- 1 / 91. Have Breakfast with Endangered GiraffesGiraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
Imagine enjoying a quiet breakfast on vacation, when suddenly a gentle giant pokes his head through an open window to nibble off your plate. That’s more than a regular occurrence at Giraffe Manor, a stately boutique hotel on 12 acres of reserve in the Karen section of Nairobi. Guests often interact with the endangered Rothschild giraffes on the creatures' morning and evening treat-scavenging visits to the humans (the rest of the day is spent in their forest sanctuary).
The hotel also runs a breeding program in conjunction with the nearby Giraffe Center, which reintroduces the animals into the wild. Keep an eye out for Grace, named after Grace Kelly, one of the resort's favorite giraffes. In fact, many of the animals are named after individuals who have contributed to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife charity, so really, you never know who you might meet.Courtesy of Giraffe Manor
- 2 / 92. Feed Swimming Pigs with Fowl Cay ResortFowl Cay Resort, Exuma, Bahamas
Perhaps when you hear “private Caribbean resort,” you have visions of sipping cocktails on the beach with the ocean as your soundtrack. At Fowl Cay Resort, set on a 50-acre private island in the Bahamas, this you get all this, plus pigs. And sharks. And iguanas.
Located in the Exumas chain, which is known for exquisite fishing and diving, each of the six villas on the property comes with a personal motor boat for autonomous jetting from island to island. Pull right up to the famous swimming pigs of nearby Major Cay, the nurse sharks of Compass Cay, and the iguanas of the secluded Bitter Iguanas Cay, or go diving at Thunderball Grotto, where the James Bond film of the same name was filmed. When the day is done, motor on over to a rum punch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club which is famously known as one of Jimmy Buffet’s favorite Caribbean haunts.By Vanita Salisbury
- 3 / 93. Take a Walk With Polar BearsChurchill Wild, Churchill, Canada
Stroll along with polar bears in their natural habitat with Churchill Wild, a set of four family-owned and operated lodges. The three fly-in, remote properties on the Hudson Bay coast of Arctic Canada were the first to pioneer walking tours in polar bear country and each provide a unique experience:
1. Take a winter polar bear photo safari or see birds and bears and swim with belugas in the summer at Seal River Heritage Lodge.
2. See mothers and cubs in the fall at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge
3. Watch the bears congregate before their annual seal hunt at Dymond Lake Lodge, where you’ll also get spectacular views of the northern lights. It’s all an adventure, down to the food (we recommend the slow-roasted bbq caribou sandwich).By Jerry Grajewski
- 4 / 94. Spot Manatees From Your Back Dock.Hotel Zamora, St. Petersburg, Florida
On the back dock of Hotel Zamora is a sign that reads "Caution: Manatee Area." But for animal lovers it may as well say “Hang Out Here for Some Awesome Manatee-Spotting.”
Stay on the dock sipping a make-your-own Bloody Mary from their award-winning restaurant, Castile, or rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the waterways to get face-to-face with the lovable sea cows. While you’re out, you may also catch sight of some playful dolphins. If the latter is on your to-do list, the hotel also charters dolphin-watching tours.Courtesy of Hotel Zamora
- 5 / 95. Try Your Hand at Duck HerdingEllenborough Park, United Kingdom
While the 16th-century restored manor house at Ellenborough Park in the bucolic Cotswolds countryside is a haven for racing enthusiasts (partly because the manor is connected to the Cheltenham racecourse by a private road), it’s the wacky activities on the grounds that make for a unique experience. Specifically, duck herding.
Working in concert with a sheepdog you can test your skills with lively "runner ducks" which are particularly chosen for the sport because they are social, have boundless energy, and are easily trainable. However, whether or not they’ll actually listen is up to the ducks.Courtesy of Ellenborough Park
- 6 / 96. Take a Dip With Some Unexpected Friends.Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa
Sure, you'll see the "big five" (elephants, rhinos, buffalo, leopards, and lions) while out on safari game runs with Singita, but the experience becomes extraordinary when the animals visit you at home.
Singita’s South African property is set in the Sabi Sand Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, and is on a mission to preserve the wilderness for future generations. That means your lodge is low-impact and open to the wilderness. You might find yourself saying hello to a nyala while taking a dip in your personal outdoor plunge pool, have your breakfast stolen by mischievous monkeys (guard your pastries), or you might find paw prints on your deck from a curious excursion overnight. In the recently renovated Ebony lodge especially, with its tented camp and bush lodge style, you’ll have unobstructed views of the Sand River, where animals come to quench their thirst.By Vanita Salisbury
- 7 / 97. See The Spectacular Mating Rituals of Birds.Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
Wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows allow full immersion into Ecuador’s cloud forest at the eco-sustainable Mashpi Lodge in the foothills of the Andes. So, while lounging in the space—say, soaking in the Jacuzzi tub in the spa—you may spy peccaries (small wild boars) roaming, a howler monkey hanging, or maybe even spot the newly-discovered tree frog, the Mashpi Torrenteer.
Nestled in the 3,200-acre Mashpi Rainforest Biodervisity Reserve, the lodge also has scheduled outings to observe flora and wildlife. But the main draw are the birds—over 500 species, in fact. At the Hummingbirds Observation shelter, you can sit back and watch 32 different species flit around, or you can have the rare chance to hike to a lek (where the birds court) to watch male birds show off their plumes and vocal chords in an attempt to attract a mate.Courtesy of Mashpi Lodge
- 8 / 98. Catch a Prize-Winning Fish in Your Backyard.Tailwater Lodge, Altmar, New York
Fishing aficionados will want to get their hooks into this luxury experience. Set in a sprawling, former elementary school in Altmar, New York, your backyard at Tailwater Lodge is the Salmon River, known for chinook and coho salmon-fishing. In fact, the Salmon River boasts two major fishing records: the largest chinook ever caught in the Great Lakes region (at 47 pounds, 13 ounces), and the largest coho (33 pounds, 4 ounces) caught anywhere in the world.
Don’t worry if you don’t know your rock bass from your steelhead—you can reserve a guide to get you acquainted, and who can also charter a boat on Lake Ontario, should you want an open-water experience.Courtesy of Tailwater Lodge
- 9 / 99. See Kangaroos, Koalas and Sea Lions at “Australia’s Galápagos.”Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
No trip to Australia would be complete without meeting a few furry indigenous friends, and at the ecotourism destination of Southern Ocean Lodge in Kangaroo Island—an area fondly known as the "Australian Galápagos"—your personalized itinerary could include convening with koalas on a nocturnal tour with the lodge’s knowledgeable naturalists, a visit to Seal Bay (home to Australia’s third-largest seal colony), meeting with penguins as they go out to forage, sipping wine alongside grazing wallabies, and, of course, sidling up to kangaroos. Just don’t get too close—those guys have a powerful kick.Courtesy of Southern Ocean Lodge