It’s one thing to spy a cheetah or a herd of elephants in a zoo enclosure. It’s another experience altogether to spend the night amid a pack of wolves, a herd of giraffes, or dozens of lions mere feet from your bed. For animal-loving travelers, these are the world’s five best hotels for up-close wildlife encounters.
New for 2019, Quebec’s Parc Omega debuted its one-of-a-kind Wolf Cabins. Here, guests can overnight in one of two rustic cabins, appropriately named Alpha and Omega. Both feature massive, panoramic windows, which are the only things separating the sleeping quarters from the park’s resident gray wolf pack outside. Cabin guests are also provided exclusive access to a private boardwalk overlooking the park’s wolf and bear enclosures.
If sleeping among wolves inside quite dangerous enough, South Africa’s Lion House offers an equally bucket-list-worthy alternative. This self-contained cottage is set inside the private GG Conservation Wildlife Sanctuary, home to a pride of more than 70 lions. The VRBO listing guarantees that guests are never more than five meters away from a lion during their stay. The remote location is also home to zebra, wildebeest, ostrich, impala, and many other native African species.
Last month, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo opened the country’s most intimate overnight wildlife encounter. The aptly named Wildlife Retreat consists of 62 designer hotel rooms adjacent to the zoo’s open-air animal sanctuary. Every room is modern and luxuriously appointed with panoramic windows overlooking the expansive wildlife enclosure. Australia’s most iconic critters, including kangaroos, koalas, and exotic birds roam relatively free just outside the guestroom windows. Retreat guests also enjoy free entry to the zoo and access to exclusive after-hours park tours as well.
Kenya’s Giraffe Manor is likely the world’s oldest and best-known boutique hotel for intimate wildlife encounters. The private, 12-acre sanctuary has been welcoming guests to the suburb of Langata outside Nairobi for nearly 100 years. The stately, elegantly appointed rooms are reason enough to visit. But, the real draw is the resident herd of giraffes that freely roams the property. They’ll often crane their long necks through guestroom windows in search of snacks and head scratches.
South Africa is best known for its land-based wildlife experiences. But, a few hours from Cape Town lies the De Hoop Natural Reserve, a pristine coastal sanctuary where whales and dolphins outnumber people. The seven-room Lekkerwater Beach Lodge offers the reserve’s only boutique luxury accommodations. While the high-end rooms are posh and destination-worthy in their own right, the big get here is what’s just outside. The lodge boasts some of the best land-based whale-watching in the world. From July to November, guests can witness hundreds of Southern Right whales on their annual migration from Antarctica.
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