For many people, it is not enough just seeing wild animals from the other side of the cage. We see very well – that panda is asking for a hug and that dolphin clearly wants to play.
It turns out there are many places that offer interactive experiences with a variety of wild and exotic animals, reports NBS News.
Giraffes and lemurs
Both Busch Gardens locations – Tampa (Florida) and Williamsburg (Virginia) – offer great opportunities to get up close and personal with animals as giraffes, lemurs, alligators or African hedgehogs. You get a chance to feed the animals and try your hand at zookeeping as you shadow a keeper for a day.
Dolphins and sea lions
Many people want to swim together with dolphins. This dream can easily become true in the Bahamas. Dolphin encounters typically take about an hour to an hour and a half, with about 30 minutes in the water with the playful creatures.
You can expect to be kissed by a dolphin and shake a fin. Some operators also offer sea lion encounters.
Pumas and bobcats
The West Coast Game Park Safari in Oregon offers visitors to interact with several exotic creatures as pumas, cougars and bobcats.
Park owners hope that once someone has had the chance to tickle a baby cougar’s belly they’ll feel compelled to go home and support conservation efforts.
Tourists also get to makes friends with a black bear youngster.
Kangaroos and wombats
Caversham Wildlife Park in Perth (Western Australia) houses more than 2,000 animals, including koalas, wallabies, kangaroos and wombats. Visitors can walk through the kangaroo enclosure and spend time feeding the animals.
They also get a chance to pose for photos with a full-grown wombat sitting in your lap.
Cheetahs and foxes
At Cheetah Outreach, located near Cape Town visitors get a chance to compete in running with a cheetah – the world’s fastest land animal. Fox encounters are offered as well.
Dubare Elephant Camp in the Bangalore area of India offers a three-hour tour that includes grooming and feeding.
Visiting Chengdu Panda Center in the Sichuan part of China is a must for panda lovers. This breeding center is home to more than 100 giant pandas, all of which can be viewed in open-air enclosures.
Visitors also get a chance to tour a nursery, where tiny pandas are sleeping in incubators. For roughly the equivalent of $150, tourists can hold and hug a panda cub.
Manatees aka sea cows
Everyone has heard of swimming with dolphins, but there’s another sea mammal that’s just as interesting to swim with. Manatees, also known as sea cows, are gentle water giants found in the Crystal and Homosassa rivers of Florida.
But there are strict rules about harassing manatees in the wild, so swimming and snorkeling with these endangered animals must be done under the supervision of tour operators.
Tours typically last two to four hours with at least an hour spent in the water.