A Walk on the Wild Side: Five Meaningful Travel Experiences with Animals

A Walk on the Wild Side: Five Meaningful Travel Experiences with Animals

Whether horse-whispering in France, spotting polar bears in Norway or going on safari in Kent, our round-up of Europe’s best experiences that let you get up-close with animals encourage a fresh outlook and help you get back to nature.

escapes and adventures hold more appeal than ever
before. Whether mindful travel has always been a priority or it’s a
new area of interest, Europe’s most unique animal experiences are a
great way to immerse yourself in nature. From horse whispering in
France to spotting polar bears in Norway, these trips will
encourage a fresh outlook and fantastic memories.

Get back to nature with Europe’s best, most immersive animal

Horse Whispering

Bonelles, France

The forest of Rambouillet in northern France is home to hundreds
of free-roaming horses and deer. Nestled in the midst of it all is
Le Barn, a hotel whose concept embraces its
surroundings to offer guests a sense of complete freedom and
relaxation. Despite being just a 40-minute drive from Paris, its
rustic charm, secluded location and focus on nature inspires a slow
approach to life, if only for a few days.

Those looking to try something new should book in for an
afternoon at neighbouring farm Le Haras de la Cense to take part in a two-hour
horse-whispering experience. Befitting its secluded location, the
artform celebrates a calming, focused approach to communication and
draws from a psychological understanding of the animal to build a
sense of trust. Expect to learn skills and techniques, and to spend
quality time with the region’s majestic creatures in their natural

If this sounds a little too intense, then trekking through the
forest on horseback is also an option and can be booked directly
through the hotel.

Salmon Leaping

Sutherland, Scotland

The Scottish Highlands can’t be beaten for vast landscapes and
Game of Thrones-esque terrain. It’s home to some of the UK’s
lesser-known wildlife; pine martens and red deer can be found
inland – although a sighting of the former is rare – and off the
west coast humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins roam the

At the Falls of Shin, Atlantic salmon can be spotted leaping
their way upstream into waterfalls in an effort to migrate back to
sea. “The great run” as it’s called, takes place over the summer
and by autumn, the strongest fish have successfully made their way
into the calmer waters of the ocean. It’s a great insight into the
cyclical rhythm of nature and this species’ survival tactics.

Check in at
Links House
in Dornoch, where experts are on hand to advise
where and how to best watch the migration, and to offer insight on
the region’s best fly-fishing locations. Experiences are available
to book directly through the hotel and promise an education as well
as an adventure – there’s an in-house fishing extraordinaire as
well as an “experiences manager”.

Arctic voyaging to see polar bears

Svalbard, Norway

There’s something otherworldly about the Arctic landscape and
its lack of human presence. Between the months of May and
September, the midnight sun is at its peak and the ice around
Svalbard archipelago in Norway begins to melt. Here lives one of
the world’s largest concentrations of polar bear – over 3,000 – and
a tour around the north of the region is likely to include

For an immersive experience, book in for an eight- or 10-day
excursion with Natural World Safaris. Explore the seas by boat
to spot walrus, whales and rare species of bird as well as polar
bears in the snow-covered landscape that they call home. Notice the
ice melt as time passes and appreciate the bursts of greenery and
vegetation springing to life.

Cheese-making at a goat farm

Málaga, Spain

Discover complete seclusion and a flavour of unspoiled, rural
Spain by venturing into the mountains of the Sierra Crestellina
Natural Park, specifically to the family-run goat farm Queseria
Sierra Crestellina
. Physically, it’s just a 40-minute drive
from Marbella, but its rocky landscape, disconnection from
traditional tourism and back-to-basics mentality make it feel
worlds away.

A five-hour cheese-making experience includes an overview of its
history, a lesson in milking mountain goats and a chance to make
cheese by hand using traditional methods. Location is considered
key to the quality of the farm’s produce and guests will learn what
makes the surrounding area, and the fruitfulness of its earth, so
important. Naturally, a cheese-and-tapas tasting rounds off the
session. Make your base at Marbella’s Puente Romano hotel, from where the farm
experience can be booked.

Sleep among giraffes

Kent, UK

Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve brings a taste of the African
safari to the UK and offers a chance to get close to some of the
world’s most beautiful creatures without having to board a plane.
The grounds have been preserved to mimic the animals’ natural
habitat as closely as possible – it’s easy to forget its European
location once immersed in the plains. To fully appreciate the
animals, book Giraffe Lodge, the adults-only on-site
accommodation, that comprises just 10 glamping tents surrounding a
wateringhole. Here, giraffes, zebra and wildebeest roam freely
throughout the day and night, undisturbed by the small huts.

It’s important to note that the reserve is primarily a breeding
sanctuary for rare and endangered animals and it runs in
partnership with The Aspinall Foundation. Proceeds are used to
support overseas conservation projects.

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