Great animal sanctuary destination?
September 6, 2011 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Any great animal-sanctuary-destinations out there?

Months away from an important birthday (40th) for my husband, and I'm stuck on what to get him. We tend to travel whenever possible, and celebrate these kinds of events in the same way. Was hoping to come up with something particularly suited to his interests/personality but the only idea I've had so far I got hearing him rave about this video the other day. Obviously, this is not a place but a staged event -- not everybody has access to a set, trained animals, handlers, etc, etc, but it was the grain of an idea at least. I don't think he'd be much into a classic "safari" experience; he'd probably sacrifice some natural setting and condition for a more hands-on deal (if the animals are treated extremely well -- otherwise, he'd hate it).

Could pretty much make any destination in North America work, and even perhaps further, depending on time/money. Could be a day or up to a couple of weeks. Enough time yet to plan.

I'm grasping at straws here. Anything like this out there, somewhere? My searches haven't come up with much at all. Thanks in advance! (and, yeah, we're both MeFites, hence the anon)
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Farm Sanctuary in the Finger Lakes!
posted by headnsouth at 7:15 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many years ago, I had a friend who spoke very highly of this the Wolf Park wolf sanctuary in Indiana. They have interactive seminars of varying lengths on different topics and in general are very "outreach" oriented.
posted by drlith at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Over the years I have heard good things about Sara Sanctuary in Texas, and read somewhere that they welcome volunteers. Google them.
posted by jayder at 7:24 AM on September 6, 2011

Volunteering at Sara Sanctuary
posted by jayder at 7:27 AM on September 6, 2011

The Duke Lemur Center has a bunch of different tour options, including one to be a Lemur Keeper for a Day.
posted by leesh at 7:27 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can't vouch for them but here's a place in South Carolina.
posted by crosten at 7:39 AM on September 6, 2011

Best Friends Animal Shelter is pretty impressive. It is the largest no-kill animal shelter in the world. It is over 30,000 acres - and has all sorts of animals.

It is also located within easy driving distance from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. It is in a beautiful area.
posted by Flood at 7:43 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Wilds in eastern Ohio might be something to check as well.
posted by crosten at 7:50 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis is impressive. Located just outside Lone Elk Park. The Wolf Sanctuary is just down the road, though I was not impressed with the animals' habitat there.
posted by Ostara at 7:56 AM on September 6, 2011

It is very far afield, but if you can get there I'd highly recommend the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage.

I spent an afternoon at Chimfunshi in 1996, and it is easily among the most memorable days of my life. There is nothing quite like taking a group of toddler chimpanzees out for their picnic lunch.

Chimfunsie does very good work (Wikipedia link here), and they now have a formal volunteer program.
posted by alms at 8:13 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went on a manatee swim for my birthday a few years back and it was AWESOME. They basically just take you out in a small boat to the spots where the wild manatees are known to hang out and you snorkel around. It was the best. And clearly the manatees are not bothered by people. One swam right up to me and started following me around! It was great! This was in Florida. I know that there are a bunch of operations like this, so you can always just do a little research and find one with a good reputation.

My dream birthday/vacation would be a trip to Costa Rica including volunteering at The Sloth Sanctuary. Man, you should do that!
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:50 AM on September 6, 2011

You can swim with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida.

Pros: The rates are reasonable, and the outfit I linked is very respectful of the manatees in their natural habitat. Each trip is limited to 15 adults at a time.

Cons: Nothing else to do in Homosassa Springs, and you will need a car to get to Tampa or Orlando, etc.

For $229 each, in November (you said "months away"), you can have an all-inclusive day at Discovery Cove in Orlando, FL.

Pros: Includes all this:
A reserved 30-minute dolphin interaction
Snorkeling with tropical fish and rays
Hand feeding exotic birds in a free-flight aviary
Relaxing on pristine beaches
Floating along Wind-Away River
Freshly prepared breakfast and lunch and unlimited snacks, drinks and select alcoholic beverages
Lockers, sunscreen, snorkel gear, changing facilities
Parking at Discovery Cove
Unlimited admission to your choice of SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay during your vacation.

Cons: The park holds up to 1000 people at a time, which means it could get crowded.

Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL has many tours available that let you get up close to the animals. The most exclusive, The Elite Adventure Tour, is $199.99 pp for an all-day private excursion:

"Be a VIP for the day. Your private group will meet with your personal guide and map out your customized Busch Gardens adventure. Set out on an all-day private experience that features front-of-the-line access on most major rides, up-close encounters with animals and even lunch at the Crown Colony Restaurant overlooking the Serengeti Plain, where giraffe, antelope, zebras and other captivating animals graze peacefully under the setting sun."

Pros: It's an amazing park. I worked there under the worst conditions (started as a seasonal worker in the summer) and still love it. My Mom worked for the veterinarian at Busch Gardens for many years and had nothing but good things to say about the people caring for the animals, the interns and the zoo education programs.

Lots to do in Tampa area.

I'd recommend making a long weekend of it and buying a Vacation Package that includes a stay at a hotel ( You want the Holiday Inn and Suites, 1 mile from the park, with free shuttle, for the hotel. Trust me on this!). You can come to the park for several days and ride the rides and even add on admission to Adventure Island, the huge waterpark across the street from Busch Gardens, or Sea World in Orlando if you want.

Cons: Admission to the park is not included unless you buy a vacation package and add it in. If you buy one-day park admission, it runs 79.99 each.

Mefimail me if you want any more info or a Florida inside working with you to figure this stuff out!
posted by misha at 12:13 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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