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20 Vacation Destinations Where You Can Connect With Wild Animals

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Lions have always been my all time favorite animal.

As a kid, I was pretty much obsessed with "The Lion King" and I would constantly beg my parents to bring me to the zoo so I could press my face against the glass and see Simba in real life.

I was obviously heartbroken when I heard about the tragic death of Cecil the lion.

Cecil's unfortunate fate serves as a reminder that we should admire and protect these magnificent creatures when traveling abroad, not hunt them down and turn them into trophies.

In my opinion, getting the chance to interact with wildlife is one the things that makes traveling such an amazing experience.

If you're looking to add a wild side to your wanderlust, you'll be glad to know there are tons of places that allow you to incorporate some animal encounters into your epic adventures.

Whether you're looking to get in on the safari action and see lions like Cecil, volunteer to help out a few panda pals or simply spend some koala-ty time with the critters down under, there are lots of ways you can make memories with some fuzzy foreigners, so get out there and start exploring!

Take a look at the pictures below to see vacation spots where you can connect with animals.

Play with some pandas at Chengdu Panda Breeding Center in China.

Stop by Elephant Nature Park in Thailand to snap a few "elphies."

Take a ride on the wild safari side at South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Hop on over to Caversham Wildlife Park in Australia to see some kangaroos.

Get into some serious monkey business at Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa...

And you can update your Tinder tiger pictures while you're there, too.

Cage dive with Great White sharks in Port Lincoln, South Australia.

Chill with the wild cheetahs at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

Swim with the rays at Stingray City in the Cayman Islands.

Horse around with some wild Chincoteague ponies on Assateague Island in Virginia.

Spend some koala-ty time with a few furry friends at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia.

Score a selfie with a sea turtle of the north shore of Ohau, Hawaii.

Flock to La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica to see some toucans.

Ride an elephants while you look for rhinos at Kaziranga National Park in India.

Waddle down to Isla Magdalena in Chile to scope out some penguins.

Bond with some adorable wild bunnies in Ōkunoshima, Japan.

Go for a mellow swim with some manatees in Crystal River, Florida.

Hang around with the little guys at Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Get up close and personal with the gentle giants of Giraffe Manor in Kenya.

See some Bison in Custer State Park, South Dakota.

Encounter some alligators in the Florida Everglades.