There’s no shortage of interesting (and educational) family-friendly activities in Britain, but when the sun is shining, it’s hard to resist the pull of the great outdoors—especially when animals are involved. But take note: these aren’t your average ho-hum zoos. From a sea life sanctuary dedicated to caring for sick seals, to a woodland paradise teeming with monkeys, we’ve rounded up the best places to get up close and personal with creatures big and small in Britain.
Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo
Malton, North Yorkshire
Tel: 0870 7528000
Photo credit: Flamingo Land
If the idea of hand-feeding fish to a colony of penguins makes your stomach erupt with butterflies, then check out the Be A Zookeeper experience at this Yorkshire paradise, where you’ll have the opportunity to spend an action-packed day caring for rare and exotic animals. But be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart! In addition to interacting with an assortment of wild animals like rhinos, tigers, and miniature horses, guest zookeepers are also responsible for cleaning up smelly animal enclosures.
Sealife Sanctuary Oban
Argyll PA37 1SE, Scotland
Tel: 01631 720386
Photo credit: Sealife Sanctuary
Though this Scottish sanctuary features 30 different species of aquatic life—ranging from sharks to starfish—the real draw is the Seal Nursery, which houses and treats stray, sickly, and wounded puppies. After exploring the grounds (be sure to check out the new turtle sanctuary), stay for one of the daily talks to learn more about the facility’s ongoing rehabilitation efforts and meet the resident seals and otters.
Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre
Longhorns, Wareham, Dorset
Tel: +44 (0) 1929 462537
Photo credit: Monkey World
While some may recognize this 65-acre park from TV’s “Monkey Life” and “Monkey Business,” it’s also home to more than 250 rescued and endangered primates from around the world—including the largest group of chimpanzees outside of Africa. Spend a few hours watching the inmates zip around their enclosures, climb trees and ropes, and play to the crowd during feeding sessions, before taking in one of the institute’s fascinating lectures that run every half-hour.
Cairngorm Reindeer Centre
Reindeer House, Aviemore
Tel: +44 1479 861228
Photo credit: Cairngorm Reindeer Centre
Live out your childhood fantasy of meeting Rudolph, Prancer, Dancer and the gang by taking a guided mountain trek through the Scottish countryside with an experienced reindeer herder. After exploring the grassy hilltop where the reindeer live all year round (when they’re not off with St. Nick, of course), you’ll have a chance to hand-feed the gentle giants and snap a few selfies. Not up for the hilly trek? Not to worry! Simply swing by the centre’s paddocks to see the reindeer up close and feel their velvety noses nuzzle against your hands. Just be careful not to get nipped!
Paradise Wildlife Park
White Stubbs Lane,
Broxbourne, Herts EN10 7QA
Tel: 01992 470490
Photo credit: Paradise Wildlife Park
The only thing better than spending the day gazing at wild animals is spending the night sleeping nearby them! Well… not too nearby them, of course. For an animal experience you’ll never forget, reserve the “Snooze at the Zoo” package at London’s Paradise Wildlife Park, where you’ll have the opportunity to sleep inside the park grounds and revel in the sights and sounds of the wild as the sun goes down.