I have always been an animal lover and really enjoy meeting animals while traveling. But I have to admit that in the past, this has inadvertently taken me to some fundamentally immoral places. For example, I went to the now infamous Thai Tiger Temple, just outside of Bangkok. I really enjoyed playing with the cubs, they seemed really happy and well cared for. But years later, I found out that the monastery was not a tiger sanctuary, but more like a tiger farm, and it still gives me the shudder.
So I now treat any animal I come across more carefully, do my research and look for signs. I stay away from riding elephants; steer clear of horse-drawn carts unless the animals are well fed and shiny;
While there are many truly horrific stories in the world, there are just as many, if not more, heart-warming places in the world where animals are lovingly cared for, rehabilitated, or lovingly kept in captivity to increase their numbers in the wild. Here are some animal sanctuaries, sanctuaries and activities you can rest assured that you and the animals will enjoy the experience.
1. Friedrichkog Seal Sanctuary
This remains one of my favorite animal encounters in Europe, about an hour’s drive north of my hometown of Hamburg, on the coast of the North Sea. The Friedrichkog Seal Sanctuary is indeed a sanctuary for injured seals and abandoned seal pups. Here, the seals are cared for by crews whose mission is to release them back into the sea once they have healed and/or grown. Even trained specialists do not touch seals unless medical treatment is required. Even so, they wear gloves so that the seals do not acclimatize to humans. While it may be tempting to cuddle these orphaned seal pups, they restrain themselves in order to give them the best chance of returning to life in the wild.
However, visitors can still get up close – but not touch – and look into the saucer-shaped eyes of the little ones, knowing they are being cared for without disturbing nature. There are some seals – like the blind seal that never returns to the wild – that engage in strange cuddles and plays with keepers that fascinated visitors can watch.
2. Healesville Reserve
When I moved to Melbourne, Australia, I kept saying I wasn’t there until I saw koalas in the wild. I achieved this in Otway along the Great Ocean Road, where there are wild koalas in almost every tree. But it was also there that I heard about the Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne, where they care for injured and endangered native Australian animals, including koalas, and have a special program for Tasmanian devils. According to the plan, Tasmanian devils are threatened by highly contagious cancer in the wild. Healesville also acts like an ethical zoo, studying Tasmanian devil disease and breeding unaffected animals for release into the wild in their native Tasmania, in southern Victoria.
Hang out at the sanctuary and you can also visit the hospital where some orphans and cute dingo pups were being cared for when I was last there. You never know what to expect in Healesville as unlike Tiggie Winks in the UK (see below) they take care of any casualties brought in from the area or further afield for special care .
3. Penguins Homing
Phillip Island, Australia
After encountering koalas and Tasmanian devils, you can imagine my excitement when I realized that Victoria also had penguin life. There’s even a small habitat in Melbourne, but I was after something bigger: penguin homing. Yes, it sounds immoral and touristy, but it’s not.
On the beautiful Phillip Island in southern Victoria, there is a large group of fairy penguins. A special center has been set up to care for sick or injured penguins and to conduct research on them. But the center also allows people to watch the nightly spectacle of thousands of small birds returning to the beach after a day of fishing and swimming in the southern waters. But all visitors must follow strict rules — enforced by rangers throughout the night — of keeping quiet, not using flash photography, and generally acting as if the penguins weren’t there. Even enthusiastic little kids get reprimanded, although everyone understands their enthusiasm. But here, the penguins are the rulers.
4. Tiggy Winks
Tiggywinkles is an animal hospital and sanctuary less than 20 miles east of Oxford. All local wildlife is cared for here, whether they have been in a car accident, orphaned, injured or unable to take care of themselves due to some accident. From squirrels to badgers, foxes to hedgehogs, birds of all kinds to deer and rabbits, they are all welcome here. All animals receive free treatment thanks to donations. You can also visit some of the patients in the visitor center. Here, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour, learn about the care of local wildlife, and even feed a local hedgehog.
5. Ranthambore National Park
Tigers are mistreated throughout Asia, such as in the monasteries I mentioned above. But there’s one place where they’re prized and have a true sanctuary: the Ranthambore National Park Reserve in Rajasthan state, about 110 miles south of the pink city of Jaipur. Yes, this is a tourist attraction, and yes, game drives depart every morning. But here, the tiger is king of the jungle and the tourists come second.
I went on a safari a few years ago and got up at an hour, which seemed inhumane to me, and still got to see tigers. Too bad I didn’t see it since this is where there are morals and animals are more important than humans. I must have missed one because there were fresh, huge paw prints in the sand, but no striped tail in sight. However, I’ve heard from others that they got lucky, so it’s definitely worth waking up early.
6. Bandia Sanctuary
Although I went to Senegal mainly for a beach holiday and had previously explored the Masai Mara in Kenya, I couldn’t resist a local recommendation to visit the Bandia Reserve, located between the capital Dakar and the seaside town . Sally.
To be honest, I am concerned because the neglect elsewhere around Senegal is evident, such as the astonishing amount of plastic littering the streets. But it turns out that the sanctuary is well managed, the beautiful giant baobabs are proudly cared for, and the various animals (such as giraffes, zebras, various antelopes and others) live in a green, clean and natural environment. Only the strange tourist jeeps drive by, and the animals don’t wag their tails at them. The sanctuary prides itself on the reintroduction of native plants and animals into the wild through a careful breeding and cultivation program, and rightfully so.