If your kids are anything like ours then animals come high on the family wish list when planning a holiday.
Here then are some of our favourite family-friendly hotels for a true Dr Doolittle experience, from hugging sloths in Panama and washing elephants in India to feeding goats in The Philippines, releasing baby turtles in Sri Lanka and riding camels along the beach in Oman…and many more.
Binoculars at the ready!
What more could a child ask for than a safari in an open jeep searching for tigers, followed by a ride on Tara the elephant and a swim with her in the river? Scrubbing clean a docile Tara lying in the water is a priceless experience and the photo of the year for parents.
Kipling Camp, Madhya Pradesh, India
2. Baby Elephant
The JW Marriott has seemingly thought of everything to keep kids of all ages happy. From the wonderful kids’ swimming pool with water slides and bubble lakes to the kids’ club where activities include treasure hunts, archaeology digs, fishing, and more. One of our favourites, however, is the friendly baby elephant that wanders the grounds; kids can help to feed and bathe him.
JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Phuket, Thailand
The owner of this friendly B&B adopted two three-toed sloths when their mother broke her neck in the wild and they are now the property’s star attractions. Did you know that sloths only go to the bathroom once a week? And that they dig a hole with their tail before doing so? They say that experiences bring people more happiness than possessions and how right they are; if there is one reason why you’ll love Casa Mariposa it is to have a cuddle with a sloth.
Casa Mariposa, El valle de Anton, Panama
La Chevrerie is a wonderful place for families with grassy lawns, hammocks and inflatable rings for floating around the swimming pool. But possibly the best activity for kids is feeding the resident baby goats.
La Chevrerie Resort & Spa, Mabini, The Philippines
Bring your bird book and binoculars, this is the place to explore jungle life! Take a tour of the hotel’s own ‘ecological exhibits’ including an impressive collection of colourful butterflies, a small aquarium, an orchid farm and – my kids’ favourite – a snake house!
Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama
Forget the mega-resorts and glitzy malls of Cabo San Lucas and come here to see magnificent Humpback whales breaching the ocean waves. From late December to late March hundreds of whales migrate from the frozen waters of the Arctic for some winter sun choosing the warm, calm waters surrounding the Baja Peninsula to birth and rear their young.
The Bungalows Hotel, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico
The hotel boasts several wonderful swimming pools, a lazy river, a pirate ship and water fountains as well as a kids club. Our favourite hotel highlights, however, are the daily camel rides along the beach.
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, Muscat, Oman
The early morning elephant safari is a must do and suitable for the whole family. You will get within metres of the great Indian rhinos and hopefully spot some of the other 34 major mammals including wild elephants, swamp deer, wild buffalo and gaur.
Diphlu River Lodge, Assam, India
9. Baby Turtles
Near to this beautiful hotel are a handful of turtle hatcheries, established to help conserve these wonderful creatures, and visitors are more than welcome. Kids can see turtles’ eggs buried in the sand, hold baby turtles and then help release them into the ocean.
Club Villa, Bentota, Sri Lanka
This eco- and family-friendly camp, run by award-winning naturalists, is truly a wonderful place for kids. The focus is on educating children to appreciate wildlife and the importance of conservation; their motto is “seek the tiger, find the jungle”. There are dozens of fun, educational activities for kids, plus, you might spot a tiger!
Jim's Jungle Retreat, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, India
Travel tip shared by Katja