Pack Your Trunks: Here Are 20 Perfect Trips For People Who Love Animals

05/06/2014 07:00 am ET | Updated May 06, 2014

You're probably a lot like us: dreaming of that perfect getaway where you can cuddle with pandas, kiss cows and sleep with sloths. Let's add in some swimming with pigs and paragliding alongside endangered Nepalese birds of prey, as a way of helping their survival -- seriously, it's good for them -- while we're at it.

Pack your trunks and prepare to get wild, like-minded friends, because here are 20 of the best ways to combine our two favorite things: animals and traveling.

  • 1 Polar Bear Party In Manitoba
    David E. Myers via Getty Images
  • The world's biggest congregation of polar bears occurs each fall in the Canadian province of Manitoba. A large tourism industry has built up around this annual migration, which means there are lots of ways to see these great white animals. We're partial to the Tundra Lodge, a rolling hotel that is positioned (and repositioned) to offer guests the best in luxury polar bear viewing options.
  • 2 Ride Horses Through Iceland
    Flickr/Jonathan
  • Stunning, sure-footed horses. Gob-smackingly spectacular scenery. Yes yes yes. Or, as they say in Icelandic, ja ja ja. Flickr photo by Jonathan.
  • 3 Magical Manatees!
    Patrick M. Rose, Save the Manatee Club
  • Florida's endangered manatees are magnificent creatures. The Save The Manatee Club has a list of places where you can see them. Kayaking on Crystal River is a great -- and environmentally sound -- way to get a little closer.
  • 4 Kiss Cows In California
    The Gentle Barn via Facebook
  • And not just cows, but also pigs, dogs, ducks, turkeys, chickens, goats, horses and hundreds of other animals who have found their ways to The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita, California. The Gentle Barn is one of a handful of animal sanctuaries around the country that take in severely abused and neglected farm (and other) animals. Stop by to support their efforts and snuggle the animals, who well deserve all the love they can get.
  • 5 Check Up On Cheetahs
  • Help with cheetah conservation -- by hanging around with animal ambassadors at the Cheetah Outreach sanctuary in South Africa. Visitors can meet cubs, take cheetahs for walks, even book a private meeting with one of these glorious cats. The center also raises dogs, which are given to rural farmers. The dogs help keep predators -- like these great cats -- away from livestock, so that farmers won't kill them.
  • 6 Borrow A Dog In Hawaii
    Kauai Humane Society via Facebook
  • The Kauai Humane Society has an awesome program for dog-loving tourists. Visitors can borrow a shelter dog for day trips in paradise. The rescue group provides dog borrowers with a bag of supplies: an "adopt me" vest, water, towels and treats. Who doesn't fall in love in Hawaii? KHS can also help you bring your furry buddy back to the mainland if you want to make things permanent.
  • 7 Parahawking In Nepal
    Scott Mason
  • "Parahawking" involves paragliding alongside trained, endangered birds of prey in the Himalayas. It's part extreme adventure sport, part conservation effort -- parahawking inventor Scott Mason says that the sport helps raise awareness about the plight of Asia's vultures; Mason also donates money from every parahawking flight to environmental groups.
  • 8 Swim With The Pigs
    WikiMedia:
  • There's a place in the Bahamas where you can swim with adorable feral pigs. See you there for a mid-day dip, friends.
  • 9 Safari In The Serengeti
    Getty Images
  • A couple million animals migrate through the Serengeti in Tanzania every year in what is believed to be the largest animal migration on earth (South Sudan's massive animal migration is also spectacular, but war dampens tourism there). Giraffes, lions, zebras, leopards, cheetahs, wildebeests, elephants, hippos, hyenas, and so, so many more are living in this extraordinary place.
  • 10 Go Deep In Micronesia
    Shawn Heinrichs for The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Micronesia is that island-dotted swath of fish-filled ocean north of Australia, south of Japan, east of the Philippines and west of Hawaii. The giant manta rays of Yap will blow your mind. Island hop over to Palau for the corals, the big fishes, the turtles, the astonishingly clear, warm water (and the opportunity to snorkel with stingless jellyfish). Then catch a flight to the Marshall Islands, which you may know as a nuclear testing site, but has more recently become the world's largest shark sanctuary.
  • 11 Long Live The Lemurs
    WikiMedia:
  • Madascar's 101 lemur species are in trouble. Experts say you can help by engaging in responsible eco-tourism on that spectacular island off Africa's southeastern coast. Who are you to say no?
  • 12 Pal Around With Pandas
    AP
  • 13 The Original Cat Cafes
  • 14 Tarsier Time In The Philippines
  • This Gremlin-looking creature is one of the smallest primates in the world. Like so many primates, tarsiers are having a rough time of things, due largely -- you won't be surprised -- to habitat loss. Do your part by visiting these tiny things, whose eyes are bigger than their brains, at the the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • 15 Touch Bugs At The Insect Zoo
    Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Zoo, via Facebook
  • The O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian, in D.C., has species from all over the world, and daily interactive exhibits. (That's right: you can hold and touch bugs there.) The butterfly pavilion, full of those live, colorful creatures, will appeal even to those who are otherwise squeamish. And for those who like their bugs with a side of irony: the insect zoo is named for the founder of a major extermination company.
  • 16 Do Right By The Dogs And Cats At Best Friends Animal Society
  • Dogs and cats and hundreds of other companion animals will live our their lives in the beautiful mountains of southern Utah, at Best Friends Animal Society. The country's largest no-kill sanctuary--motto: "Save Them All"--offers tours, volunteer opportunities, summer camps for kids and all sorts of other ways to be a good pal.
  • 17 Hop Over To Australia
    Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
  • Australia has so many amazing, unique animals, guys: penguins, koalas, the cassowary (a humongous bird that is both endangered and feared). Go see them all. Also don't miss a sunset tour of the 90-acre Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs. The founder, who goes by the name Kangaroo Dundee, is now an Australian TV star as well.
  • 18 Go Go Galapagos
    Getty Images
  • Ecotourism is part of what's helping preserve the incredible diversity of animals in the Galapagos, says the World Wildlife Fund. Do you need another reason to see the islands that inspired Darwin's theory of evolution?
  • 19 Howl With The Wolves
  • Ely, Minnesota is home to the International Wolf Center. You may not be surprised to learn, then, that this massive expanse of wilderness is also home to lots and lots of wolves. The IWC and other operators offer all sorts of wolf-related activities, including overnight "wolf howling" trips that sound screamingly awesome. Bears, moose and eagles also make this area their home. And in the winter you can try out dogsledding.
  • 20 Sleep With The Sloths
  • After all this, you're probably plum tired. Lucky you, the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica now has a B&B!

Know an amazing place animal lovers should be sure to visit? Want to share a story about animals? Get in touch at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com

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