25 Best Wildlife Refuges in the World, Ranked
By visiting a wildlife refuge, you help support the facility, learn about the animals and sometimes participate in their care.
25 Best Wildlife Sanctuaries in the World, Ranked
Everybody loves going on vacation, but there are times when we want something different and more satisfying than the same tourist destinations we visit every year. We want something that enlightens and educates us. A place that takes us back to nature and may even help make the world a better place. What you’re looking for is an animal sanctuary or refuge.
Wildlife refuges and sanctuaries rescue animals and give them a safe place to heal, thrive and live. A proper sanctuary is diligent in making sure food and water are readily available to the animals. Their habitat is clean without the threat of danger, and there are places they can retreat to if they want to be alone.
By going to an animal sanctuary, you help support the facility, learn about the animals and sometimes participate in their care. But what ones offer the best for both animals and visitors? We ranked the top 25 wildlife refuges based on a combination of opinions from in-house staff and Tripadvisor reviewers. Have you had the opportunity to visit any yourself?
25. Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Location: Delray Beach, Florida
Visitors to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands walk on a nearly mile-long boardwalk that crosses open water pond areas and islands to see thousands of birds, turtles, fish and even the occasional alligator.
The Experience: Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Look up and see some storks posing in the trees, nesting egrets and even baby chicks coming out of their shells.
This is a great place to get away from the stress of daily life and enjoy nature in a beautiful environment.
24. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Location: Brighton, Tasmania, Australia
You can find many of your favorite animals, like wombats, koalas, kangaroos, possums and lizards, that are native to Australia here.
The Experience: Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
The thing that makes Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary stand out, though, is the nearly extinct animals, such as the Tassie Devil, Tasmanian Bettong, Eastern Quoll and Tasmanian Pademelon, that call this spot home.
One of the recommended things to do while here is the nighttime tour where guests can see animals who sleep during the day, awake and lively, and help feed them their “morning” meal.
23. Tiritiri Matangi Island
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Tiritiri Matangi Island is notable for being one of the most successful community-led conservation projects in the world.
This sanctuary is flourishing because it has eliminated any unwanted predators and made it safe for rare native birds such as blue penguins, tuatara birds, stitch birds and saddleback birds.
The Experience: Tiritiri Matangi Island
There are many ways to enjoy this beautiful island, including walking tours, swimming and, for a little extra money, the boat.
A trip on the boat will not only take you to the island, but also includes a guided tour on the way.
22. Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero
Location: Chobe National Park, Botswana
Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero is both an animal sanctuary and a luxury retreat. It has the largest concentration of elephants in Africa, along with antelopes, giraffes, leopards, zebras, warthogs, wild dogs, lions and Cape buffalo.
It’s also the only place in Botswana where one might be able to catch a glimpse of a Puku antelope.
The Experience: Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero
There are many ways to view the animals in the park, from river cruises to panoramic views from the resort.
Watch as elephants stroll down to the river for bathing and playtime.
21. Proyecto Asis
Location: La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
Wild animals who’ve been wounded, abandoned or liberated (from those who wish to profit on their sale on the black market) are brought to this center by local forest rangers.
The Experience: Proyecto Asis
The mission of Proyecto Asis is to make a positive impact both in the lives of the animals and in the lives of the people who come to the center.
Daily tours and volunteer activities are available to visitors.
20. Wildlife SOS
Location: Agra, India
While a stay at Wildlife SOS will educate you, it will also teach you about compassion for animals. Wildlife SOS reaches beyond saving wildlife — though that’s an important element to their work.
While they’re often associated with stopping the brutal and abusive practice of dancing bears, they actively work to give refuge for all wildlife in India.
The Experience: Wildlife SOS
You don’t go to Wildlife SOS so that you can take a selfie with an elephant.
Instead, you can expect to learn about the suffering that animals, especially elephants and bears, go through when they’re used for entertainment purposes.
19. Panthera Africa-Big Cat Sanctuary
Location: Stanford, South Africa
Panthera Africa isn’t just about letting people look and photograph the big cats.
Instead, they share the stories of these felines so that there’s a deeper connection between us and these majestic creatures.
The Experience: Panthera Africa-Big Cat Sanctuary
See the magnificent lions; observe Africa’s most endangered big cat, the cheetah; and witness the strength of the Bengal tigers and the distinctive caracal cats.
There are also many other programs to enlighten and inform guests, including educational, sunset and enrichment visits.
18. Jaguar Rescue Center (JRC)
Location: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
If an animal is found ill, injured or orphaned, the Jaguar Rescue Center gives them the veterinary services they need, 24-care and comfort to those animals who’d never be able to survive on their own.
Once recovered, some animals are returned to their habitat, and for those that need it, the JRC gives them a permanent home.
The Experience: Jaguar Rescue Center
Taking one of the Jaguar Rescue Center’s tours is a great way to support wildlife conservation while being in a tropical rainforest setting.
These walking tours happen during the day and at night, and the tour guides are enthusiastic volunteers.
17. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
Location: Dominical, Costa Rica
This nonprofit organization focuses on the three Rs: rescue, rehabilitation and release. Many think of it as an animal rehab facility, but really everything Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary does is for the protection and conservation of Costa Rica’s wildlife.
Some of the animals who reside at the sanctuary are parrots, toucans, raptors, sloths, capuchin monkeys and kinkajous.
The Experience: Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
The Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary offers tours in which visitors will learn about the facility’s objectives, the animal’s individual stories and the animal residents’ biology and conservation needs.
It’s forbidden by Costa Rican law for visitors to touch the animals, as many of them have been traumatized by experiences with humans.
16. Sarang Wildlife Sanctuary
Location: Chitwan National Park, Nepal
The Sarang Wildlife Sanctuary’s focus is on conservation, responsible tourism and a promise to help improve the lives of both the animals and the local communities.
It’s dedicated to keeping a low environmental footprint and helping out local conservation efforts when needed.
The Experience: Sarang Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary’s lodge is built on a remote property of 18.1 acres with views of the surrounding wilderness.
There are many things for the Sarang Wildlife Sanctuary visitor to do, including bird watching, elephant feeding and bathing, jungle walks, river cruises and canoe rides.
15. Phillip Island Penguin, Brighton Beach, Moonlit Sanctuary
Location: Melbourne, Australia
The Phillip Island folks have worked hard to create a balance of conservation education and excellent ecotourism experiences.
Their animal-focused tours aim to teach people the importance of caring for and preserving nature while at the same time encouraging people to take positive action whenever they can to help their animal friends.
The Experience: Phillip Island Penguin, Brighton Beach, Moonlit Sanctuary
The sanctuary’s all-day tours (12 hours) make sure that visitors get a thorough look at Phillip Island and the animals that live there. While learning about animal conservation, guests will attend the Penguin Parade and see these adorable creatures as they waddle up and down the beach.
Other highlights of the tour are seeing koalas, admiring Australia’s largest fur seal colonies and (when in Australia) feeding kangaroos.
14. Elephant Valley Project
Location: Mondulkiri, Cambodia
The Elephant Valley Project’s commitment is fully focused on helping elephants, and they consider themselves the first and only true sanctuary in Cambodia.
This sanctuary isn’t fancy, and it doesn’t offer its visitors luxury.
The Experience: Elephant Valley Project
Don’t expect to see or do anything, such as elephant-riding, that could be construed as stressful for the elephants. This experience is for those who care about the elephants and want what’s best for them now and in the future.
Walking through a forest with an elephant and hearing about their story from a guide may sound simple, but it’s life-changing.
13. B. Bryan Preserve
Location: Point Arena, California
- Bryan Preserve is privately owned, and its owners dedicate themselves to breeding and preserving African Hoof Stock (or hoofed African animals).
They’re quick to point out that they’re not a zoo. While zoos may only have a few examples of a species, B. Bryan Preserve has whole herds of them.
The Experience: B. Bryan Preserve
Some of the critically endangered species that the preserve focuses on are Grevy’s and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and Rothschild’s Giraffe.
Situated on 110 acres along the Mendocino Coast with accommodations available, the preserve has three types of tours available for visitors, including self-guided car safaris, VIP tours and guided tours.
12. Wildlife Survival Facility
Location: Spring Hill, Florida
Wildlife Survival Facility may not have sanctuary in its name, but they are a true refuge for animals because, as they put it, “they rescue animals without prejudice.”
Their animals never have direct contact with the public, nor are they bred or sold. They’re there to live out their lives peacefully while being dutifully cared for and treated with respect.
The Experience: Wildlife Survival Facility
Located on 10 acres north of Tampa, the Wildlife Survival Facility has tours by appointment only. They're temporarily closed to the public, but they should be accepting tour requests again soon.
It’s especially known for its educational open-houses, internships, volunteer opportunities and school field trips.
11. Dave & Dave Costa Rica Nature Park
Location: La Virgen, Sarapiqui, Province of Heredia, Costa Rica
If you enjoy bird watching and taking pictures of birds, then this bird paradise is for you.
It’s located on the edge of the rainforest and hosts many exotic birds, such as tanagers, honeycreepers, aracaris, oropendolas and even hummingbirds.
The Experience: Dave & Dave Costa Rica Nature Park
But birds aren’t the only animals you’ll observe here. Take a walk down to the river and see the vivid green and red of the poison arrow frogs, howler monkeys using the trees as their jungle-gyms and various exotic insects.
The father and son team of Dave Sr. and Dave Jr. are both extremely knowledgeable tour guides and have many tips for non-professional photographers. There are feeding stations set up to see the birds without scaring them, which helps a lot in getting the perfect shot.
10. Wild Is Life Sanctuary
Location: Harare, Zimbabwe
If you’re looking for the real deal when it comes to wildlife orphanages and rehabilitation centers and want an animal experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, the Wild Is Life Sanctuary is the place you want to be.
Reservations are a must for the sanctuary’s afternoon tours, which focus on education and their work towards creating a bond between the wild and the natural world.
The Experience: Wild Is Life Sanctuary
While learning the stories of the animals who’ve been rescued, visitors will also see examples of how they live their lives at the center.
You can expect to see things like giraffes being fed, baby elephants being cared for and scaly-skinned pangolins having a grand time ambling across the lawn.
9. Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
Location: Tha Yang, Thailand
Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) is a wildlife hospital and rescue center for wild animals who’ve been hurt, discarded or confiscated.
They’re fully equipped to care for monkeys, gibbons, wild cats, bears, birds, reptiles and elephants, and they provide refuge for sick and disabled wild animals.
The Experience: Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
The WFFT programs, such as tours, volunteer programs and stays at their ethical lodges, help to get their messages out regarding preventing animal cruelty, ending illegal wild animal trade and hunting, and using wild animals in entertainment.
8. Free the Bears
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
If you’ve always been intrigued by bears, put Free the Bears on your list of places to visit. This place is dedicated to spreading the word about the life of bears and how we can help them to survive and thrive.
The Experience: Free the Bears
The Free the Bears Tour gives an inside look at the world’s largest sun bear sanctuary. You’ll have fun being a bear keeper for a day by making the bears enrichment toys and special treats and later getting to witness the bears enjoying them.
You’ll get to experience the distinct personalities of the bears from a distance, as there’s no direct contact with the bears for everyone’s overall safety.
7. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC)
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
SWCC’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife that’s been hurt, abandoned or displaced.
That means if the animal cannot survive on their own in the wild, they have a home at the sanctuary.
The Experience: Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
SWCC offers a Walk With Wildlife Tour, where you can see various animals, including bobcats, foxes and Great Horned owls.
There are also Friday Night Twilight Tours, Full Moon Tours and the popular Wild Yoga, where participants practice yoga near Mexican gray wolves, Great Horned owls, Harris hawks and more. Wild Yoga takes yoga with goats and turns it up.
6. The Big Cat Sanctuary
Location: Smarden, Kent, England
If you’re touring the Kent countryside, you’d expect to see charming English cottages, old-fashioned pubs and gorgeous scenery.
The last thing you might expect to find is a big cat sanctuary on 32 acres of grasslands.
The Experience: The Big Cat Sanctuary
For people interested in studying endangered cats and cats in captivity, The Big Cat Sanctuary offers various experiences, including Ranger for a Day, Big Cat Encounters and safari stays.
This refuge has various cats, from the smallest to the most endangered, including pumas, cheetahs, lynx and snow leopards — definitely not a run-of-the-mill English tourist destination.
5. The Kangaroo Sanctuary
Location: Alice Springs, Australia
It’s all about educating humans and encouraging them to rescue kangaroos and other wildlife and animals at The Kangaroo Sanctuary.
The sanctuary was highlighted in the 2013 documentary, “Kangaroo Dundee,” and has made it their duty to protect and care for these marsupials.
The Experience: The Kangaroo Sanctuary
Since animals come first for the sanctuary, and kangaroos sleep during the day, all the sanctuary’s tours start at sunset.
Don’t make any specific plans for after the tour, as you’ll want to take your time enjoying the sights of the wildlife reserve, meet a kangaroo family and possibly even hold a baby kangaroo in your arms.
4. Corbin Local Wildlife
Location: Mason Hall, Trinidad and Tobago
You may need to pinch yourself while visiting Corbin Local Wildlife because it’s such a visual feast for the eyes, and it may feel as if you’ve been dropped into the middle of an enchanted woodland.
Corbin Local Wildlife is a sanctuary for the rescued and threatened species of animals that live on Trinidad and Tobago and the many visitors needing to find a moment of peace.
The Experience: Corbin Local Wildlife
Corbin Local Wildlife offers an Animal Enclosures Tour where people may see armadillos, mango snakes, iguanas, manicous and Sally Painters.
There’s the Adventure Walks that follows no trail but goes where the park’s founder, Roy Corbin, leads you, or you might want to hire the Bird Hide, where you can sit, contemplate and watch the forest birds.
3. McCarthy's Wildlife
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
McCarthy’s Wildlife is making the world a better place by taking in injured wildlife, orphaned animals left to die and unwanted exotic pets.
They care for these animals and give them a haven in which to live out their lives.
The Experience: McCarthy's Wildlife
The fact that McCarthy’s Wildlife does so much good in a place described as “8 lush acres of endangered wildlife, surrounded by a botanical garden, and situated in the palmetto and pine forest of West Palm Beach” is just icing on the cake.
Visitors can see more than 200 animals from black leopards to white tigers when they take one of McCarthy’s Wildlife guided tours.
2. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
Location: Phuket, Thailand
If you want to go somewhere and see elephants being treated compassionately and hear their stories, Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is the place to go.
They pride themselves on being the first ethical elephant sanctuary, and that’s demonstrated in what you’ll see as a visitor: elephants enjoying their lives in their natural habitat.
The Experience: Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
What you won’t find at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is anyone bathing with or riding the elephants.
However, feeding them, watching them enjoy their baskets of fruit and listening to their rescue stories are highly encouraged.
1. Feadon Farm Wildlife Centre
Location: Redruth, Cornwall, England
Feadon Farm Wildlife Centre folks take in all manner of local wildlife that’s been hurt or abandoned, and they try to release these rescued and healed animals back into their home environment.
When that’s not possible, they search for new homes for them, which often includes a home at the center. Some rescue residents include foxes, owls, buzzards, hawks, ferrets, reindeer, wallabies and pygmy goats.
The Experience: Feadon Farm Wildlife Centre
Visiting Feadon Farm Wildlife Centre is a great way to raise your kid’s awareness of man’s impact on the environment and how to live a more sustainable life.
Feadon Farm offers various experiences, including photography sessions, woodland breakfasts, nature walks, night walks, private parties, and fire- and den-building instructions.