip of a lifetime, many tour operators have packages and specials around the event.

Discover other activities to enjoy by taking a Family Vacation to Africa.

 

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Take Care of Sloths in Costa Rica

Luxury resort Nayara Springs just opened a Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano National Park. At Nayara Springs and its sister retreat, Nayara Resort, Spa & Garden, guest can see sloths on the area’s newly planted tropical trees. Since planting the trees on the resort's acres of gardens and rainforest, the resort’s sloth population has grown from just a pair to more than 15 sloths. For another unforgettable nature-filled vacation, families should head to Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, a tropical paradise spread across 900 acres of lush natural reserve in Costa Rica’s northern region. With more than 500 species of local plant and wildlife on property, families just might spot a coatimundis, toucans and howler monkeys. 

Visit Family Vacations in Costa Rica to learn more about what you can do in the Central American country.

 

Los Cabos Tourism Board

See Humpback Wales in Los Cabos

If you're looking for once-in-a-lifetime animal experiences, whale watching season shouldn't be missed. The stunning humpback whales migrate every year to the warmer waters of the Sea of Cortes. Tour operators such as Cabo Adventures' Whale Watching Photo Safari also help grow awareness and research into preserving the whales. Get daringly close to the majestic creatures while learning from the knowledgeable mammal behavior experts who lead the tours. Don't forget to pack your cameras and be ready to snap the ultimate photo of a whale breaching.

Learn more about Los Cabos in Family Vacations to Baja Peninsula.
By Hannah Freedman

Looking for more once-in-a-lifetime vacation ideas? Read our Ultimate Family Vacation Bucket List.