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The Best Vacation Spots for Animal Lovers

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Maybe you are the sort of person who would rather be playing with your pet kitten or watching the latest YouTube video about baby sloths than scuba diving or hiking up a mountain. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on having a perfect holiday catered to your interests. Here are five travel destinations that will get you up close and personal with cuddly creatures quicker than you can say, “Aww, aren’t they adorable!”

Sloth B&B

Few can resist the deep brown eyes and the sweet smile of a slow-moving sloth. Content to spend an entire day sleeping while hanging from a single branch or chewing its way through a plateful of carrots and greens, the sloth’s dawdling daily routine is the opposite of ours — which might help explain why we are so fascinated with these ponderous creatures. Spend a lazy afternoon (or a week of lazy afternoons) following the flow of daily activity at the Sloth Sanctuary in sunny Costa Rica, while staying onsite at The Buttercup Inn (named after their first rescued sloth, Buttercup).

Bunny Island

A Japanese island with a rather tumultuous past has come into its own as a public park, hopping with about 700 adorable bunny rabbits. During the Second World War, Ōkunoshima — located in the Inland Sea — was home to a poisonous gas factory and a test site for chemical weapons. About 200 rabbits were used as test subjects back then, though it’s believed that the fuzzy furballs who populate the island today are not actually related. The island is currently equipped with a hotel, a campground, a golf course and a bunch of hiking trails, so there’s plenty to do after you’ve had your fill of feeding its floppy-eared inhabitants.

Cat Island

Continuing on the theme of animal-filled islands, Aoshima is yet another Japanese destination overrun with cute domesticated creatures. Originally brought to the island to help curtail a rodent problem on local fishing boats, cats now outnumber humans six to one (there are no numbers on the current mouse population). Tourism has now become a viable alternative to fishing, with a ferry bringing day-trippers from the mainland to come and witness the cacophony of cats. Remarkably, this isn’t the only place in Japan where these tiny, pawed predators rule; there are 10 other islands in the country with similar cat-to-human ratios.

Giraffe Manor

A luxury hotel dedicated to the preservation of these majestic creatures, Giraffe Manor is a 12-acre Nairobi estate surrounded by 140 acres of private forest where the giraffes are free to roam. While munching on your morning toast and jam, don’t be surprised when a long elegant neck pokes its way through the dining room window looking for its own breakfast…just remember to have a handful of feed on hand if you want to save your own snacks.

Pig Beach

This little piggy went to market and this little piggy stayed home…on its own exclusive palm-treed paradise. On the uninhabited (by people) island of Big Major Clay in Exuma, Bahamas, a plethora of feral pigs use the sandy white sand and warm turquoise water as their own personal playground. According to local rumours, sailors put the pigs there as a food source but then later abandoned them, leaving these pink-and-black-spotted piggies free to frolic (and multiply). Hire a boat to take you into the beach on Big Major, and then watch the polka-dot pigs take to the water and swim up to the vessel hoping for scraps and more playmates to join in the fun.

Emma Yardley is a freelance travel writer who splits her time between Toronto and Vancouver. Follow Emma Yardley at @emmajmyardley on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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