Few experiences are as humbling or exciting as those that bring you face-to-face with animals in their natural habitats. Today, an emphasis on sustainable and ethical wildlife tourism has made it easier than ever to seek out responsible ways to make your safari dreams come true.
Whether you’re looking for an island getaway in the Middle East or wanting to embrace the bliss of jungle life in Southeast Asia, these hotels promise a time so wild, you’ll never forget it.
Stay on an Arabian wildlife reserve
Mention the United Arab Emirates and you might conjure up images of golden desert dunes, glass skyscrapers and shopping malls the size of small towns. But a whole other world awaits on Sir Bani Yas Island, situated just five miles off the western coast of Abu Dhabi.
This secluded spot is home to a wildlife reserve with a breeding and conservation program (the legacy of the first UAE president, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan) to protect endangered species.
Three high-end hotels by Anantara dot the island, but our favorite is Al Sahel Villa Resort, where every luxurious safari-style lodge is inside the Arabian Wildlife Park. Here, peacocks and sand gazelles roam freely around your terrace as you settle into a private temperature-controlled plunge pool. Post-sunset, the sounds of the forest come alive as you rest in your comfortable king canopy bed.
If you can manage to tear yourself away from your sumptuous villa, rise with the sun for a wildlife safari drive, during which you might spot Arabian oryx, Barbary sheep, Indian antelopes, giraffes and the endangered Asiatic cheetah.
During the cooler months, venture on a guided hike to explore the ruins of the region’s oldest Christian monastery. Active travelers can also go mountain biking, kayaking, land sailing and horseback riding around the island.
Experience a Serengeti sanctuary
Located within the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti is the wildlife experience of your dreams. Gaze upon elephants at the watering hole from your own infinity pool or glimpse at baboons and impalas from your terrace over morning coffee.
The resort’s activities allow for deeper exploration with the chance to participate in wildlife conservation and local immersion programs. Be sure to make time for the full-day safari — you’ll explore the national park on a guided tour complete with once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities. Other incredible experiences include a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti, an excursion to Ngorongoro Crater (the world’s largest inactive volcanic crater) to see the endangered black rhino and an expert-led tour of traditional Maasai rock paintings.
Walk on the wild side in Pennsylvania
At Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania, you’ll find scenic views, wellness experiences and enough outdoor adventures to keep you occupied for weeks.
While outdoorsy types can take advantage of the new Shepherd’s Rock golf course, shooting academy and zip line, animal lovers should head straight for the resort’s most unusual offering — the Wildlife Academy. On a safari tour, you might spot red sheep, bears, bison, zebra, a Bengal tiger, lions and wolves, among other animals rescued from failing zoos.
In addition to traditional experiences, like horseback riding and dogsledding, you can also take a guided tour of the property’s nursery, which houses exotic species like kinkajou, fennec foxes and sloths.
After a day of exploring the 2,000-acre resort’s wild offerings, rest your head at the rustic-chic Falling Rock hotel.
Get a taste of jungle living in the Golden Triangle
Indulge your inner intrepid explorer with a one-of-a-kind stay in the treetops at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in northern Thailand. Tucked away in a lush forest, each tent includes air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and a refrigerated bar, but the absence of a TV and radio is deliberate to enhance the experience of true jungle living.
Relax in a wooden hot tub on your outdoor deck and enjoy serene views of the forest and the Ruak River. Dine on regional specialties, sip on cocktails in the casual open-air bar or enjoy a gourmet picnic by the river. Afterward, unwind in the open-air spa with a traditional healing treatment as you doze off in the tranquility of the bamboo forest.
But the real reason to book your stay at this luxurious resort is to get up close and personal with the 20 precious elephants that occupy the Four Seasons Golden Triangle’s grounds. A variety of experiences allows you to bond with these gentle giants, such as a side-by-side breakfast at Camp Peak or the opportunity to help bathe them in the river.